BY TIM HEDGLEY, GROUP TRAVEL EDITOR
WE all have to live on a budget and for many; wonderful holidays in the sun are not possible.
But fear not, you can have just as much fun at home as away. So this week I turn to the National trust for some local information on great days out.
The National Trust is an independent conservation charity funded through memberships, donations, legacies and commercial operations.
With the help of their members, supporters and volunteers they look after some of the country’s most beautiful places, including historic houses and collections, countryside and coastline.
So by becoming a member you can help protect Northern Ireland’s natural and built heritage while enjoying access to extraordinary places, experiences and activities.
So here is a round country sample of some of the things the National Trust has to offer.
This 17th-century farmhouse, elegantly remodelled in Georgian times, offers fun and relaxation for all the family. The cobbled farmyard with a dairy, smithy and threshing barn is the perfect spot to feed the resident chickens, while the nearby apple orchards are great for exploring. Children will enjoy visiting the small farmyard animals, having a go on the ride-on tractors and dressing-up.
Surrounded by a wooded riverside estate, the interior of this Irish gentry house still evokes the eclectic tastes and interests of the MacGeough Bond family. The rose garden, with its unusual sundial, pleasure gardens and walks along the River Blackwater are ideal for exploring. There’s also fun for kids on the indoor bug trail and the zipline in the children’s play area.
This 17th-century plantation house, home of the Lenox-Conyngham family, is brought to life on guided tours. Discover the celebrated costume collection in the old laundry and kids ‘dressing up’ in the Costume Closet. Explore the walled garden and way marked trails, with views of Slieve Gallion and the Sperrins, and enjoy the natural play area.
Wellbrook Beetling Mill
Step back in time and discover how yarn
was spun at Northern Ireland’s last working water-powered linen beetling mill. Hands-on demonstrations reveal the importance of the linen industry in 19th-century Ireland. The glen is ideal for relaxing walks and perfect for a picnic by the Ballinderry River.
Gray’s Printing Press
The indelible story of printing is told behind this Georgian shop front in Strabane, once reputed as Ireland’s printing capital.
Divis and the Black Mountain
Sitting in the heart of the Belfast Hills,
this 2,000-acre mosaic of upland heath
and blanket bog is a great place for a wild countryside experience. There are four walking trails to explore, affording panoramic views across Belfast and a wealth of ora, fauna and archaeological remains to discover.
Cregagh Glen and Lisnabreeny
For views across Belfast and beyond, follow the tumbling stream through the wooded glen and rolling farmland to a rath on the summit of the Castlereagh Hills. Discover the Second World War memorial commemorating US servicemen who died in Northern Ireland and enjoy the natural play area.
The sheltered gardens, Mussenden Temple and striking mansion ruins bear testament to the eccentricity of the Earl Bishop who once made this 18th-century demesne his home. With views over long white beaches and the mountains of Donegal it is a wonderful place for a refreshing walk or fun in the children’s adventure play area. Nearby at Hezlett House, life in a rural 17th-century cottage is told through the people who once lived there.
Nestled in the heart of Lagan Valley Regional Park, this is a place to stroll, sit and play in. There are riverside, meadow and woodland walks, rich in wildlife, to explore. Wander along the Giant’s Ring trail and for fantastic views trace the stream along the banks of the River Lagan on the Terrace Hill trail.
Nestled at the mouth of the River Dun (Brown River) at the foot of Glendun, Cushendun is a charming historic village steeped in character and folklore. Admire the white Cornish-style houses designed by Clough Williams-Ellis, explore the grounds of historic Glenmona House and enjoy the circular walking trail.
Portmuck and Skernaghan Point
Once the site of smuggling and home to an ancient monastery, the Islandmagee peninsula’s coastline is steeped in history. An Area of Special Scientific Interest, it has some of Northern Ireland’s largest colonies of cliff nesting seabirds and offers views of the famous Antrim coast.
White Park Bay
Embraced by ancient dunes, Neolithic settlements and passage tombs, this arc of white sand nestles between two headlands on the North Antrim coast. Home to a range of rich habitats and a myriad of wildlife, its secluded location makes it ideal for quiet relaxation and peaceful walks.
Sweeping along the edge of the north coast, this 2-mile stretch of golden sand covers uninterrupted views of the coastline. It’s an ideal place for lazy picnics, surfing and long walks into the wildlife-rich sand dunes. You can also enjoy bird watching from the bird hide on the Bann Estuary, a sanctuary for waders, wildfowl and nesting birds.
One of the nest examples of Neo-classical architecture in Ireland, Castle Coole has an elegant and restrained exterior, while the
interior is brimming with opulence, luxury and colour. Guided tours also reveal life below the stairs in the servants’ rooms and quarters. The surrounding rolling parkland, interspersed with mature oaks, woodlands and paths, is perfect for refreshing walks and fun in the outdoor play area.
Home to islands, ancient woodland and historical ruins, this 2,000-acre demesne sits in a tranquil landscape on the peaceful southern shores of Upper Lough Erne. One of Ireland’s most important conservation areas, it has many rare species and is great for relaxing walks, cycling and boat trips, or overnight camping.
On a guided tour of this welcoming Georgian mansion hear stories about the Cole family, and their staff, who lived there for over 250 years. Outdoors take a gentle walk or long cycle along 10 miles of trails in the forest park. Discover the mother of all Irish yew trees, the ice house, water- powered sawmill, blacksmith’s forge and the kitchen garden which is being restored to its 1930s character.
Patterson’s Spade Mill
Travel back in time and witness history literally forged in steel at the last working water-driven spade mill in daily use in the British Isles.
Dig up the history and culture of the humble spade and visit a bygone life fashioning steel into spades during the industrial era.
For more than 100 years this prominent Gothic-style late-Victorian building buzzed to the sound of children playing and learning in its former life as Belmont Primary School. Today this inspirational space has been restored and adapted to o er classes, conference facilities and tasty treats in the coffee shop.
The Top 2
Connected to the cli s by a rope bridge across the Atlantic Ocean, this rocky island is the ultimate cli top experience. The bridge was traditionally erected by salmon shermen and if you are bold enough to make the crossing you will
be rewarded with unique geology and wildlife. On a clear day enjoy views across the seas of Moyle to Rathlin Island and the Scottish islands.
The famous basalt columns at our iconic World Heritage Site, left by volcanic eruptions 60 million years ago, are home to a wealth of local history and legend.
Follow in the footsteps of giants along the windswept walking trails to discover ora and fauna of international importance as well as fantastic bird watching. Indoors, the interactive exhibition in the Visitor Centre unlocks the secrets of the landscape.