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More about Carnmoney Hill

This mix of semi-natural ancient woodland, wetland and floral grassland offers breathtaking views of the city, Belfast Lough and the coast. It’s steeped in history and folklore, is home to an abundance of wildlife, including Irish hares and long-eared owls, and has a range of walks to suit all abilities.

In spring, you can enjoy the bluebells, dotted with primrose, dog violet and delicate, white wood anemone. And in summer, you’ll be greeted by a glorious wildflower meadow with vibrant displays of cornflower, camomile, red campion and poppy. As you wander the site, keep a look out for wildlife too – little blue tits, chaffinches and robins, the iridescent blue-green flash of a kingfisher swooping over a pond, and the long ears of an Irish hair poking out of the grasses.

The site has a long and fascinating history, with human habitation probably stretching back to the Bronze Age. There are ancient earth mounds and stone-lined underground tunnels, perhaps used as escape routes from marauding Vikings, while relics of later agricultural use include lime kilns built into the hillside and the ruins of a Victorian farmstead. It has its historical characters too: the Carnmoney Witch who was tried for murder, and Lilian Bland, the first woman to design and build a plane, who used the hill as a test site for her craft’s first flight in 1910.

Carnmoney has a range of walks, from gentle strolls along its lower reaches to steep climbs rewarded with stupendous views. There’s a treasure trail, popular with children and adults, to help you explore everything the site has to offer, and if you’re feeling adventurous you could even tackle one of the orienteering trails.

With easy access from Belfast, and plenty of interest for keen flower and wildlife spotters as well as history buffs, Carnmoney Hill is a great destination for a day out.

Setting

The 80ha (198-acre) Carnmoney Hill rises 232m (761ft) above Newtownabbey, 10km (six miles) north of Belfast. It was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 1996.

The Woodland Trust and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council own most of the eastern side (a third of the hill). The crest and western two thirds, including most of the cultivated, grazing and heathland, are privately owned.

OSNI Discover 15, 461379

Access and walks

There are six access points. The main entrance is on the eastern slope of the hill, on Knockenagh Avenue off Rathfern estate, with another entrance to the south of this. There are two entrances to the south of the site, off O’Neill Rd, and two in the north, off Fernlea Lane.

The site has three coloured walking routes:

Red – a gentle 15-minute around the foot of the hill. This 800-metre pathway takes you through a recently transformed area just off Knockenagh Avenue, with a pond and landscaped grassland.

Blue – a two-hour hilltop walk with panoramic views of the city, Belfast Lough and North Down. This walk has very steep inclines and stout footwear is needed.

Yellow – a lower woodland walk. This 45-minute walk takes you through ancient woodland to a viewpoint overlooking Belfast Lough. This walk has some steep inclines and stout footwear is needed.

Download our information booklet (PDF, 1MB) and either our yellow introductory course (PDF, 1MB) or our orange route (PDF, 1MB) for those who already have experience.

We also have a downloadable Carnmoney Hill wood leaflet (PDF, 1MB) and a new Treasure Trail (PDF, 8.5MB). Both will help you explore and enjoy the beauty of Carnmoney Hill.

Directions

By car
From Belfast, take the M2 and then the M5. At the roundabout, follow the sign for Carrickfergus, then at the second roundabout take the first left to Glengormley. Go straight over the next two roundabouts and onto O'Neill Road. Continue up the hill and take the first right into Knockenagh Avenue. You will see the entrance to Carnmoney Hill on the left, where there is a lay-by.

By train
The nearest train stations are Belfast 14.5km (9 miles) and Whiteabbey 4.3km (2.7 miles).

For up-to-date information on public transport, visit traveline (0871 200 22 33)

By bus
The 64A bus operates from Belfast City to O'Neill Road and the 2D/E/F Metro Bus runs from Shore Road in Belfast to Dough Road. Call Translink on 028 9066 6630 or visit Translink for details.

Nearest amenities

There are toilets, including facilities for the disabled, in the Community Centre at the bottom of the site. These are available when the centre is open.

For refreshments, there is a variety of eating places and shops in Newtownabbey. A comprehensive list of hotels in and around Newtownabbey can be found on the tripadvisor or Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council websites.

Entry into our woods is free but please donate now to help us care for them.