Northern Ireland’s spectacular scenery is an outdoor pursuits paradise, and getting outside is as simple as going for a walk, run or cycle at many places close to the university.
The River Lagan runs through Belfast, close to Queen’s, and the path alongside makes for a very scenic jogging location. There are numerous running clubs for all levels, weekly park runs all over the city and each year, thousands sign up for the Belfast City Marathon.
Woodlands and forest parks make up the rich landscape of NI; the perfect day out surrounded by nature and fresh air. For more adventurous walkers, The Gobbins is a hair-raising walk along a cliff path directly over the Irish Sea. It’s just 40 minutes from Queen’s via the train to Whitehead from Botanic.
Top 4 Weekend Walks
Right beside the main Queen’s campus, Botanic Gardens is perfect for a short stroll, a wander around the Victorian Palm House or Tropical Ravine or exploring the beautiful rose garden in the summer.
Ormeau Park is just 10 minutes’ walk away, suitable for running and cycling as well as numerous other sports, such as football and tennis.
The Lagan Meadows nearby, is a beautiful Local Nature Reserve with varied wildlife habitats, and provides a rare chance to see cows grazing within a few miles of the city centre. The walk also extends to Belvoir Park Forest, a mature and wild woodland packed with historic sites.
A little further out of Belfast, Seapark at Holywood (10 minutes by train from Queen’s) is a stunning coastal area and beach, with panoramic views overlooking Belfast Lough and one of the finest shoreline walks in Ireland, in the North Down Coastal Path.
Cycling and mountain biking is popular throughout the country, with cycle events throughout the year.
They range from beginners’ jaunts to challenges like ‘Lap the Lough’, and The Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive around the Glens of Antrim. In 2014, the Giro d’Italia started off in Belfast, so take the opportunity to cycle the same roads as the pros.
Barnett’s Demesne mountain bike trail is a few kilometres from Queen’s with green, blue and red loops and on the shores of Carlingford Lough, Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trail, has more challenging downhill options, uplifts and sea views to enjoy.
There are plenty of opportunities to slow down and find your calm moment.
Mindfulness and Yoga, from hot Yoga to weekend retreats can be found all over Northern Ireland. Namaste Yoga Centre, Prana, Shakti Wellness Studio and Maitri Studio are venues close to Queen’s Quarter offering classes ranging from aerial yoga, pilates, meditation, sound bathing and reiki.
Look out for morning yoga outdoors in the summer in Botanic Gardens, and close to the university, The Crescent Arts Centre offers dance courses such as ballet, tap, jazz as well as pilates and yoga classes for all levels.
Queen’s is an active campus.
Located next to the main campus you’ll find the Physical Education Centre (PEC). Over 10,000 students use Queen’s Sport each year, and exercise using state-of-the-art fitness facilities, including 25m swimming and diving pool, 2 climbing walls, 8 squash courts, over 140 pieces of CV and resistance equipment, a functional training and weights area, martial arts area, 2 handball courts and outdoor 3G grass pitches.
Work out in 100+ group fitness sessions per week, from Super Sculpt and Spin to KPop Fitness. Or join a sports club like Mountaineering, Badminton, Diving, Brazilian Ju Jitsu, Fencing, Sailing, Snowsports, Skydiving, Waterpolo or Soccer.
Start at Boulderworld, Northern Ireland’s premier indoor climbing facility, then take it outdoors at Fairhead; a filming location for Game of Thrones and Northern Ireland’s tallest cliff face.
Just six miles from Queen’s, hill walkers can start at Cave Hill Country Park, and be invigorated with panoramic views across Belfast. Northern Ireland’s small size means mountains, glens and valleys are right on your doorstep and there are numerous walks for all levels of fitness. The spectacular Mourne Mountains which sweep down the sea, are the highest and most dramatic mountain range in Northern Ireland offering epic hikes and views across the country.
The wild Atlantic Coast makes Northern Ireland perfect for water sports.
With white breakers and long sandy beaches, surf’s up. There are diving schools, for all levels as well as advanced free-diving courses; coasteering, bouldering, canoeing and kayaking. Inland, many tranquil waterways and lakes such as Fermanagh Lakelands are ideal for stand up paddleboarding, windsurfing and water-skiing. Moonlight Kayaking is something a little different, or try these six exhilarating watersport experiences. Closer to university, Queen’s Rowing Club based at Stranmillis, competes at all levels. The Queen’s v Trinity College Dublin Boat Race takes place once a year in the summer months.
Northern Ireland has produced some great golfers and its golf courses are no exception.
Royal Portrush hosted the 148th Open, the world’s oldest international championship. ‘Northern Ireland really is made for golf.’ (Rory McIlroy). There are links, parkland and resorts to choose from amongst over 90 courses in Northern Ireland.
Queen’s Tennis Club use the excellent facilities at Belfast Boat Club, where there are indoor courts for year-round play. Thirty-three clubs from across Northern Ireland take part in league tennis with just under two thousand players.
The countryside around Belfast and beyond is a foragers paradise.
From Cave Hill to Castle Archdale to Dundrum Coastal path, the hedgerows and hills are abundant with nature’s food. Folklorists are often on-hand to keep you right and delve into the local folklore attached to some of our more mystical botanical species as you explore. It’s also a chance to go green and get to grips with local biodiversity and sustainability.
Feeling serious? Take it to another level with Northern Ireland Survival School, which offers courses in Bushcraft; overnighting in nature and learning the wild skills to survive off the land.
Northern Ireland has unique activities to experience, to get the adrenaline flowing or just to try something completely new.
Why not explore the coast on horseback, or go dolphin or seal spotting on an early morning fishing trip? Try traversing high ropes courses through the treetops before descending on a zipline, or fly over land and water in a high performance hovercraft.
From Archery, Paintball, Segway to Zorbing, you’ll find an A-Z of outdoors inspiration all within an hour from Belfast.
(Image courtesy of Jungle NI)
Soccer, Gaelic, Rugby… Northern Ireland has a fiercely competitive spirit, and plenty of sport to watch and participate in at the top level.
The Northern Amateur Football League has membership of 93 clubs incorporating 173 teams and the Ulster Senior Club Football Championship is an annual Gaelic football competition played between the top clubs in Ulster GAA. The Irish Football Association (IFA) has lots of new opportunities aimed at supporting women’s football in Northern Ireland.
Ulster Rugby compete in both the Pro 14 and European Rugby Championships, winning the European Cup in 1999.There are also sports leagues for hockey, boxing, cricket, badminton, wrestling, basketball and netball.
The great thing about Belfast is there are lots of big sporting events on regularly.
The National Football Stadium at Windsor Park is the home ground of Linfield FC and the Northern Ireland national football team, where the Irish Cup final is played.
At The SSE Arena The Belfast Giants have competed in the Elite Ice Hockey League since 2000 and they are the sole Northern Irish team in the league. The recently expanded and refurbished Kingspan Stadium, a 30-minute walk from Queen’s, is the beating heart of Ulster Rugby.
(Image courtesy of Ulster Rugby)