Randalstown is a village just off the northern shore of the Lough Neagh, a few miles away from Antrim. The forest ad the edge of the town is a mixed conifer forest that contains an owl conservation centre, Deer Park, and several walking routes.
Earlier this morning we woke up in a bright and sunny day and it seemed the right day to enjoy the colours of Autumn with a walk in the forest. Randalstown Forest is just a 35 minutes drive from Belfast, is well signed and there is free parking. The Deer path is a circular route running along the edge of a pine tree forest. Beyond that, the forest becomes mossy, with a mix of small trees and ferns. The route is well signposted with red arrows. The first part of the walk wasn’t exciting at all: we didn’t spot any deer and the view was indeed quite dull. The underwood of the pine tree was so dark that it was difficult to see anything at all. However, when we thought there was nothing to see at all, we arrived at the side of the path closest to the Lough Neagh shore and, instead of following the red arrows to continue the second half of the walk, we turned left and headed towards the lake shore. The path here is barely 500mt long but it’s totally beautiful. After going down some steps, we found ourselves in a mossy wood. The path is lined with rocks and the foliage is thin enough to allow some sunbeams to lighten some spots. It leads to a grassy shore and a bird-watching station overlooking the water. Here, the wind was strong and the water crispy and wavy. We stopped there for a while, enjoying the view and the sun, and had fun taking some selfies. Finally, we left, totally delighted with our diversion.
The second part of the Deer path was also pleasant, running through the pine forest. We truly enjoyed the fresh air and the lovely day – chilly, but sunny. However, our visit wasn’t finished. By the time we hit the entrance of Randalstown forest, the owl conservation centre had opened. Could we not stop there? Of course, we did. But I’ll tell you about this in the next blog post.