The Lagan towpath is a fascinating way to wander through Northern Ireland’s capital and enjoy the natural beauty of the River Lagan itself – our main and prominent river.
It takes the walker along the river and the historical canal, through wetland, meadows and woods, from Belfast to the city of Lisburn – a distance of around 11 miles. It’s an area of outstanding natural beauty and the terrain is off-road, on quiet, surfaced paths. The Lagan is home to a variety of wildlife, from kingfishers, jays, ducks and herons, to otters and even seals.
The canal system dates back to the late 18th century, and locks and weirs give an insight into the majestic era of the boats, known as lighters. The route is on https://www.walkni.com/walks/40/lagan-towpath/
You can start at Stranmillis in Belfast or at the Island Centre in Lisburn and the walk is 11 miles or 17 kms long. You can extend it to the Odyssey complex, where the River Lagan enters Belfast Lough.
The Lagan Valley Regional Park gives you a chance to explore the countryside on the city’s doorstep. Belvoir Park Forest is also linked to the towpath, via a footbridge. Formerly the estate of Lord Deramore, it’s now managed by the Forest Service, and there are lots of woodland and riverside walks.
The towpath also runs through Clement Wilson Park and Barnett Demesne. A new £200,000 bridge, named after the local artist, John Luke provides better access for walkers and cyclists.
There used to be a clog factory here. In 1929, the company chairman, Clement Wilson, noticed how much factory staff, unable to travel home for lunch, enjoyed walking around the surrounding fields in their lunch break. He landscaped the grounds, creating the first ‘factory garden’ in Northern Ireland.
Shaw’s Bridge, made of stone, was built in 1709.
Malone House in Barnett Demesne was the home of William Wallace Legge, a rich Belfast merchant, in the 1820s. A keen landscaper, he designed and planned the grounds of the estate, which remain relatively unchanged today. It’s now owned by Belfast City Council, and has a restaurant and coffee shop, and the grounds are popular with walkers and cyclists. Another stop for refreshments is the Lock Keepers Inn, right on the river bank, where you can have coffee, breakfast, lunch or a snack.
The Lagan towpath is also on the National Cycle Network www.cycleni.com
So why not visit the river, which inspired the beautiful traditional Irish song, My Lagan Love? There, you can see “Where Lagan stream sings lullaby there blows a lily fair…”
This is a terrific way to stretch your legs whilst in the city and you will be amazed by the natural beauty so accessible to a modern, thriving city like Belfast!