360 Degree Video of Glenariff Forest Park, County Antrim

Glenariff Forest Park

Updated On: March 14, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

Located amidst the rugged beauty of County Antrim, Glenariff Forest Park beckons travellers with its enchanting landscapes and tranquil ambience. Known as the “Queen of the Glens,” this idyllic retreat offers a captivating blend of natural wonders, rich history, and abundant recreational opportunities. Glenariff embodies the essence of Northern Ireland’s wilderness, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in its timeless splendour, from its cascading waterfalls to its ancient woodlands.

In this article, we embark on a journey of exploration and discovery, delving into the depths of Glenariff Forest Park to uncover its hidden treasures and unveil the secrets of its enduring allure. From the origins of its geological formations to the conservation efforts that safeguard its ecological integrity, we delve into every facet of this remarkable destination. Join us as we traverse winding trails, meander along babbling brooks, and ascend to lofty viewpoints while gaining a deeper appreciation for the natural beauty that defines Glenariff.

History and Formation of Glenariff Forest Park

360 Degree Video of Glenariff Park with its Waterfall Walk

Glenariff Forest Park’s history is intertwined with the ancient landscapes of County Antrim, which date back millions of years. The glen was carved out by glaciers during the last Ice Age, leaving behind a series of steep-sided valleys known locally as “glens.” Over time, the elements have shaped these valleys, creating the dramatic scenery that characterizes the region today.

The forest park, as it stands today, owes much of its existence to the efforts of the Forestry Service of Northern Ireland. In the early 20th century, the Forestry Commission began reforesting large swathes of land across the United Kingdom to meet the country’s growing demand for timber. Glenariff, with its fertile soils and ample rainfall, was deemed ideal for afforestation. Thus, in the 1920s, extensive planting of coniferous trees, primarily Sitka spruce and Japanese larch, began in the glen.

Glenariff retained much of its natural beauty and ecological diversity despite transforming into a commercial forest. Recognizing its value as a recreational and conservation area, the Forestry Service designated Glenariff as a forest park in 1965, ensuring its protection for future generations.

The Legacy of Afforestation

Glenariff Forest Park
panoramic view on Glenariff, known as Queens of the Glens and the biggest of the nine Glens of Antrim, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, UK

In the early 20th century, Glenariff underwent a transformation that would forever alter its landscape and shape its future. With the demand for timber rising, the Forestry Commission of Northern Ireland embarked on an ambitious afforestation project, planting vast swathes of coniferous trees across the glen. Sitka spruce, Japanese larch, and Scots pine were among the species introduced to the area, their sturdy trunks and dense foliage providing valuable timber resources for generations to come.

While the process of afforestation undoubtedly changed the face of Glenariff, it also brought new opportunities for conservation and recreation. Recognizing the need to protect the area’s natural beauty, the Forestry Commission designated Glenariff as a forest park in 1965, ensuring its preservation for future generations. Since then, the park has become a beloved destination for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and adventurers, offering many recreational opportunities amidst its tranquil surroundings.

A Tapestry of Natural Beauty

Glenariff Forest Park owes its stunning beauty to the forces of nature that have shaped its landscape over millennia. Carved by glaciers during the last Ice Age, the glen is characterized by steep-sided valleys, cascading waterfalls, and lush woodlands that stretch as far as the eye can see. The Glenariff River meanders through the glen, its crystal-clear waters nourishing the rich ecosystem that thrives within its embrace.

One of the park’s most iconic features is its waterfalls, which punctuate the landscape with thundering cascades. From the towering Ess-na-Larach, also known as the Mare’s Tail, to the serene beauty of the Glenariff Waterfall, each cascade offers a glimpse into nature’s raw power and beauty. Visitors can embark on the Waterfall Walk, a scenic trail that winds past several of these spectacular falls, providing ample opportunities for photography and contemplation.

In addition to its waterfalls, Glenariff is renowned for its ancient woodlands, which provide habitat for a diverse array of plant and animal species. Oak, ash, and beech trees tower overhead, their gnarled branches sheltering delicate ferns, vibrant wildflowers, and elusive woodland creatures. Red squirrels dart through the undergrowth, while buzzards and ravens circle lazily on the thermals overhead. For nature lovers, Glenariff offers a veritable feast for the senses, with each twist and turn of the trail revealing new wonders to behold.

Ecology and Biodiversity

Glenariff Forest Park boasts a rich tapestry of habitats, ranging from ancient woodlands to open moorland. These diverse ecosystems support many plant and animal species unique to the region.

The park’s woodlands are particularly noteworthy, comprising native and exotic tree species. Oak, ash, and rowan are among the native trees that thrive in Glenariff, providing essential habitat for numerous birds, insects, and mammals. In contrast, introduced species such as Sitka spruce dominate large sections of the forest, serving as valuable timber resources while supporting wildlife.

One of Glenariff Forest Park’s most iconic features is its cascading waterfalls, which punctuate the glen’s rugged landscape. These waterfalls, fed by the crystalline waters of the Glenariff River, add to the park’s scenic beauty and play a vital role in the local ecosystem. They provide spawning grounds for salmon and trout while sustaining various freshwater invertebrates.

Beyond its terrestrial habitats, Glenariff is also home to various bird species, including buzzards, ravens, and peregrine falcons. The park’s wetlands and rivers support waterfowl populations such as mallards and herons, while elusive species such as otters and red squirrels can occasionally be spotted amidst the dense undergrowth.

Recreational Opportunities

Glenariff Forest Park, Glens of Antrim – Causeway Coast – NI

Glenariff Forest Park offers many recreational activities for outdoor enthusiasts that suit all interests and abilities. Hiking trails wind through the glen, allowing visitors to explore its hidden corners and panoramic viewpoints. The Waterfall Walk, in particular, is a popular route that takes hikers past several of the park’s most spectacular waterfalls, including the famous Ess-na-Larach (the Mare’s Tail).

For those seeking a more leisurely experience, the Glenariff Tea House provides a welcome respite, serving freshly brewed tea and homemade treats amidst the tranquil surroundings of the forest. Additionally, picnic areas throughout the park offer the perfect spot to enjoy a packed lunch while soaking in the sights and sounds of nature.

Glenariff Forest Park also boasts mountain biking trails for the more adventurous visitor, ranging from gentle forest tracks to adrenaline-pumping descents. These trails cater to riders of all abilities, with options for beginners and experienced cyclists.

In addition to hiking and mountain biking, Glenariff offers opportunities for fishing, with the Glenariff River renowned for its salmon and trout stocks. Anglers can obtain permits from the Forest Service and spend a peaceful day casting their lines in the crystal-clear waters of the river.

Conservation and Sustainability

Glenariff Forest Park
Glenariff Forest Park

As Glenariff Forest Park’s custodians, the Northern Ireland Forestry Service strongly emphasises conservation and sustainability. Through careful management practices, they strive to balance the ecological needs of the park with the demands of timber production and recreational use.

Selective logging is carried out in designated forest areas, ensuring the ecosystem remains healthy and resilient. Native tree species are prioritized in reforestation efforts, helping to enhance biodiversity and restore degraded habitats. Additionally, invasive species such as rhododendrons are actively managed to prevent them from encroaching on native vegetation.

Educational programs and guided walks are also offered to visitors, providing insights into the park’s ecology and the importance of conservation. By fostering a deeper appreciation for Glenariff’s natural heritage, these initiatives help instil a sense of stewardship among visitors, encouraging them to protect and preserve this unique environment for future generations.

The Symphony of Waterfalls

Glenariff’s most captivating feature is its cascading waterfalls, which punctuate the landscape with their sheer beauty and thunderous roar. The Glenariff River, fed by mountain streams and rainfall, cascades down the glen’s steep slopes, forming a succession of breathtaking falls that captivate the imagination. Each waterfall bears its unique character, from the graceful elegance of Ess-na-Larach (the Mare’s Tail) to the dramatic plunge of Ess-na-Crub (the Whirlpool).

Exploring Glenariff

For adventurers and nature enthusiasts, Glenariff Forest Park offers many trails and pathways that wind their way through its verdant expanse. The Waterfall Walk, perhaps the park’s most iconic trail, meanders alongside the Glenariff River, providing awe-inspiring views of several cascades along the route. As visitors traverse the trail’s gentle inclines and wooden footbridges, they are enveloped by the tranquil beauty of the glen, with each bend revealing a new vista to behold.

For those seeking a more challenging trek, the Scenic Trail offers a panoramic journey through Glenariff’s rugged landscapes, leading hikers to lofty viewpoints that afford sweeping vistas of the surrounding countryside. From the summit of Glenariff Mountain, the highest point in the park, intrepid adventurers can gaze out across a patchwork of emerald hills and shimmering lakes, their breath stolen by the sheer magnificence of the scenery.


In a fast-paced world filled with noise and distraction, Glenariff Forest Park offers a welcome respite from the chaos of modern life. Here, amidst the ancient woodlands and shimmering waterfalls, visitors can reconnect with the natural world and rediscover the wonders of the great outdoors. Whether you’re seeking adventure, solitude, or simply a moment of quiet contemplation, Glenariff has something to offer everyone.

As you wander along its wooded trails, breathe in the scent of pine and earth, listen to the gentle murmur of the river, and feel the soft moss beneath your feet. Let the beauty of Glenariff envelop you, transporting you to a place where time stands still, and the cares of the world slip away. In this enchanted glen, amidst the whispering trees and dancing shadows, you’ll find a sense of peace and tranquillity that lingers long after you’ve returned to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

So come, explore Glenariff Forest Park and discover the magic that awaits you in this timeless retreat nestled in the heart of County Antrim’s glens. With its rugged beauty, rich history, and boundless opportunities for adventure, it’s a destination that will capture your heart and leave you longing to return again and again.

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