Fun for All at Carnfunnock Country Park
Looking for places to visit in Northern Ireland with your family and friends? Located in Northern Ireland, Carnfunnock Country Park is the best place for visitors from the UK, Ireland and overseas to have the perfect family day. It is a 191-hectare park, including a caravan park as well as a camping site. Visiting the park is quite an experience since it has several colorful gardens, walking trails and an amazing coastline. In addition, it has activities for all age groups, especially outdoor activities, varying from fun zone with miniature railway to table tennis and draughts.
Carnfunnock Country Park is located between Drains Bay and Ballygally, near Larne, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is situated on the A2 Antrim Coast Road, 3.5 miles north of Larne. It is possible to get to the park from several locations. Firstly, if you are coming from Larne, the distance is approximately 3.5 miles (about 5.6KM). If you are at the City Centre, you need to follow the signs along the Coast Road (A2), through Drains Bay and the entrance to the park is about 0.5 miles (about 0.80KM) on the left. Yet, if you are coming from Glenarm, you need to follow the signs for Larne and drive along the Coast Road (A2) through Ballygally, and the park is about a mile (about 1.6KM) to the right.
Secondly, if you are coming from Belfast, the journey is a little bit longer, it is about 26 miles (about 41.8KM). You should head out of Belfast to the M2 northbound, and at junction 4, take the A8(M)/A6 exit to Larne/Glengormley. Then, take the 2nd exit onto A8(M) followed by the 2nd exit at the next roundabout onto Ballynure Road/A8. You drive along this road for about 22 miles (about35.4KM). When entering Larne, do not take the first exit for town centre but continue to harbour taking next left toward Circular Road/A2 sign posted Antrim Coastal Route. At the roundabout, take the 4th exit onto Circular Road/A2 and continue to follow A2 for about 3.5 miles (5.6KM). The park should be on the left.
Finally, if you are coming from Dublin, it is a 126 mile (about 202KM) journey but with the easiest instructions. All you need to do is head to Belfast and from Belfast follow the route to Larne, as per adjacent directions. Wherever you are coming from, look out for the unique pyramid feature indicating the Park entrance.
History of the Park
There is a historical part to Carnfunnock Country Park, but let’s start with the name. “Carn” means a heap of stones marking an ancient boundary, a navigation point or grave and “Funnock” is derived from “Feannog” or “Fannoge” meaning Royston or Scalded Crow. It was a well-known landmark in ancient times.
Between 1600 and 1640, large numbers of English and Scottish families settled in Ulster, especially counties Antrim and Down, as noblemen parceled out small estates, and gifted or leased their land. Sir Randal McDonnell, who became Earl of Antrim, was granted land stretching from Coleraine to Larne by James I. The Carnfunnock lands were included in a rental deed dated 1st February 1621 made between the Right Honourable Randall McDonnell and John Shaw of Ballygally Castle. On 1st May 1823, Captain William Agnew (1747–1828) obtained from the Marquis of Donegal a permanent lease for lives renewable forever of land in the Lough and Corran, Larne (including Drumalis). On the death of Captain Agnew in 1828, his lands and harbour passed to his son, James Agnew (1794–1880), who, due to some unfortunate investments, sold lands, properties and business interests to James Chaine. He invested heavily, improving greatly the land’s primitive quays and facilities, promoting Larne as a port and re-establishing the Larne-Stranraer passenger service in 1872. A mail route was established in 1875 and a trans-Atlantic service between Glasgow, Larne and New York began in 1873.
Jumping forward to August 1956, Lady Dixon agreed to sell her lands at Carnfunnock to Larne Borough Council. Initially the Council thought they might earmark a portion for playing fields, which were not enough in Larne Town, although the land was far from the town. However, the idea was dismissed due to other priorities and shortage of time.
In early 1957, Larne Borough Council took ownership of approximately 473 acres of land in Carnfunnock, including numerous buildings, the walled garden and the Carnfunnock House chalet (now the Larne Lions Club Holiday Home). Buildings included Brownlow House (Frank Brownlow, Land steward); Main Lodge; Shore Lodge ( J. Mulligan, gardener); Red House (WJ Brownlow, farm worker); North Lodge( James Black, farm worker); White House (girl guides); Droagh House( James Hunter, farm worker); Turks House and two houses in Tobergel.
In 1981, Larne Borough Council revealed a master plan to transform Carnfunnock into a major tourist attraction. Developments commenced in the mid-1980s, and by 1985, the maze, designed in the shape of Northern Ireland was in place. By 1986, the Visitor Centre had opened consisting of a cafeteria, laundry and toilet facilities for campers and exhibition/craft space. Work on the walled garden started in January 1988. It was officially opened as a country park by HRH the Duchess of Kent on 23rd July 1990. Over the years, the Council has continued to add unique attractions. The Activity Centre was opened in 1993, a 9-hole par 3 golf course was also opened in 1995. Today, Carnfunnock attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Things to do at Carnfunnock Country Park
Carnfunnock Country Park has a variety of fun things on offer that young and old will both love and it is the perfect place to enjoy a walk with over 191 acres of beautiful woodland. It also offers amazing views over the coastline that are not to be missed. The following attractions are open all year round from 9am till dusk (latest 9pm from June to September). They are closed on Christmas Day.
note: Attractions may be closed to the public if there are icy or snowy ground conditions.
- Walled garden
- BBQ/Picnic sites
There is also a caravan park and camping site located at the country park if you’re up for sleeping outside in the woods or just to try something different. The Barbeque and picnic area are a hit during the summer months to enjoy the sunny weather.
- Forest Walks, Orienteering, Wildlife Garden, Biodiversity Trail
- Adventure Playground
- Activity Centre
This is one of the reasons why Carnfunnock Country park is so popular. There is an area dedicated to different and fun activities for everyone to take part in. Outdoor activities include giant chess and draught and a giant connect four which will provide endless fun. Try out table tennis and why not turn it into a friendly competition with your friends and family. There is also a snack bar where you grab a nice drink or ice-cream.
- Activity Centre Snack Stop & Parklands Café
They are open on Monday–Sunday (9:00am–5:00pm).
- Matthew Stewart Golf Driving Range & Academy
The Matthew Stewart Golf Academy has a 14-bay undercover floodlit driving range open 7 days a week all year round, except for the Christmas period. Change machine and automatic ball dispenser available at range. It is open on Monday–Friday (8am–8pm) and on Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays at (10am–5pm).
- Carnfunnock Maze
You must also check out the maze that is uniquely shaped like Northern Ireland. You could spend hours trying to make your way out of it. It is open in March/April to October/November from 9am till dusk (9pm July–August).
note: the Maze is closed to the public in case of slippery ground conditions, and access will be restricted for Halloween events. For further details, check the telephone numbers below or the events listing.
- Activity Centre Kiosk & Outdoor Games
All hours subject to weather, group bookings, ground and light conditions. Opening hours are as follows:
28 March–8 April, 2018 (Easter Holidays): Monday to Sunday (10am–5.30pm).
9 April–28 June, 2018: Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays (10am–6pm), Monday–Friday (Closed).
29 June–30 August, 2018 (school holidays): Monday–Sunday (10am–6pm).
31 August–4 November, 2018: Saturday and Sunday (10am–5pm), Monday–Friday (Closed).
- Family Fun Zone
There you’ll find miniature railway, bouncy castle, 18-hole mini golf, remote control boats/trucks, WOW balls, bungee run, bungee trampoline. The Family Fun Zone is open in September and October: Saturday (12:00pm–4:00pm) and Sunday (1:00pm–4:00pm).
Enjoy the face painting and tattoos. It is open on Monday–Saturday (12am–4:30pm) and Sunday (12:30am–4:30pm).
- 9 Hole Golf Course
Another attraction in Carnfunnock is fun 9-hole golf course available that showcases beautiful views of the Antrim coast and across to Scotland. The Golf Course is open daily from 9am to 9pm in April/May onwards–4 November, 2018. Please note that the opening hours may be subject to change due to ground conditions or maintenance.
- Visitor Centre with Gift Shop
It is open on:
26 March–30 September, 2018: Monday–Thursday (10am–6pm) (Open 9.30am–7pm in July and August), Friday (10am–9pm) (Open 9.30am in July and August), Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays (10am–7pm) (Open 9.30am in July and August)
1 October–3 November, 2018: Friday (1pm–9pm), Saturday and Sunday (10am–5/6pm), Monday–Thursday (Closed)
- Outdoor Playground
Another popular attraction at Carnfunnock Country Park is the children’s outdoor play area. This playground offers children the chance to try out some challenging and fun equipment where they could spend hours enjoying themselves. This playground is suitable for children aged 12 years old and under. For children under the age of five, they have their own area dedicated to them including swings, a see-saw and multi-activity play unit. Also found here is a sensory play centre.
For those wishing to have a bite on sight, Carnfunnock Park has a variety of eating facilities offering different types of food. In addition, several barbecue sites, catering for groups of any size from families to large parties, are available for hire. There are also many picnic areas throughout the park, for visitors to bring along their own picnic. Toilets are located in the Visitor Centre and Activity Centre. All buildings contain accessible and baby changing facilities.
- Visitor Centre cafe (Parklands Cafe)
Parklands Cafe at Carnfunnock can accommodate up to 40 customers inside and the adjacent outside terrace, with its dramatic views of the Antrim Coast, is for their patrons use only. Private parties can be catered for by arrangement.
- Activity Centre Snack Stop (Parklands Cafe)
With the maritime themed playground proving ever popular, the adjacent building has been colourfully refurbished and is now a Snack Stop, operated privately. Visitors can enjoy hot drinks and snacks including sandwiches, hot dogs, sausage rolls and scones. For those with a sweet tooth, there are a wide variety of cakes, tray-bakes, crisps and chocolate bars on offer, as well as ice-cream and lollies.
- Activity Centre Covered BBQ
This area is available for private hire only and includes picnic tables and chairs as well as night lights and a power point for CD players, kettle etc. It can accommodate up to 75 people. Fuel, charcoal and cooking utensils are not provided. A maximum of 2 cars are permitted to drive along the adjacent lane to drop off materials and charcoal may be kept in the Activity Centre store but not fresh food. There is no water tap available and you are advised to bring along jugs/basins to have them filled by Activity Centre staff.
This area must be booked and paid for in advance at the Visitor Centre. Payment is based on group size, type of use and number of grids required. If it is hired for a picnic (and no grills are required) the picnic rate will apply. If there are back to back bookings groups are requested to leave the BBQ lit for the next group. An additional charge will be incurred if this area is required after 9.00pm.
- Games Field Covered BBQ
This private hire sheltered area, located close to the Family Fun Zone can accommodate up to 150 people and includes picnic tables as well as night lights and a power point for CD players, kettle etc. Fuel, charcoal and cooking utensils are not provided. A maximum of 2 cars are permitted to drive along the adjacent laneway to drop off materials and charcoal may be kept in the Activity Centre store but not fresh food. There is no water tap available and you are advised to bring along jugs / basins to have them filled by Activity Centre staff.
This area must be booked and paid for in advance at the Visitor Centre. Payment is based on group size, type of use and number of grids (up to 3) required. If it is hired for a picnic (and no grills are required) the picnic rate will apply. If there are back to back bookings groups are requested to leave the BBQ lit for the next group. An additional charge will be incurred if this area is required after 9.00pm.
- Permanent built brick BBQs (with separate grids)
These are located at the Visitor Centre veranda and the lower car park.
- Mobile BBQs
These can be located at the former Lions House Garden Picnic Area, Games Field or Upper Car Park picnic area. Any hired BBQs must be booked and paid for in advance at the Visitor Centre.
- Picnics/Disposable BBQs
Picnic tables are available throughout the Park for anyone wishing to bring packed lunches. Many of the picnic tables contain grills for using disposable BBQs. They are found in the main car park, at the Visitor Centre, in the games field and at dedicated picnic areas alongside the main entrance road. These areas cannot be pre-booked unless for permanent BBQ hire.
Carnfunnock Park Events
Carnfunnock Park has an annual schedule of events that is uploaded to its website. These events may be regular or seasonal:
Larne Parkrun is a FREE regular weekly 5km event for all runners. It takes place in Carnfunnock Country Park starting from Drains Bay. It’s not a race against other runners, but rather a timed run, whether jogging for fun or running as training. You can register before your first ever Parkrun from www.parkrun.org.uk/larne/.
- National Tree Week
This is a free event where local schools and interested parties will once again be invited to plant native tree and shrub species in Carnfunnock during National Tree Week. It will take place in 24th November–2nd December, 2018.
Entrance to the park is free of charge, as is use of the walled garden, maze, adventure playground and walks. Parking charges apply at various times throughout the year and there are also charges for some attractions, activities and events. Cars displaying a valid Blue Badge can park free of charge.
The Country Park is open daily: Spring/Summer (9am–dusk) (9pm in July–August) and Autumn/Winter (9am–4.30pm) (Closed on Christmas Day). In addition, certain activities are seasonal and weather permitting.
For further details please visit Carnfunnock Country Park website or use the Carnfunnock App.
- Tel: 028 2826 2471 (Mar/Apr-Oct/Nov)
- Tel: 028 2826 2495 (out of season)
- Email: [email protected]
- Website: carnfunnock.co.uk
Have you ever been to Carnfunook Country Park? Or are you planning a visit? We would love to know!
Also, don’t forget to check out our other blog post: Ulster American Folk Park| Roe Valley Country Park| Crawfordsburn| Streamvale Open Farm| Botanic Gardens| Redburn Country Park| Gruffalo Trail|