lagan towpath, Northern Ireland, photography, walking

Hidden History along the Lagan

Saturday 6th May 2017

Stranmillis to Shaw’s Bridge 9.2 miles

The original plan was to walk from Stranmillis through to Lisburn along the Lagan Towpath, fitting in a history tour, and then getting the train back to Belfast.

13.5 km to Lisburn

The forecast was good & our spirits were high as we started out about 10am from Stranmillis. The Towpath was busy with early morning dog walkers, runners & cyclists. With a brisk pace we soon reached The Lockkeepers Cottage. It was a hive of activity with lots of people already sitting outside enjoying their morning coffee. The place was buzzing with conversations as friends chatted & children played in the sunshine.

Lockkeepers Cottage, Lagan Towpath

But we couldn’t stop as we had to meet our guide further along the towpath at 11am. We’d booked to join a ‘Time Trek’ walk & talk about Minnowburn & the surrounding areas. Our first stop was up on a Rath looking down on the Clement Wilson Park. It was interesting to hear how the earthen fortified settlements would have been built … so solidly constructed that many raths have survived to this day! There’s believed to be over 40,000 sites in Ireland dating back to around 432 AD.

Clement Wilson Park from the Rath
The Burma Path, Clement Wilson Park

From here our next stop was the old Shaw’s Bridge, a beautifully built bridge dating back to 1709.  It was fascinating to listen to someone so knowledgeable & passionate about local history.

Shaw’s Bridge, Lagan Towpath

After standing on the bridge looking down at the river we headed to the riverside path to get a different perspective as we made our way towards Minnowburn. This was another popular spot with the car park filling up with families and dog walkers making good use of the numerous pathways.

Minnowburn Bridge

After continuing on for a good stretch along the river we reached the village of Edenderry with it’s quaint original mill cottages. A short ascent brought us to a perfectly ploughed field and then, after a relatively short walk, we entered the jaw dropping Giant’s Ring.

Ploughed Field, Giant’s Ring

I was not prepared for the pure size of the ring, it’s diameter is 595 feet and the surrounding bank 11 feet high! In the distance the stones of the Passage Tomb seemed miniature in comparison.

Giant’s Ring, Lagan Valley Regional Park

However close up the stones have a magical quality. As we touched them and felt the heat that has been absorbed from the days sun we were also conscious of the history they carried.

Passage Tomb, Giant’s Ring

As we continued on we were rewarded with some fantastic views of the Belfast Hills as we made our way back to join the towpath again.

The Belfast Hills in the distance
Malone House, Barnett Demesne

I couldn’t resist taking some flora photos as we came back along the river.

Beautiful Bluebells
Delicate Dandelion Seed head
Wild Garlic

After a rather late lunch we retraced our footsteps back along the towpath to Stranmillis. Another enjoyable walk although, having got side tracked, we didn’t make it as far as Lisburn … that’ll have to wait for another day!

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