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Belfast Waterworks

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Belfast Waterworks
Author: NIWalks, Published: 23 Nov 2016 Walk rating : Rating:star1 Belfast Waterworks Walking Guide star0 Belfast Waterworks Walking Guide star0 Belfast Waterworks Walking Guide star0 Belfast Waterworks Walking Guide star0 Belfast Waterworks Walking Guide
Antrim, Belfast
Walk Type: Garden or park
Belfast Waterworks
Length: 2 miles,  Difficulty: boot Belfast Waterworks Walking Guide
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A 1.5 mile circular route exploring the two ponds that make up the Waterworks, one of Belfast’s many public parks. Vibrant and buzzing with locals, the Waterworks is a popular spot for walkers, families and runners alike thanks to its stunning bird-life (you’ll not miss the eye-catching collection of swans, a sight to behold so close to the city centre!). You will be able to enjoy water lilies in summer, excellent views of Cave Hill and Belfast, and great-crested grebes in winter time.

The two ponds were constructed in the 1840s by engineer William Dargan to provide water for Belfast. The ponds were fed (and still are) by the Milewater Stream from Carr’s Glen. The reservoirs, however, only served as a water supply for about twenty years. After that the site, then owned by the Water Commissioners, was used for recreation.

The park opens at 07:30 and closes between 16:30 and 17:00. The route follows surfaced paths, which include a few steps and some hills. There are no stiles or kissing gates on the route. Well-behaved dogs are welcome in the park. Please note there is a lot of wildlife in park and therefore dogs should be kept on a lead. Allow up to 45 minutes.

The Waterworks in situated to the north of Belfast. The walk begins at the Queen Mary’s Gardens entrance on the corner of the Cavehill Road and the Antrim Road. If you are travelling by bus the park can be reached by Metro Services: 1A-H, 61 Cavehill Road. There is no parking in the park but parking can be found in the surrounding streets. Nearest postcode is BT15 5BG.

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Walk Sections

Start to Bridge
Start to Bridge

Start point: 54.6195 lat, -5.94 long
End point: 54.6245 lat, -5.9437 long

Enter the park via Queen Mary’s Gardens entrance on the corner of Cavehill Road and Antrim Road. At the round flowerbed, keep to your left alongside the stream and over the bridge.

Climb both sets of steps, then turn right, noticing the former gatekeeper’s house (now private). Continue along the tree-lined avenue and alongside the lower pond, pausing to enjoy the birdlife and views of Cave Hill. Many people come to feed the swans and ducks in this lower pond. The birds are quite tame and well used to humans.

You can climb to the upper level pond via the steps straight ahead or the ramp to the left. Either way, keep left and follow the path with the upper lake on your right.

In contrast with the lower pond, the upper lake is larger and ‘wilder’. Many waterfowl overwinter on the lake – it is not unusual to see several hundred coot, pochard and tufted ducks. Other visitors include the great-crested grebe, goldeneye and cormorant. In summer moorhens and dabchicks breed where the lakeside reeds give some protection, ducks nest on the central islands, and swifts and martins skim over the water searching for insects.

Cross a small bridge ahead and soon you will pass a small playground before bearing right and passing over a second, larger bridge.

Bridge to End
Bridge to End

Start point: 54.6245 lat, -5.9437 long
End point: 54.6195 lat, -5.94 long

After crossing the bridge you will come to a T-junction, turn right and continue with the pond on your right and Cavehill Road over to your left. After circling the upper pond, a path off to the left returns you to the lower level.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century band concerts and spectacular aquatic fireworks displays were staged here. Rowing, diving, bathing and angling were also all popular. The Waterworks was officially opened as a public park by Belfast Corporation in 1956.

During the Second World War the worst raid to hit Belfast happened on the night of Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday morning 1941, and north Belfast was devastated by the Luffwaffe. It is possible that during a previous reconnaissance flight on October 18, 1940, the Waterworks site was photographed and mistaken for the main dockland. Certainly the park and the surrounding area were recorded in fine detail on Luffwaffe target files recovered after the war.

On the north bank of the lower lake you will find another playground and seating. This area is dominated by the Waterworks multi-sports facility.

From here it is a short walk back to the starting point, the Queen Mary’s Gardens entrance.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2016 by the author NIWalks and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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