Readers outside the UK may not have heard of The National Trust (NT), a conservation organisation founded in 1895 that works to protect and preserve places of historical importance. The NT promotes geocaching as an activity on their lands and either hides caches themselves, or works with local cachers to set up trails.
Northern Ireland has some fantastic NT properties to explore, and lots of geocaches to help you plan your visit. Here are just 8 locations I have visited and cached at, which are either wholly or partly owned by the National Trust.
Castle Ward, County Down
Game of Thrones fans may recognise various locations around the Castle Ward estate as Winterfell. The HBO series used the historic farmyard for filming during the popular TV show’s pilot series. But there is much, much more to explore in the 820 acres of landscaped gardens of the Castle Ward Estate.
There is a wide variety of traditional caches hidden around the estate, both by the National Trust and by local geocachers. The caches highlight the must-see spots around Castle Ward, including Audley’s Castle sitting on the shores of Strangford Lough and the clock tower.
- To locate the caches at Castle Ward on the map, go to GC5N7HH and search the surrounding area
- Entry to Castle Ward costs £9.50 per adult (including Gift Aid) and £4.75 per child. The fee includes a tour of the house. For more information regarding the tour, read about my visit to the house here.
Divis and the Black Mountain, Belfast
There are two trails around Divis and the Black Mountain to choose from: the Black Mountain ridge trail and the Divis Mountain summit trail. The latter will reward the walker with amazing views over the city of Belfast, and of course, there are several geocaches to find along the way.
From the (free) parking area on Divis Road, the walk to the summit is easy-going with great views and, if you’re lucky, a variety of wildlife to spot.
- To locate the caches at Divis on the map, go to GC328WM and search the surrounding area
- It doesn’t cost a thing to walk around Divis and the Black Mountain, and the parking area is also free.
- Read more about my visit to Divis and the Black Mountain here
Mount Stewart, County Down
This 19th century house and gardens is located just a few miles outside Newtownards and was once the home of the Marquess of Londonderry and his family. The estate is vast and you’d be pushed to find the plethora of geocaches hidden there all in one day.
The caches are mostly traditionals, but many have a field puzzle element so you’ll never tire of seeing what the next hide has in store.
- To locate the caches at Mount Stewart on the map, go to GC6Z8YQ and search the surrounding area
- Entrance fee per adult is £10.50 and £5.25 per child (including Gift Aid)
Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim
Not that you needed another reason to visit the magnificent Giant’s Causeway on the North Coast, but there are three EarthCaches for geology-loving geocachers to sink their teeth in while exploring the basalt columns.
There is also a series of traditional caches called ‘Giant’s Causeway Coastal Walk’ if you prefer getting your name in a physical logbook.
- To find the caches at the Giant’s Causeway on the map, go to GCPCPX and search the surrounding area
- You can buy tickets at giantscausewaytickets.com, that cost £10 per adult and £5 per child (prices are more expensive if bought on site). The price of your ticket includes access to the Visitor Centre, use of outdoor audio guide, orientation leaflet and parking.
- Alternatively, you can park at the nearby railway car park for £6 per car and walk to the site without paying the entrance fee
Florence Court, Co Fermanagh
This beautiful Georgian mansion is surrounded by a lush forest park containing 10 miles of trails to amble or cycle along. The most notable feature in the gardens is the magnificent Irish Yew Tree, which was discovered by a local farmer in 1767. Since this type of tree can only be bred from cuttings, this tree is considered the forefather of almost all Irish Yews worldwide and is often referred to as the ‘Original Irish Yew.’
There are not many geocaches hidden at Florence Court, but they will guide you through some high points of the gardens and adjoining forest.
- To locate the caches at Florence Court on the map, go to GC1PZJZ and search the surrounding area
- Entrance to the whole property (including a guided tour of the house) is £11 per adult and £5.50 per child (including Gift Aid).
- Entrance to the gardens and forest only costs £6.50 per adult and £3.25 per child (including Gift Aid)
A haven of tranquillity just a stone’s throw from the city, Minnowburn features meadows and woodlands for whiling away the hours. The Giant’s Ring, a massive neolithic earth henge and tomb is popular with dog walkers.
There is a variety of traditional hides in Minnowburn to keep you entertained and guide you along the trails.
- To find the geocaches at Minnowburn on the map, go to GC5K3DZ and search the surrounding area
- It is free to park at Minnowburn, and the area is open from dawn to dusk
The Mournes, County Down
The stunning granite mountain range in County Down is partly owned by the National Trust. The area is vast, with breathtaking views everywhere you look.
The mountains are also covered in geocaches, so if you’re struggling with hills (like I do!), you’ll have lots of opportunities to stop and sign some logs!
- To locate the geocaches in the Mournes on the map, go to GC6BHVR and search the surrounding area
- To read more about the linear Brandy Pad route and trail of caches, go to my post from May 2016 here
Ladies Mile, County Armagh
Ladies Mile is a small area of lush woodland flanking the 17th century Ardress House. In May, you can enjoy the sight of the adjacent orchard in full bloom.
The five caches will take you on the short circular route around the walk. The area is popular with dog walkers, but even on a sunny day in May, we didn’t meet anyone as we ambled around.
- To locate the geocaches at Ladies Mile on the map, go to GC3GXAE and search the surrounding area
- It’s free to walk around Ladies Mile, but entry to Ardress House and its traditional farmyard costs £5.50 per adult and £2.75 per child (including Gift Aid)
There are many more NT properties I have yet to explore and others I have visited, but geocaching doesn’t feature. For a full list of National Trust locations in Northern Ireland, check out their website.
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