In our staycation series, we visited the lough shore in Antrim where the Six Mile Water enters Lough Neagh. We went here to enjoy a walk along the shoreline of Lough Neagh but we had the enjoyment of discovering so much more. Firstly, I want to say that there are a number of parking options in the area, but we opted to park at the Lough Shore Play Park where there is a good number of accessible parking bays as well as an overflow car park at the lough shore itself. The play park is adapted for accessibility with a ramped pirate-themed play area as well as a wheelchair swing and sensory activities included. We didn't need to use the park, but it was a delight to come across something so inclusive in such a beautiful setting. With picnic tables here as well as refreshments and toilets, and a Changing Places facility close by, it would be the perfect place to spend with the children for a few hours. The car park is also at the edge of the Six Mile Water with a marina and a pathway to the lough.
The lough is a huge body of water, with almost tidal conditions and although the day appeared to be calm, the breeze on the edge of the water was fresh, with choppy conditions on the lough. The walkway here is short before leading into Rea's Wood to follow a trail along the shoreline, there is a jetty to enjoy views over the lough, offering better views of the birds nestled on the water. Underfoot/wheel is a more natural terrain with infrequent areas of soft ground which are not difficult to navigate, but they do present muddier conditions. The woodland was filled with stunning Autumn colour, the path littered with fallen leaves, we were lucky enough to observe squirrels collecting nuts, ascending trees, darting amongst the branches hiding their loot. The woodland trail hugs the shoreline for about half a mile with small beaches presenting themselves before diverting into the woods proper. The trail may be followed to the edge of the wood where a return is needed by the same route or a loop via the town centre. We opted to return through the woods.
Back at the car park, the option to follow the Six Mile Water on a smooth surface was too appealing not to take advantage of whilst we were there. The scenery from the footpath is marvellous, with the trees hanging over the river and the colour mirrored in the glassy water. It is virtually flat and smooth with only one incline to deal with and a swinging gate to pass through. For those with dogs who join them for walks, we encountered two enclosed dog runs - one for small/medium size dogs whilst the other being for medium/large breeds. Outdoor gym equipment is also a feature of the route for those who want to engage in an extra activity, on this occasion, exploring was enough for me. Within a relatively short distance, we came upon Antrim Castle Gardens. I knew it was in the vicinity but had not realised its close proximity and connection to our current walk.
This was another bonus, if not for the fact that we could enjoy a cup of coffee! The Gardens have their own car parking area too, so if time or energy is limited, then this is another place to consider beginning your journey. We found the courtyard of the gardens quite easily which is where the visitor centre is as well as a small cafe, having purchased our drinks, we went to enjoy the gardens in the courtyard area, people watching, enjoying the abundance of colour and scent of the seasonal flowers. From here we meandered through the gardens taking in the many varieties of trees and shrubs, mixed along these were wooded sculptures and more formal monuments and information on the history of the gardens, people and surrounding area.
All of our staycation day was completely free - with the exception of our coffee break and we had had a truly magical day even though there was so much more to see on-site, such as Clotworthy House or continue onto the historic town of Antrim to see sites such as the old courthouse, Pogue's Entry or the Barbican Gate, we felt it was time to head back to the car and find somewhere for a well earned afternoon tea.