On a clear day, the summit offers views across the city, the Isle of Man and occasionally Scotland. Like Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, it offers a strenuous climb, just a few miles from the centre of a major urban center. On a rainy day the trails can be miserably muddy and slippery. The imposing cliffs can be dangerous (especially during wet weather), with many people requiring rescue after seeking a shortcut to the summit or the higher caves. There have even been several deaths from falling off the sheer cliffs, so be careful!!!
Cavehill rises to almost 370 metres (1200 ft) above sea level. Most of its lower-east side lies on the Belfast Castle Estate, which has as its focal point the imposing 19th century Scottish baronial castle. The castle was designed by Charles Lanyon and constructed by the Marquess of Donegall in 1872 in The Deer Park. The slopes of Cavehill were originally used as farmland but from the 1880s a major planting exercise was undertaken, producing the now familiar deciduous and coniferous woodland landscape. Belfast Castle Estate was given to Belfast City by the Earl of Shaftesbury in 1934.
There are 3 large caves that give Cave Hill its name. The lowest is 21 feet (6.4 m) long, 18 feet (5.5 m) wide and varies from 7 to 10 feet (3.0 m) in height. Above this is another cave; 10 feet (3.0 m) long, 7 feet (2.1 m) wide and 6 feet (1.8 m) in height. Above this is the third major cave, said to be divided into 2 unequal parts, each of which is more extensive than the larger of the other caves, but the ascent is notoriously dangerous and thus few venture to it.The caves are man-made, and it is postulated that they were originally excavated for iron-mining.
Adjacent to the lowest cave is 'The Devil's Punchbowl', also sometimes called 'The Devil's Cauldron', a site where ancient Celtic farmers corralled their cattle. This consists mainly of a steep hill, mainly of rocks and boulders, and is considered dangerous to amateurs.
Getting ThereBy bus: Belfast Castle and Hazelwood entrance;
Metro Services: 1A-1H (Mon-Sat) 1C-1E, 1H (Sun),
Carr’s Glen; 12, 61.
By car: Car parking at Belfast Castle, Belfast Zoo
(Hazelwood), Upper Cavehill Road, and Upper
The crowning stone Giant's Chair of the O'Neill clan was apparently sited on Cave Hill's summit until 1896 and gave its name to the nearby Throne Hospital. The Cave Hill Throne was destroyed by loyalists in December 1896 after a reference was made to it in an article in the nationalist paper 'Shan Van Bocht'.
During World War II, a bomb dropped prematurely during a German bombing raid on Belfast exploded, causing a large crater near the grounds of Belfast Castle. It is understood that RAF Bomber Command was situated on Cave Hill in the early years of WWII before relocating to Castle Archdale in Fermanagh. Hence the German bomb may have been intentional.
On June 1, 1944, an American Air Force B-17 bomber crashed into Cave Hill during heavy fog, killing all ten crew instantly. The incident inspired Richard Attenborough's film, "Closing the Ring." Some scenes of the film were shot on Cave Hill.
McArt's FortThis fort, on the summit of the hill, is an example of an old ráth or ring fort.It is believed that the fort's inhabitants used the caves to store white foods for the winter and may have served as a refuge during times of attack. It was here that United Irishmen Theobald Wolfe Tone and Henry Joy McCracken met in 1795 to take an oath to undertake rebellion in 1798. McCracken was captured on Cavehill in 1798.
McArt's Fort is an example of an old ráth or ring fort.
Belfast Castle is open Mon-Sat from 9:00-5:30 and Sun. from 10:00-5:30. Admission to the castle is free.
Red TapeThere is no red tape.
The park opens at 7:30 and generally closes around 9:30. Admission to both Cave Hill and Belfast Castle and the castle's gardens is free to the public.
Dogs are welcome as long as they are leashed or under the verbal command of its owner.
Make sure you take water. Once you begin the ascent past Belfast Castle, there are no more opportunities to refill your bottle.