COVID-19: Enjoy healthy and inspiring visits to our outdoors
With the COVID-19 restrictions, there continue to be many opportunities to enjoy our nature, landscapes and coasts.
Stay safe and protect the environment
Alongside government protocols and public health guidelines, here are some tips to help you to:
- make sound decisions and continue to stay safe
- be considerate to others
- protect our precious environment that gives us inspiration, our food and water, supports our health and wellbeing, and supports our economy
Plan your day around your needs and what will be available. Check websites for ideas of places to visit close to you.
Check that the site and facilities you need, such as car parks, toilets, baby changing facilities and others are open before you leave home. Find out if you need to pre-book.
Plan ahead to avoid getting injured, needing rescued or ending up in hospital:
- find out about the place before you go – see the websites below
- have the right kit – the right shoes, a waterproof, a map, water
- tell people where you are going if visiting the hills, a remote area or out to sea
- choose an activity or location within your existing skills and experience level
- go with an experienced activity provider if you are undertaking a new activity or getting more adventurous
If planning a visit to the coast, check the weather forecast (especially the wind speed and direction), tide times, follow safety advice, keep a close eye on your family and don’t use inflatables.
- swim only where it is safe and permitted
- quarries are a stone cold killer – stay out of disused quarries
Governing Bodies of Sport have produced guidance for their own sport – have a look at the detailed guidance about your chosen activity (see links below).
Choose quiet locations, quiet times and keep roads clear
Avoid popular honey pot sites – this will help maintain social distancing and allow everyone to have an enjoyable time.
Weekends and afternoons can be very busy – choose another time if you can. Have a back-up plan for if the site is full when you reach it.
Discover new places and hidden gems (with safe planning). Have a look at the websites below this table for ideas of places to visit close to your accommodation and to check whether facilities are open or pre-booking is needed.
Leave your car at your accommodation if possible. Do not park outside of designated parking spaces, on verges or in gateways.
Make sure the emergency services, farmers and local residents will be able to pass by and to access fields, forests and houses. If a car park is full, go somewhere else.
Bring hand sanitiser and remember hand hygiene if you touch any surfaces. Consider the use of face masks in busy areas such as car parks.
Leave No Trace - Love The Place
Give nature space and quiet to flourish. Enjoy nature but don’t disturb it. When watching wildlife, stay at a distance, stay invisible, quiet, and don’t stay long.
- don’t chase, touch or feed wildlife
- keep your dog under control - stop it from approaching other people and their dogs, cyclists, livestock and wildlife
- never let your dog worry or attack farm animals
- respect people’s land, property and farm animals
- leave gates as you found them
- barbecues can be a fire risk and are challenging to clear up after – only have them in designated barbecue areas, make sure that a fire will not start and spread and check they are cold before you clear them up
- help everyone by taking litter home and recycle it
- for marine trips, choose an operator accredited by The WiSe Scheme
- leave nature the way you find it, for all to enjoy
Share the space with all
- respect staff, volunteers and signage – they are there to help to keep everyone, and the site, safe and healthy – follow their instruction
- respect other users of the space – walkers, cyclists, swimmers, horse riders
- be mindful of not gathering around key points such as car parks, bridges, gates, information points, summits or for photos
Outdoor recreation sites
Find up-to-date information about the current status of opening of informal outdoor recreation sites, such as country parks, forests, beaches, nature reserves. You can also find out about associated facilities across Northern Ireland run by government, council and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and others.
General outdoor recreation websites
Local Authority sites
- Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council
- Ards and North Down Borough Council
- Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council
- Belfast City Council
- Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council - Outdoor recreation sites
- Causeway Coastal Route - Tourism updates
- Derry City and Strabane District Council
- Fermanagh and Omagh District Council
- Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council
- Mid and East Antrim Borough Council
- Mid Ulster District Council
- Newry, Mourne and Down District Council
- Country parks
- Public forests in Northern Ireland
- NI Water
- Waterways Ireland
- Stormont Estate
- Historic places to visit
- Loughs Agency
- National Trust - Reopening and coronavirus FAQs
- National Trust - Northern Ireland
- Woodland Trust
- Ulster Wildlife
- National Museums NI
- Colin Glen Forest Park
Sport and other outdoor activities
Many governing bodies have guidance for their own sport or outdoor pursuit. Have a look at the more detailed guidance about your chosen activity.
- Mountaineering Ireland guidance
- Royal Yachting Association
- CANI Canoe Association NI
- Sport NI Framework
- Horse Racing Ireland COVID 19 protocols