Which on-line walking route planners are the best? In the second part of our guide we are reviewing five websites that include walks in particular regions of the UK. In this particular review we are going walking in Northern Ireland using the WalkNI route planner.
General / Searching for a Walk
The http://www.walkni.com homepage has an engaging design with interactive search features and a useful weather forecast. There is clickable map of Northern Ireland that enables you to view walking routes in each county. If you click on a county the walk locations appear on the map and are listed in a table. The table includes a brief description of the walk, the distance and the nearest town. It would be useful if the table contained grading information in based on the terrain and ascent of the walks.
You can switch between short, medium and long walks by clicking on the relevant tab. For short and medium walks the start location appears as a blue circle on the map. For the long walks, the whole route appears as a grey line on the map, which are not all immediately visible.
Alternatively, from the homepage, you can choose a walk based on length by following the signpost. Here walks are divided into five categories:
- Walking Areas – e.g. Sperrins, Mourne Mountains
- Short – up to 5 miles
- Medium – between 5 miles and 20 miles
- Long – over 20 miles
- The Ulster Way – a circular route around Northern Ireland
Within the walking areas the walks are grouped into Fermanagh, Mourne Mountains, North Coast & Glens of Antrim, Sperrin Mountains and Strangford.
Clicking through by walk length shows a map with all the walks of your chosen distance by county. Click on the tabs to choose between Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone.
The whole walking route of the Ulster Way is also available on http://www.walkni.com. The Ulster Way is divided into two types of section, quality sections which are waymarked through the countryside and link sections which are mainly road based, for which taking public transport is recommended.
http://www.walkni.com: the Official Website of the new Ulster Way – a 625 mile (1000 km) circular long distance walking route that is one of the longest in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
There is a quick search facility on the top right hand side of the navigation bar and an advanced search accessed through the menu bar. The advanced search lets you choose county, length, linear or circular and walking route type, e.g. coastal, hall, woodland etc. The search results are automatically ordered by name but it is possible to re-order them by distance or nearest town which is useful.
Some walks are identified as quality walks. A quality walk has car parking, toilets and information on the walk at the trailhead, there are way marked signs along the trail route, the walk is through scenic landscapes and the walk is suitable for the tourist market.
There are no adverts, however there is a prominent banner with the logos and links to other Northern Irish outdoors websites. Other than http://www.walkni.com has a design that is pleasing on the eye.
Each walk has a table of boxes summarising the route including information such as county, distance, terrain, route type, route shape, start and finish grid reference and the name of the relevant OS map. There is a brief description of the walk and a note about whether there are any points of interest. The main walking route descriptions are quite detailed and give information about the terrain.
For some of the walks there are PDF files with good quality black and white 1:25,000 maps showing the walking route in red. Other walks have simple sketch maps.
Each walk has a picture gallery of thumbnail photographs. The maximum number of thumbnails displayed on the walk description page is three, however clicking onto one of the thumbnails opens a light box where there may be many more photographs of the stunning Northern Irish countryside.
There is not any GPS waypoint data available to download on http://www.walkni.com, which is surprising since the general quality of this walking route planner is high and overall it has been well designed.
It is possible to leave comments about a walk and suggest new walks to be included in the Northen Ireland walking route planner.
Summary – walkni.com
This is a well presented walking planner website. The use of maps makes it easy to locate walks, although it takes a little while to find your way around the tabs. The walking route descriptions are detailed but could benefit from including more about the points of interest. The walkni.com walking route planner could be further improved with a difficulty rating for each walk and GPS waypoints.
Have you used http://www.walkni.com? Were you able to find a suitable walking route? Was the information provided useful and accurate? Let us know what you think! Add to the review using the comments link below…