Many of us are now very familiar with using web based maps such as Google Maps to plan out our trips and journeys. Google Street View gives us a great way to check out our road journeys, where to park and just what our destination looks like.


Now this is available for footpaths and mountain trails around Belfast thanks to Google Trekker, a backpack version of the Google Street View car which photographed all our local streets and rural roads. Belfast Hills Partnership jumped at the chance to record all their main footpaths over a three week period last autumn and the results of their work with Google have just been published online.


“It was no mean feat lugging a 42 pound (3 stone or 19 kg) backpack up and down hill tracks across our main public sites” said Manager Jim Bradley. “We had 4 fit volunteers and staff taking turns to pound the paths while the machine took 24 photographs per minute using 15 high tech cameras. We managed to cover over 10 miles of paths but looking at the footage for all these paths it was well worth it”.


After the data was collected in August and September last year, Google have been analysing and stitching together the images to create these continuous 360 degree views along some of the best viewpoints in Northern Ireland.


“We believe this is a great introduction and taster for tourists and local people who have yet to try some of our sites. A quick look at the paths using the Google Maps Streetview function and you can see what the paths, views, landscape and upland habitats are like and why its worth getting up into the hills.” said Jim. “We’re using a few highlight links on our website to point out good areas to investigate online but it’s only a taster for what the true 360 degree experience of getting up and out there yourself!”


The new service is available on Google maps from today and is being launched at Visit Belfast’s Welcome centre from 9.15 to 11 am so anyone can come down and try the service for themselves.