Ireland's Woodland Walks
explore a forest near you...
Ireland has many wonderful woodland parks just waiting to be explored. Many have historic sites, sculptures, lakes and even views of the sea but all are filled with magnificent trees!
Take time out to meditate and forest bathe, the art of shinrin-yoku. Absorb the sound of the trees,
the smell of the wood and breathe in deep the fresh, clean air they produce.
Restore your mood. Feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
Make friends with the trees. Tell them your stories and watch their branches sway as they listen.
Enjoy the company of trees on a woodland walk...
Forest Service NI
Portglenone Forest continues a history of mature woodland cover since ancient times, which protects the woodland flora and fauna.
As such, the 26-hectare main area contains extensive colonies of ancient woodland flower species - Bluebell, Wood Anemone, Wild Garlic and many broadleaves and riverside walks.
The swathes of bluebells in spring are especially remarkable, as is the Grove dedicated to Dr. Augustine Henry.
Glenariff Forest Park
Forest Service NI
Glenariff, the Queen of the Glens, is one of the nine Antrim Glens in Northern Ireland.
Glenariff Forest Park covers over 1,000 hectares with planted woodland, lakes, outdoor recreation spaces and conservation areas. Glenariff Forest Park is open to the public and caters for many outdoor activities including walking, horse riding and touring. It has picnic and barbeque areas as well as a tea house.
The rocky gorges of the river support a wide range of mosses, liverworts and ferns. Due to the richness and diversity of these plants, part of the Glenariff Glen has been designated as a National Nature Reserve. The timber walkway (boardwalk) that winds through the glen and alongside the river gorge was first built about 100 years ago and has been carefully reconstructed to provide a spectacular walk.
Glenariff Forest is home to many animals of conservation concern, most notably the red squirrel, hen harrier and Irish hare. There are several walking trails through the forest which give spectacular views and glimpses of wildlife. These include Rainbow Trail (0.6km), Scenic Trail (8.9km), Viewpoint Trail (1km) and Waterfall Walk Trail (3km).
Gosford Forest Park
Forest Service NI
Start your adventure and have a great day out any time of year! With some 240 acres of diverse woodland and open parkland set in gentle rolling drumlin countryside, Gosford Forest Park is an adventure paradise for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages.
With so diverse an environment this fabulous natural playground is perfect for gentle walks, challenging trails and treks, cycling as well as wildlife spotting and adventure sports.
The Park highlights include a magnificent herd of red deer and seeing them up close, even if it isn’t your first time, will still catch your breath! The excitement continues with the park’s new 3km woodland outdoor play area featuring five unique superstructures, an adventure for all your little giants! Enjoy the 16km of multi-use trails for walking, running, cycling and horse-riding.
‘All Out Trekking’ provides an inclusive opportunity for people of all abilities (age 12+) to access the forest’s walking and mountain biking trails using an off road, battery powered vehicle. Although not open to the public, the mock Norman Gosford Castle, one of the largest in Ireland, is an impressive sight. It was built by the Second Earl of Gosford in the early 1800s and featured in HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’.
Bahana Forest is an old woodland site sloping down to the banks of the Barrow River, between Graiguenamanagh and St Mullins, in County Carlow. It is thought that Bahana derives its name from ‘beith’ the Irish name for birch.
There are facilities here for fishing and forest walks along the riverbank. The main tree species in the forest include some remnants of old oak woodlands and a nice stand of beech.
There is a great variety of conifers including Douglas fir, Scots pine, Norwegian spruce, Japanese larch and western hemlock. Birch and holly abound with some ash and hazel. There is a diverse range of flora, with woodrush and broom being abundant. This is a granite-based site comprising of a wide variety of site and soil types, from rock outcrops on the steep slopes to brown earth on the flats. Woodcock and pheasant are the main fauna species present.
Because of its proximity to the river there is a variety of bird life in Bahana Forest. Rabbits and red squirrels are frequently seen and occasionally the otter can be glimpsed on the riverbank.
Dun a Rí Forest Park
Dun a Ri Forest Park forms part of what was formerly the Cabra Estate which was owned by the Pratt family. Legend stretches back to the time of Cuchullain the Gaelic warrior who rested in these woods while fighting the armies of Queen Maeve of Connaught.
The O’ Reilly family owned the lands up until the end of the 16th century when they were acquired by Thomas Fleming who built Flemings Castle. The ruins of the castle can still be seen in the park. The estate was acquired by the Pratt family and they built the town of Kingscourt in the years 1760-1770.The lands were acquired by the Irish Forest Service in 1959 and were developed into a forest park in the early 1970s.
There is a great diversity of wildlife in the park. The flora is varied and, in many areas, spectacular. The tree storey is dominated by oak and ash but includes many other species often with an under storey of hazel, holly and rhododendron. The ground is, in season, carpeted with a rich layer of plants including snowdrops, bluebells, wood anemone, woodrush, foxgloves, wood sorrel and a wide range of ferns.
Walking is a great way to experience the delights of Dun a Ri while also benefiting both physical and mental health. Set your pace to suit your enjoyment and you will quickly feel fitter and better. There are a number of beautiful sculptures within the park.
Killykeen Forest Park
Killykeen Forest Park is located in a very scenic area of Co Cavan. It lies on the shores of Lough Oughter which is part of the River Erne system.
The forest park consists of approx 240 hectares. The predominant species are Norway and Sitka Spruce with a considerable amount of mixed woodland including Ash, Oak and Beech.
Lough Oughter is renowned for course fishing with the main species of fish being pike, bream and perch.
"Ballycuggaran (Baile Ni Chogarain in Irish) Homeland of the O’Cuggarans, an important family at the court of Brian Boru. The site is situated on Crag Hill on the lower slopes of the Slieve Bernagh Mountains overlooking Lough Derg. On the southern side of Crag is a fort, dating to the early Christian period which was the original home of the O’Briens and the reputed birthplace of St. Flannan. Aoibheal’s Rock, the legendary abode of Aoibheal, fairy queen of the O’Briens, is at the highest point of Ballycuggaran.
The great oak woods that originally clothed these hills were cut down to fire the iron furnaces of east Clare as well as for shipbuilding. There are 3 way marked trails in this forest – one is a moderate looped walk called the Crag Wood Walk and this trailhead also gives access onto the East Clare Way. A new trail was constructed in 2016 which allows the visitor to access Moylussa the highest point in county Clare.
Cratloe Wood Car Park and Picnic Site is located adjacent to Cratloe village and on the western side Cratloe Forest property which is over 700 Hectares in extent.
It overlooks the Estuary of the River Shannon which is the longest river in Ireland and Great Britain.
The Galtee Mountains in Co. Tipperary can be seen to the east, the Ballyhoura Mountains in North Cork to the south and Shannon Airport to the west. There is an extensive road network throughout the wood suitable for walking.
Farran Forest Park
Farran is a small Park that has a lot to offer in terms of activities and features. It has a diverse mixture of tree and shrub species that make it attractive all year round for visiting.
It’s location on the southern shore of Inniscarra lake offer fantastic views of the reservoir and the many rowers at every level who train here, from amateur to Olympian. The lake or reservoir was created in the mid-1950’s by flooding agricultural lands to store water for the nearby Inniscarra hydroelectric generating station.
The Park is a mere fragment of the vast Farran estate that was owned by a Captain Clarke who was involved in the tobacco industry. The demesne passed onto Captain Mathews who converted some of the pastureland to forest. Being a keen sportsman, the Captain planted some carefully sited clumps of broom, laurel and rhododendron to provide cover for game birds as well as planting conifers and broadleaves and creating the lake and hunting lodge.
Cork City Council
Fitzgerald Park home to Cork Public Museum, it is just a short stroll along the on the Mardyke from Cork City centre and the University College Cork. Fitzgerald's Park where the visitor and local alike can enjoy a riverside picnic on the banks of the river Lee.
Fitzgerald's Park named after a previous Lord Mayor of Cork in 1901, Edward Fitzgerald, offers a quite retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city, with its beautiful tree lined avenues, brimming flower beds and rose garden to its many statues and sculptures and the large central fountain, this 18-acre park is a wonderful treat.
There are many sculptures in Fitzgerald's Park one of the sculptures is of Michael Collins by Seamus Murphy. Fitzgerald's Park is a quiet haven, which has a playground for the children and a cafe to enjoy the view of the river Lee and across to the gardens and houses of the Sunday's Well area.
Fota Arboretum & Gardens
Fota Wildlife Park is a 100-acre (40 ha) wildlife park located on Fota Island, near Carrigtwohill, County Cork, Ireland. Opened in 1983, it is an independently funded, not-for-profit charity that is one of the leading tourism, wildlife and conservation attractions in Ireland.
The park had an attendance of 455,559 visitors in 2017, making it the eleventh most popular paid attraction in Ireland for that year.
The Park is home to nearly 30 mammal and 50 bird species. Some of the animals roam freely with the visitors, such as the ring-tailed lemurs and wallabies, while larger animals, including the giraffe and bison, live in paddocks with barriers that are intended to be unobtrusive for visitors to view the animals in a more natural environment. Fota Wildlife Park also has red pandas, tapirs, siamang gibbons and other types of animals.
Forest Service NI
Binevenagh Forest Circular is a 15.1-kilometre loop trail located near Limavady, Londonderry, Northern Ireland that features beautiful wildflowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
This picturesque trail takes you around Binevenagh Forest and Lake. The towering cliffs offer a spectacular backdrop with views of Bellarena, Downhill, Castlerock, and Benone Beach. The nearby hills include rare alpine vegetation and a beautiful fauna. Climbers are recommended to park on Leighry Road, then enter the woods and follow the first track to the left. After 1.5 km, take the forest road towards Binevenagh. Then go northwest, past the trout-stocked artificial lake.
Binevenagh Lake is a man-made lake overlooking Benone Strand.
Ards Forest Park
A visit to Ards Forest Park will reward everyone at any time of the year.
The Park covers approximately 480 hectares (1200 acres) and includes a variety of habitats, among them sand dunes, beaches, salt marshes, saltwater lakes, rock face and, of course, coniferous and deciduous woodlands. With such a variety of landscapes, it is possible to spend many hours exploring this wonderful park. The sea is one of the real treasures of this forest park and there are several trails, the Binngorm trail, the Salt Marsh Trail and the Sand Dune Trail, which offer the hiker an opportunity to experience it in all its facets.
There are a large number of trails in this park giving the walker the opportunity to explore a variety of habitats from foreshore and sand dunes to semi natural oak woodlands on rock outcrops. By “stitching together” a number of trails, it is possible to hike for 5/6 hours on forest tracks and trails, taking in the full circuit of the park.
The Park is also home to a wide selection of animals and birds and the special hide at the end of the salt marsh trail allows the visitor to watch our winter visitors feed on the salt marsh. For those interested in human history, there are a number of historical and archaeological features. There are the remains of four ring forts together with a holy well and a mass rock.
Glenveagh National Park
Glenveagh National Park is a remote and hauntingly beautiful wilderness of rugged mountains, pristine lakes, tumbling waterfalls and enchanted native oak woodland in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains in the northwest of County Donegal.
At the centre of the Park on the edge of Lough Veagh is Glenveagh Castle, a late 19th century castellated mansion, built as a hunting lodge. Glenveagh Castle is a 19th century castellated mansion and was built between 1867 and 1873. Its construction in a remote mountain setting was inspired by the Victorian idyll of a romantic highland retreat. It was designed by John Townsend Trench, a cousin of its builder and first owner, John George Adair, with whom he had been raised in Co. Laois.
The designer appears to have imitated the style of earlier Irish Tower-houses adding an air of antiquity to the castle. The building stone chose was granite, plentiful in Donegal but difficult to work and allowing for little detail.
Belvoir Park Forest
Forest Service NI
Belvoir Park Forest is a working forest within a city. It is a vibrant forest with a variety of wildlife and a range of trees within easy reach of Belfast's outer ring road.
The forest opened in 1961 and covers 75 hectares along the south bank of the River Lagan. There are a number of historic sites within the forest, including the Norman motte which dates back to the 12th century.
The estate was enclosed by the Hills, a plantation family, around the 1740s. They built a house where the car park is now and the existing buildings, which date from the same era, were farm buildings belonging to the estate. The Icehouse, built into the side of the motte, also dates from this time. These features are ideal for educational outings and school visits can be arranged by contacting Castlewellan Forest Park.
Castlewellan Forest Park
Forest Service NI
Castlewellan Forest Park covers 450 hectares of land lying north of the Mourne Mountains. Outdoor activities include camping and touring, walking, cycling, horse riding, fishing on the lake, canoeing and orienteering. The extensive area of woodland in this forest park is managed as a commercial forest together with other woodlands in the area.
One of the most attractive features of the woodlands at Castlewellan is the wide variety of tree species, both coniferous and broadleaved, with a rich and vibrant display of autumn colours. The forest car park and visitor toilets, all caravan and camping sites and Castlewellan Arboretum and Annesley Garden are managed directly by Forest Service.
The Phoenix Park is one of the largest enclosed public parks in any capital city in Europe. It was originally formed as a royal hunting Park in the 1660s and opened to the public in 1747. A large herd of fallow deer still remain to this day. The Park is also home to the Zoological Gardens, Áras an Uachtaráin, and Victorian flower gardens. The Phoenix Park is only a mile and a half from O’Connell Street.
Both passive and active recreational pursuits may be viewed or pursued such as walking, running, polo, cricket, hurling, and many more. The Glen Pond is set in very scenic surrounds in the Furry Glen. There are many walks and cycle trails available to the public.
St. Enda’s Park
St Enda's was not always a public park. Patrick Pearse, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916 ran a school there, St Enda's School (or Scoil Éanna in Irish), in The Hermitage. This magnificent house was built in 1780 for the Dublin dentist Edward Hudson. Pearse, who was a teacher at the time, bought the building in 1910 as his school in Ranelagh was getting too small. Pearse considered the site ideal as his curriculum had a heavy emphasis on nature. In the school, his brother, Willie Pearse, taught art and his sister Mary taught Irish.
The Irish poets, Joseph Plunkett and Thomas MacDonagh also taught at the school. Both were executed after 1916 Rising as well as 15 former pupils of the school. Leading up to the 1916 rising, the basement of the school was used as a bomb factory by Desmond Ryan and Liam Bulfin, both Irish Republican Brotherhood members.
On Easter Monday, 1916, Padraig Pearse left the school for the last time and made his famous 5-mile march to the GPO. The British forces occupied the Hermitage after the rising but in 1919, the school was opened once more by Mrs. Margaret Pearse and her daughter Margaret Mary Pearse. The school closed its doors in 1935 due to a lack of support. When Mrs. Pearse died in 1932, she wished that the building would be given over to the state after the lifetime of her daughter, Margaret. She made only two conditions, that the house would be open throughout the year (even Christmas day) and that entry would be free of charge for the public.
The Hermitage is now the Pearse Museum dedicated to the memory of Patrick Pearse, the Pearse family, and their school, and is open to the public all year round. The museum features articles and history about the school and the rising. Every Sunday from June to August, there is music entertainment in the courtyard (beside the Pearse Building).
Ely Lodge Forest
Forest Service NI
Ely Lodge Forest is part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. Ely Lodge Forest is a 250-hectare forest that sweeps up from the shores of Lower Lough Erne, one of the largest freshwater lakes in Ireland.
The forest underlain by limestone is important commercially for its forest and nationally for its broadleaf woodland and biodiversity. Ely Lodge Forest gets its name from the nearby Ely Lodge, one of two gate lodges that would have adorned the gates of the demesne of the Marquis of Ely, Nicholas Loftus.
The lodge was one of two gatehouses to the Ely Estate, which was the largest in County Fermanagh during Victorian times. There are a selection of walks within this forest which offer a delightful introduction to the vicinity and provide stunning landscapes and views of Lower Lough Erne and the surrounding area. A recent visitor is the white-tailed sea eagle that has nested and raised chicks on an Island close to the forest park.
Connemara National Park
Situated in the West of Ireland in County Galway, Connemara National Park covers some 2,000 hectares of scenic mountains, expanses of bogs, heaths, grasslands and woodlands. Some of the Park’s mountains, namely Benbaun, Bencullagh, Benbrack and Muckanaght, are part of the famous Twelve Bens or Beanna Beola range. Connemara National Park was established and opened to the public in 1980.
Much of the present Park lands formed part of the Kylemore Abbey Estate and the Letterfrack Industrial School, the remainder having been owned by private individuals. The southern part of the Park was at one time owned by Richard (Humanity Dick) Martin who helped to form the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals during the early 19th century.
The Park lands are now wholly owned by the State and managed solely for National Park purpose.
Portumna Forest Park
The name Portumna derives from the Irish Port Omna, meaning the landing place of the oak tree. Portumna Forest Park was acquired in 1948 and covers almost 450 hectares. It was formerly owned by the Clanrickarde family. There is an old abbey, now under the care of the Office of Public Works (OPW), within the Park which dates back to the 15th century.
The castle nearby, on which considerable restoration work has been carried out by the OPW, dates back to the 17th century and was the seat of the Earl of Clanrickarde. Scattered throughout the coniferous woodland there are occasional patches of semi-natural woodland which tend to be dominated by ash and beech with silver birch frequent along the lake shore. A notable feature of the park is the presence of occasional individuals of Yew and Juniper in open woodland along the lake shore.
Perhaps the most noteworthy animal species of the park is red squirrel which is frequently encountered in woodland areas. There is a large population of Fallow deer in the Park and other animal species include fox and badger.
Galway County Council
Rinville Park is created around an ancient castle, a stately home and a fine estate demesne which dates from the 16th century, near the village of Oranmore in County Galway. Rinville Park is located just five minutes from the picturesque village of Oranmore, in County Galway.
It is a wonderful amenity, created around an ancient castle, a stately home and a fine estate demesne, which dates from the 16th century. With an extensive network of walks through woodlands, open farmland and by the sea, Rinville Park offers a recreational facility of outstanding quality and beauty. There is access to Rinville Point and Saleen Point, where views of Galway Bay, Galway City and the Burren of County Clare can be enjoyed.
Look out for ravens, grey herons and otters among the fascinating fauna which can be observed in Rinville Park. While the flora includes cultivated and wildflowers, shrubs and trees. The Park has picnic areas and a children's playground and is open year-round. Admission is free.
Killarney National Park
South and west of the town of Killarney in Co. Kerry is an expanse of rugged mountainous country. This includes the McGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland which rise to a height of over 1000 metres. At the foot of these mountains nestle the world-famous lakes of Killarney. Here where the mountains sweep down to the lake shores, their lower slopes covered in woodlands, lies the 10,236 hectare (26,000 acres), Killarney National Park.
The distinctive combination of mountains, lakes, woods and waterfalls under ever changing skies gives the area a special scenic beauty. The nucleus of the National Park is the 4,300-hectare Bourn Vincent Memorial Park which was presented to the Irish State in 1932 by Senator Arthur Vincent and his parents-in-law, Mr and Mrs William Bowers Bourn in memory of Senator Vincent’s late wife Maud.
The focal point of the National Park for visitors is Muckross House and Gardens. The house which is presented as a late 19th century mansion featuring all the necessary furnishings and artefacts of the period is a major visitor attraction is jointly managed by the Park Authorities and the Trustees of Muckross House. The former Kenmare Demesne close to Killarney Town is also part of the National Park and features Killarney House and Gardens and Knockreer House which is the education centre of the park.
Killarney National Park contains many features of national and international importance such as the native oakwoods and yew woods together with an abundance of evergreen trees and shrubs and a profusion of bryophytes and lichens which thrive in the mild Killarney climate. The native red deer are unique in Ireland with a presence in the country since the last Ice Age.
Killarney National Park was designated as a Biosphere Reserve in 1981 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), part of a world network of natural areas which have conservation, research, education and training as major objectives.
Rossacroo na Loo
Rossacroo Wood - Millennium Park Trail is a 1.6-kilometre loop trail located near Kilgarvan, County Kerry, Ireland that features a great forest setting and is good for all skill levels.
The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, running, and nature trips. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
Donadea Forest Park
Donadea Forest Park includes Donadea Castle and estate, the former home of the Aylmer family up until 1935. There are many historical features including the remains of the castle and walled gardens, St. Peter’s church, an icehouse and boat house.
The Lime tree avenue planted in the 19th century formed the original entrance to the estate. Another feature of the park is the 9/11 Memorial, a scaled replica of the twin towers carved in limestone. The small lake is brimming with ducks, waterhens and has a beautiful display of water lilies in the summer. There is a café open throughout the year.
Coill an Fhaltaigh
This is a Millennium Forest consisting of about 90 ha. The wood used to be semi-mature conifer woodland. There are 6 ha of oak woodlands over 100 years old.
In recent years the park has been replanted with sessile oak, ash, birch, cherry and spindle as part of the Millennium Forest project. Other flora to look out for are the bluebells that grow under the oak woodland.
Proximity to Kilkenny means that the area is very popular with local towns people for walking. Coill an Fhailtaigh is a Millennium Forest.
Monicknew trailhead and forest recreation area is located in Monicknew woodlands which form the boundary between the counties of Laois and Offaly. The Monicknew trailhead is the starting point for three looped walks which start and finish at the recreation area located next to the spectacular Monicknew Bridge.
The long distance Slieve Bloom Way can also be accessed from this point. Whether you are just looking for a short stroll on the flat valley areas or a more substantial hike into the heart of the Slieve Blooms then there is walking option here for you. The shorter looped walks are family friendly and there is a perfect picnic spot by the bridge.
Oughaval Wood or Coill na Nuachabhála, meaning Wood of new settlement, is over 150 hectares. The Wood is situated on a ridge of Carboniferous Limestone. It forms part of the Natural Heritage Area (NHA) of Stradbally Hill.
The wood was once part of the Cosby Estate. Evidence of this is apparent in the form of old estate stone walls that run through the property and a folly called Cobbler’s Castle. This folly was constructed during the famine (1845-1848) on the site of a pre-Christian castle. Also of interest is a mass rock nestled within the trees. Mass was conducted here in secret during Penal times (c1691-1727). A stone cross was erected in 1957. An altar and seating was erected here to mark the Millennium.
Mass is celebrated here on occasion.
This woodland is situated in an area that was formerly part of the Derrycarne Demesne. The lands were owned by the Nesbitt family in the early 1800s.
They were subsequently acquired by Edward Willis and William Ormsby Gore MP. The woodland provides a very pleasant walk along the shore of Lough Boderg. Cruisers have access to this lake through the Shannon water system. The remains of an icehouse can be seen along the shore.
The trail passes through mixed wood land of beech, oak, and holly together with Sitka spruce and Lawson cypress.
Ballyhoura Trail Centre has the largest mountain bike trail network of its kind in Ireland and provides many options for off-road cycling. Forest road climbs lead you into tight twisty singletrack with loads of ups and downs, tight turns and technical rocky bits. The trails range from the moderate 6-kilometre Greenwood loop to the demanding Castlepook loop, over 50 kilometres in length! Tough forest road climbs are rewarded with sweeping fast descents guaranteed to leave you smiling! The trail system, designed by Dafydd Davis, one of the world leaders in the sport, is an exciting network constructed to give a challenging and rewarding ride.
Each of the loops here presents riders with a combination of narrow singletrack and boardwalk sections and also has sections of forest road climbs over short and long distances. For the walker there are a range of waymarked trails that allow you to explore the hills, valleys, glens of the Ballyhouras. Enjoy!
Curragh Chase Forest Park
There are over 300 hectares of rolling parkland, trails, mixed woodland, lakes and an arboretum at Curragh Chase. This planned landscape was the former home of the de Vere family, the most notable being Sir Aubrey de Vere who was a poet and an author. The façade of the former grand house sits proud on the hill overlooking the main car park and man-made lake.
There are many wonderful features of the de Vere estate dotted around the Park for you to find, including the impressive arboretum, a pet cemetery and a memorial cross. For the nature lover, there are a number of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC’s) in the park, largely due to the presence of the Lesser Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros).
The hawfinch, a rare bird on Irish soils has frequently been seen at Curragh Chase, this bird appreciates the many hornbeam trees to be found within the Park. Coillte is currently involved in restoring native woodlands within important pockets in the park, including a native Yew woodland. Ducks and an array of waterfowl live and waddle in the area on and around the lake.
There is ample to do and see for an enjoyable day at Curragh Chase for all ages.
Lace up your shoes and hit the trail at Derrycassin Wood. With three recommended walks, as well as the freedom to blaze your own trail, you'll enjoy the great outdoors whichever way you roam.
The shortest walk at Derrycassin Wood is the nature trail walk. Marked in blue dots, it takes about 30 minutes, leaving the inner car park, crossing a stone bridge and following along a track.
Take a path down to the river and follow the river's edge past the second stone bridge. Keep left towards the beech grove, where you can view the lake and admire the variety of trees and plants in mixed woodland.
The site is mixed woodland rising steeply to the summit of Black Mountain (506m) with many kilometres of forest roads and tracks.
There are three way marked trails in the forest, the Tain Trail, the Ring of Gullion and the short but interesting Ravensdale Loop. The forest is rich in archaeological features. The standing stones are just a short detour off the Ravensdale Loop and has many interesting features such as bridges and old driving roads.
The Tain Trail – named for the legendary Bull of Cooley enters the forest at the southern end of the forest near Curralhir Bridge and follows forest roads and tracks to continue over the mountains into Omeath on Carlingford Lough.
Slieve Foye woods lie at the bottom of Slieve Foye mountain. It takes its name from the dominant summit of the Cooley mountains.
According to legend, Fionn Mac Cumhaill hurled the Cloghmore (a forty-ton glacial boulder perched on a projecting spur on Slievemartin) from the slopes of Slieve Foye in a running battle with a neighbouring giant in the Mourne mountains.
Across the Lough are the spectacular Mourne mountains. There are two car parks in the forest with picnic areas, offering panoramic views.
This site, adjacent to Ballina, is in a very historic area of Co. Mayo. Belleek or Beal-Leice in Irish, the mouth of the Flagstones, indicates an early crossing of the river Moy and there was probably a settlement at this location which predates the town of Ballina.
The lands in this area formerly belonged to the Knox Gore family who acquired almost 750 hectares in 1701. The Gore family were benevolent landlords who cared for their tenants in hard times and instituted relief works during the famine.
Tourmakeady means the bleach field of the Keady family.
The bleach field was where flax was laid out in the sun for bleaching and dying before spinning. This area of Co Mayo was formerly part of the Moore’s Estate.
In 2000 a section of the wood was set aside to establish a millennium forest to commemorate the 21st century.
Meath County Council
Balrath Woods was once part of the larger Somerville Estate and was a fine example of mixed broadleaf woodland. These woods are situated in the townlands of Burtonstown, (known locally for many generations as Knockcomra), Danestown (in the past called Stoney Hill) and Flemingstown.
Knockcomra Woods in Burtonstown currently can be described as mixed conifer/broadleaf woodland. Some of the original trees still remain, but most of this 50-acre (20 hectare) wood was replanted in 1969, with a number of species including oak, beech, ash and spruce. In addition, there are horse chestnut, hazel, grand fir, alder, birch, willow and Spanish chestnut.
There are two main roads or rides, intersecting in the middle of the woodland. Knockcomra has been leased by Coillte to The Tree Council and Meath County Council and can be used as an Open Classroom.
Rossmore Forest Park
The lands which comprise Rossmore Forest Park was formerly part of the barony of Rossmore.
A castle was constructed in 1827 with various extensions being added over the years. The site of the castle can still be seen in the park. As with many estates of the time, Rossmore fell into decline during the mid-20th century and the estate was subsequently divided among the local farmers with the Irish Forestry Division acquiring the forested areas. Rossmore Castle was demolished in 1974.
This wood is formerly part of the Lloyd-Paisley-Hutchenson-Vaughan Estate, acquired by the State in the early 1940’s.
This is reputed to be the site where the last act of cannibalism took place in this country, hence the name Cnoc na Meas or the Hill of the Banquet. It is part of an old woodland site on mineral soil over limestone. From the car park, there is a beautiful view of the countryside. The main tree species in this wood are Beech, Scot’s Pine, Ash and Norway Spruce. There is an abundance of animal and birdlife here. The most striking aspect of the flora is the profusion of bluebells that carpet a large area of the woodland in the spring.
Lough Key Forest Park
Lough Key Forest & Activity Park is Coillte’s flagship visitor destination for fun activities with spectacular views, exuberant wildlife, historic buildings and multiple islands.
After major re-development with the historic Rockingham estate as the backdrop, a landmark cluster of unique attractions has been opened to serve the needs of today’s visitor with a new lakeside Centre providing an ideal base for gentle leisurely activities or more energetic pursuits in the Park.
The ‘Lough Key Experience’ will take you on an engaging audio journey through the history, flora and fauna of the Park using the 19th century underground tunnels, the refurbished Moylurg viewing tower and a contemporary Tree Canopy Walk, the first of its kind in Ireland.
This 300m long creation of timber and steel gently rises 9m above the woodland floor offering an engaging ‘birds’ eye’ view of nature as it meanders through the treetops offering panoramic views of the island-studded lake.
Mote Park, the seat of the Crofton Family from the 16th century up until the 1940s is a gateway to heritage, history, flora, fauna and the environment.
Located in the heart of County Roscommon, it is an ideal venue for outdoor activities for children and people of all ages. Mote Park is now widely known for its forests, an important amenity for Roscommon town and surrounding areas. These forests total 650 acres and provide habitats for many species of wildlife, both common and rare. The forests add greatly to the unique character of the area and are providing opportunities for many forms of outdoor pursuits including hiking, walking and animal birdwatching.
This forested of Hazelwood formed part of the Wynne Estate. Hazelwood House was built in 1724 and is probably Sligo’s finest 18TH century house.
The house was designed by Richard Cassells who also designed Leinster House and Powerscourt House.
This nice area around Lough Gill inspired the poet W.B. Yeats to write some of his best works. Slishwood is referred to as “Sleuthwood by the lake” in the stolen child. This site was once an extensive oak wood but much of the timber was felled during the Second World War (1939-45). The remains of this oak woodland can still be seen along the lakeshore.
As the area is rich in flora and fauna, it is a bio-diversity site and forms part of the Lough Gill Natural Heritage Area (NHA).
To visit Glengarra is a real treat. This former demesne woodland has many exotic tree and shrub species that make a visit here memorable. Impressive specimen trees of Californian sequoia, Bhutan pine, Wellingtonia or Giant sequoia, yew and Monterey cypress stand tall within easy access of the main car park and forest road.
There is a closed canopy of exotic rhododendron over the main access road that flowers in the early summer and is worth a visit to see in itself. Many of these trees and plants would have been brought back by members of the Shanbally Estate after their overseas ‘Grand Tour’ during the days of the big house.
The Burncourt river divides the woodland as it flows through. It provides water for a local public water scheme. Two footbridges facilitate access to both sides of the wood for walkers. Highly recommended is an amble up to the northern end of Glengarra, where Viscount Lismore erected a lodge, known as the Mountain Lodge during the nineteenth century. This stunning hunting and fishing lodge is sited in a beautiful location. It is currently being restored through the efforts of the local Burncourt community.
Glengarra also hosts one of the Millennium Project sites, where a tree was planted for each household in Ireland to mark the transition into the new millennium. Well worth a visit.
Drum Manor Forest Park
Forest Service NI
Drum Manor Forest Park near Cookstown in Northern Ireland is open to the public every day. Outdoor activities include camping and touring, walking trails, gardens and a play park.
Forest Service got Drum Manor from Mr Archibald Close in 1964. It opened to the public as a forest park in 1970. Its closeness to Cookstown and central location in Northern Ireland makes it an attractive venue for local visitors and tourists.
Gortin Glan Forest Park
Forest Service NI
Gortin Glen Forest Park is located just six miles from Omagh, Co Tyrone at the western gateway to the Sperrin mountains.
Gortin Glen Forest Park is made up of a network of 5 waymarked trails of varying lengths that start from the Trailhead close to the main car park. All trails are colour coded and return back to the car park. Each of the trails give the visitor the opportunity to enjoy the woodland, nestled nicely in the Sperrin Mountains.
The Forest also takes in part of the Ulster Way Walking Route. Other offerings and facilities include a large destination playpark, trim trail, BBQ and picnic area, and toilets.
The Forest Park can also be explored via a five-mile scenic drive which has a number of vista parks that vehicles can pull in to enjoy the magnificent scenery. This is a great way to enjoy the forest for those who are less mobile or on a rainy day!
The Colligan River plays a major role in this wood which sits on either side of the river valley as it flows through on its way to meet the sea at Dungarvan Bay. Spoilt for choice, the visitor has the option to picnic, jog or amble the waymarked walks that are on offer. Colligan is a beautiful mixed woodland with a number of lovely viewing points of the surrounding area including Dungarvan Harbour and Helvick Head in the distance.
This site is much loved and there is a constant stream of people passing in and out enjoying the ambiance, walking the dog and fitting their daily exercise in wonderful surroundings.
Glenshelane wood straddles two river glens, one a long glen through which the Glenshelane River flows, the other follows a section of where the Monavugga and Glenfalla Rivers converge a short distance upstream. All are tributaries of the mighty Blackwater. There is an extensive network of gently graded forest roads and trails for the walker to sample. All walks run beside the rivers and are serviced by five timber footbridges and one underpass under Lyre bridge that is worth exploring.
Belvedere House and Gardens
Westmeath County Council
Development of the lake shore area and also the inclusion of walkways through the woodlands was undertaken by Westmeath County Council following the acquisition of the property in 1982. The woodlands form the entire boundary of the estate along Lough Ennell and Mullingar Golf Club. Many views of the lake and pastureland have been re-opened and subsidiary paths are available to the lakeshore, The Gothic Arch and The Octagonal Gazebo Summerhouse. The Woodland area was extensively planted with Beech during the 18th Century and a very good “arboretum” of exotic conifers exists in the woodland which was planted in the last century. Pines and Birch dominate close to the lake shore. The paths through the woodland follow the original walkways except for new paths created to cut through the woodlands to the summerhouse, Gothic Arch and viewing points along the lake shore. The important tree groupings each side of the path have been preserved, namely Yews, Lime and Beech.
The woodlands of the eastern sector have a richer, broader composition including a conspicuous “pocket” of exotic conifers and there is an Icehouse located in the woods. Many of the “Big Houses” of Ireland boasted the amenity of an “icehouse” in which to store foodstuffs. The essentials were an underground chamber to ensure an equable low temperature, adequate drainage and a cover which would give both insulation from the sun’s rays and easy access for charging and extracting. Availability of ice was obviously paramount and here it was readily obtained from the lake in winter.
The continuity of Belvedere and its landscape and particularly its great trees is recorded by the carved initials on the tree trunks, some of which date back to the last century. No doubt through the centuries, these woodlands, as they abut the lake shore for young un-invited visitors to the estate, as they came across the lake in boats, or indeed walked the 7-kilometre distance from Mullingar to Belvedere. Some left a record of their visit which still remains today and will remain as long as the tree stands. Many of the trees in the woodlands are well over 100 years old, with one particular Yew tree located close to the Icehouse reputed to be over 800 years old.
Westmeath County Council
This is a wonderful walk that explores the wooded glades and farmlands of Portlick and the Whinning peninsula of Lough Ree.
The trail is 5km with shorter alternatives. Enjoy native trees and attractive and varied views of Lough Ree and an old ruin feature near the south-west limit of the walking trail.
Portlick, meaning, "part of the flagstone surface" refers to the limestone bedrock that occurs extensively in the region. Portlick is a native hazel/ash woodland with lesser amounts of oak, whitebeam, holly, alder, willow, birch and hawthorn. The forest floor is home to woodrush, bluebell, primrose, wood sorrel, violet, ivy, lords and ladies and bramble. The medieval tower house, Portlick Castle, is still occupied today and there are a number of other notable houses in the vicinity of the forest, including Whinning House, the ruins of which are within the forest site.
The John F. Kennedy Arboretum
Dedicated to the memory of John F. Kennedy, whose great-grandfather, Patrick, was born in the nearby village of Dunganstown, this arboretum near New Ross, County Wexford, contains a plant collection of presidential proportions.
It covers a massive 252 hectares on the summit and southern slopes of Slieve Coillte and contains 4,500 types of trees and shrubs from all temperate regions of the world. There are 200 forest plots grouped by continent. Of special note is an ericaceous garden with 500 different rhododendrons and many varieties of azalea and heather, dwarf conifers and climbing plants. The lake is perhaps the most picturesque part of the arboretum and is a haven for waterfowl. There are amazing panoramic views from the summit of the hill, 271 metres above sea level. A visitor centre houses engaging exhibitions on JFK and on the Arboretum itself.
Avondale Forest Park is the birthplace of Irish Forestry. Samuel Hayes built Avondale House in the 1770’s and he collected and planted a range of tree species from all over the world. The House moved into the ownership of the Parnell family in the 1800’s and was the birth-place of the great Irish statesman, Charles Stewart Parnell.
The state purchased Avondale in 1904 and its magnificent 505-acre estate is synonymous with the birth of Irish forestry. Here, the tree species which are now commonplace in the Irish forest industry were planted and trialled for the first time in experimental plots. Laid out along the lines of a continental forest garden, these plots laid down from 1904 to 1913 are still visible today along the majestic sweeping lawn known as the ‘Great Ride’.
It was at Avondale that the early foresters of Ireland were educated until Kinnitty Castle in Offaly took over as the state forestry school. Today, the Forest Park provides a variety of trails for walking and family cycling. The Railway Walk links the park directly into Rathdrum – that which Parnell himself took to connect to the train at Rathdrum and onward to the Houses of Parliament in London.
The trails are of varying lengths and feature the best the Park has to offer – along the vast expanse of the ‘Great Ride, through majestic stands of Sequoia, Spruce and broadleaves and down along the steep-sided river valley.
The Devil’s Glen boasts a dramatic landscape that was fashioned at the end of the Ice Age when the melt waters of the ice sheet created the valley. The resultant gorge affords a swift decent for the Vartry River as it makes its way from the Vartry Reservoir to nearby Ashford village.
The site hosts a mixture of broad leaf and conifer forest with fine stands of beech, Spanish chestnut and ash. The steep rock face of the gorge has been colonised by various species of plant life: lichens, mosses and the polypody fern. The site was once part of the Glanmore estate, former ancestral home of John Millington Synge.
On the northern bank of the river, you can see the privately owned Tottenham Estate. Two carparks service the Devils Glen. One of these car parks is located at the County Road close to the start of the Seamus Heaney way this carpark has a capacity of 5 cars and is always accessible. A second car-park with a capacity of 25 cars and a coach-park are located at the start of the Waterfall Walk, access to these parking areas is limited to 9am to 5pm daily the opening hours of the barrier to the Devils Glen’.
Wicklow Mountains National Park
Wicklow Mountains National Park is situated just south of Dublin. Covering 20,483 hectares, Wicklow Mountains National Park has the distinction of being the largest of Ireland’s six National Parks. It is also the only one located in the east of the country. The National Park extends over much of the Wicklow mountains. Upland blanket bog and heath cover the upland slopes and rounded peaks. The wide-open vistas are interrupted only by forestry plantations and narrow winding mountain roads. Fast-flowing streams descend into the deep lakes of the wooded valleys and continue their course into the surrounding lowlands. The primary purpose of Wicklow Mountains National Park is the conservation of biodiversity and landscape.
The Park is also an invaluable recreational space for locals and visitors alike. Over one million visits are estimated to be made each year. The most visited area is the scenic Glendalough Valley where the ancient monastic settlement of St. Kevin is located.
Escape from the summer crowds is possible for those coming properly equipped to explore the uplands on foot, where a sense of wilderness and isolation can readily be found.