With winter rolling in, take shelter beneath the trees and go for a walk in the forest.
There is no better way to clear your head of clouded thoughts than a wander through the trees. That’s why we love a good forest walk. We have 20 forest parks in Ireland, 11 in the Republic and nine in Northern Ireland. While they are used in part for commercial forestry there is a huge emphasis on recreation with the parks offering a range of forest walks, car parking and often cafe and toilet facilities too. So, what are you waiting for, take a stroll through the woods. Here are some of the best forest walks in Ireland.
1. The Avonmore Way, Co Wicklow
OS Map: 56 and 62
The Avonmore Way is a relatively new trail along the beautiful Avonmore river in Co. Wicklow. Take a stroll through the wooded valley, starting at Trooperstown Forest. Follow the waymarked trail through the forest under the cover of spruces and emerge out at the hamlet of Clara Vale. This 12km route will take you three to four hours to complete.
2. Deerpark Forest Walk, Co Cavan
OS Map: Waymarked
The Virginia Slí na Sláinte is a 5.5km circular route. Located at Deerpark Forest, just outside Virginia, Co. Cavan, the route follows beautiful tree-lined paths through the forest and passed Virginia Golf Club, taking in the banks of Lough Ramor. The full route will take about an hour and a half to walk and can be walked in both directions.
3. Knockma Forest Walk, Co Galway
Distance: 4 km
OS Map: Waymarked
This scenic looped walk is in Tuam, County Galway. At just 4km long, it is a short spin but steep in parts. The view at the top of the climb is something special to behold. The walk takes place on a rough path through the wooded area, which is made up of oak, ash, hazel and other broadleaf trees. It is a part of the country that is very much connected with our history, with some stunning neolithic cairns on top. Two of which are rumoured to be the burial places of Queen Maebh of Connacht and of Finnbhearra, King of the Connacht fairies.
4. Portumna Forest Park, Co Galway
OS Map: 53
Portumna Forest Park covers almost 450 hectares of which the majority is dominated by coniferous woodland. It is a nature nerds paradise with ash, beech and silver birch dotted along the lakeside. Yew and juniper also appear. Animal species in the area include red squirrel, fallow deer, foxes, badgers and a white tailed sea eagle who nests there. There are four walking trails of varying distances in Portumna Forest Park. One is the Rinmaher Walking Trail, a long singletrack loop with great views along the lakeshore.
5. Red Loop, Glenshelane, Co. Waterford
Distance: 2km -10km
OS Map: 74 and 81
Outside Cappoquin there is an idyllic little forest with a picnic site, car park, the Glenshelane River and trees galore. The Glenshelane forest walks consist of one linear and three looped walks. The blue route is 2km long, the green is 3km, the red is 10km, and the purple is 2.75km.The extensive network of forest roads, trails and bridges means you can while away the hours exploring the very best of nature. Look out for red squirrel and mink plus there is a noted salmon spawning area upstream.
6. Slievenaslat Walk, Castlewellan Forest Park, Co Down
OS Map: 29
This forest walk has a bit of a steep climb to it, but this means you can peak between the trees for some superb panoramic views of the Mourne Mountains and surrounding drumlin landscape. Just follow the yellow waymarkers. This is one of the more difficult trails as it is rocky in places and has some tricky steps up to the summit, which stands at 272 metres. There is also three waterfalls to be spotted in the park and a visitor centre, shop and restaurant.
7. Glenariff Forest Park, Co Antrim
OS Map: 9
Glenariff is considered the Queen of the Glens of Antrim. Its walkway has two small rivers the Inver and the Glenariff which contain incredible waterfalls, pools and steep-sided gorges. The trail first takes you down the Inver River gorge, nearly to the Ess-na-Crub Waterfall. Then up a long and winding kilometre climb. There are great views of the Glens and of the Mull of Kintyre across the sea from the top. And on your way back, you are greeted with more stunning vistas of the Glen to the coast and the sea beyond. There are facilities on site too.
8. Tollymore Forest Park, Newcastle
OS Map: 29
The Mountain Trail in Tollymore Forest Park is a stunning forest walk in Northern Ireland through forest plots and a beech woodland that runs alongside the Shimna River. Superb views of Luke’s mountain can be had as the trail reaches the boundary wall. To make your walk longer, add on the Drinn’s trail for a bit more of a challenge, which takes in the highest point in the Forest Park at 255m. The Curraghard viewpoint has a viewing spot to sit, catch your breath and feast your eyes on views of the Northern Mournes, Dundrum Bay, Newcastle and the Irish Sea.
For more information on Irish walks, check out The Ireland Walking Guide.
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