Five Irish Forest Parks to Visit and Budget Hotels to Stay In
Five Irish Forest Parks to Visit
Ireland is often called the Emerald Isle but that’s typically because of the shade of green apparent on its grasslands rather than green towering trees. Its forests have often been underestimated and while they bear no comparison with the growths of ancient Ireland, increased planting and much improved consolidation of older trees has seen something of a resurgence in the popularity of Irish forest parks. Many Irish forest parks now have facilities for all the family including cafés, walking trails and plenty of places to park so they’re a great outlet if you’re stuck in the room of a budget hotel like Travelodge Ireland and feel the need for some fresh air.
Here is our take on 5 Irish Forest Parks that you should visit.
Gougane Barra Park in Cork
Cork people already believe that they live in the best place on earth and they have their own Eden in the Gougane Barra National Park. Ireland’s first National Park opened in 1966 and is still a magnificent forest park set in 400 hectares of wild and beautiful scenery. It’s also at the heart of Cork; the River Lee rises here in Gougane Barra before flowing onto Cork City and the patron saint of Cork, St. Finbarr, founded a monastery here on a tiny island in the park lake. There’s still a church there today.
There are plenty of interesting walking trails to try, there are waterfalls to wonder at, there are cycle tracks and it’s also a favourite location for fishermen. But the tranquillity and scenery of woodland, lake and mountains make this a very special place, even for non Corkonians.
Carnfunnock Country Park in County Antrim
County Antrim’s Carnfunnock Country Park is a very different and more ordered beast to Gougane Barra. With over 191 hectares of mixed woodland and spectacular panoramic views of the Antrim coastline, comes a set of themed gardens. The requisite walled garden has a collection of sundials, wooden sculptures and exotic plants from all over the world but there are also flower gardens, butterfly gardens, rock gardens and waters gardens to take your fancy.
Carnfunnock is ideal for a family trip with lots of things to do including an amphitheatre for outdoor performances and a maze in the shape of Northern Ireland for everyone to explore. Alongside those forest attractions are an outdoor adventure playground, orienteering course, a miniature railway and even a golf driving range for the parents.
Coole Park in Galway
Coole Park is famous in Irish literary history as the home of Lady Augusta Gregory, supporter of WB Yeats and George Bernard Shaw and co-founder of the Irish national theatre, the Abbey. Yeats’s famous poem, ‘The Wild Swans of Coole’ was also inspired by this scenic location. Her home is now a wonderful nature reserve of some 1000 acres near the village of Gort in County Galway.
Coole Park itself has many woodland walks to enjoy in this park of mixed forest and wetland where you can stroll through forest paths and amble along the river and lake before making your way back to the walled garden and estate café. But it is worth visiting for its status as a nature reserve, considered to be of world importance. Coole Lough is a turlough at the centre of a unique karstic wetland system which includes underground rivers and disappearing lakes. Coole was an inspiring place for many Irish writers and in its new guise as Irish forest park continues to inspire visitors.
Gleninchaquin in County Kerry
If you love nature in its wildest and most unspoiled self, then you’ll love Gleninchaquin Park in Kenmare, County Kerry. Delightful scenery abounds in this out-of-the-way location including a spectacular 140-metre-high waterfall and sparkling views of Kenmare Bay.
A family-owned park rather than a national one, Gleninchaquin is set in a narrow valley in Kerry’s Beara Peninsula and beautifully framed by the Killarney McGillicuddy mountains. There are plenty of marked trails to explore, most of which are accessible to all, and explore you must. Jump over cool mountain streams and climb up mountain paths with carved steps, squeeze through rock passages and wonder at the sight of the stunning glens and valley lakes. There is something of the idyll about this setting in Gleninchaquin and it’s worth spending some time after exploring just sitting and relaxing in this amphitheatre of scenic delight.
Kilbroney Park in County Down
Kilbroney has a strong connection with local folklore and the Irish giant of legend, Finn McCool. The Cloughmore, a huge stone which sits about a thousand feet above the nearby village of Rostrevor, is said to have been thrown here during an epic fight between Finn McCool and a Scottish giant. Geologists of course believe that it was deposited in Kilbroney during the ice age. Whatever the reason for its location, it is spectacular and can be climbed up to from the forest park.
Kilbroney forest park is also a relic, a relic of a much larger and ancient forest and still contains the remnants of very old trees and many rare plants. There’s plenty of wildlife scurrying around the old oak trees and the woodland walks are well-marked out and organised. There are also riverside walks and an arboretum to enjoy while visitors can take a two-mile forest drive to impressive views over Carlingford Lough. Family visitors are well catered to also with a play park and tennis courts.