7 woodland walks in Ireland

If you like exploring nature with kids a walk in the woods can be a fun adventure, especially in autumn when the leaves are changing colour and the trees keep you sheltered from the chilly winds.Last week I was in Center Parcs (read my review here) and I was disappointed I didn’t get to spend much time in the Longford forest. I really noticed the contrast between the native forest at the edges which were full of colour perfect for exploring. In contrast the newly planted pine trees were boringly uniform and so dark underneath that nothing else was growing.

Therefore it has inspired me to get back out to a real forest. Here are 7 of my favourite woodland walks. Have you got any others you would recommend?

1. Ardgillen Castle Demesne, Co Dublin

This is a regular favourite walk that I’ve written about before. There is a lovely woodland section of the park where the native trees have little information boards to help identify them. The path is easy to access from the carpark and can be done with a buggy but it’s bumpy enough you feel like you’re in the woods. In spring there are always lots of bluebells under the trees, and kids love spotting the fairy houses. Best of all you can stop in at the cafe to warm up after a walk.

2. Devil’s Glen, Wicklow

The highlight of this forest trail is the spectacular waterfall at the far end. The looped walk is about 4km, and takes you up high through the trees and then loops back along the river bank. There aren’t any short cuts so it would be a little long for really little legs but well worth the effort.

3. Mullaghmeen Forest, Westmeath

This forest managed by Coiltte has a variaty of looped walks. Most of the walks are quite flat but the land at the end of the forest drops away so you get some great views. If you fancy a challange a short uphill path takes you to a summit with even better views. The forest is lovely and gnarly, and I saw some amazing mosses there. The remains of an old famine village also make an interesting historical point and lumpy area to explore.

4. Vale of Clara, Co Wicklow

Protected by the National Parks and Wildlife Service the Vale of Clara is one of the largest native woodlands left in Ireland. Parking at a picturesque church and bridge you are straight into the trees and an easy path winding along the river. The paths meanders across the river so you’d need a firm grip on little ones. The full looped walk is about 10km, but a nice short there and back stroll would be possible. We got caught there in a rainy downpour and sheltered under a tree and the canopy was so thick we hardly got wet.

5. Kilbroney Forest Park, Co Down

We stumbled across this park after taking the Carlingford ferry across the lough which is a fun way to get there. There’s lots of big grassy areas, but there’s also a nice woodland walk filled with Narnia themed wooden sculptures. You emerge to magnificent views over the sea and mountains. It’s not the longest forest walk but a lovely distance for toddlers, and the plentiful parking and a cafe are a bonus.

6. Glendalough, Co Wicklow

If you can arrive early and beat the crowds this is one of my favourite places. The monastic ruins are great for exploring and a short walk through the trees brings you to a stunning view of the lake nestled between the mountains.The most popular longer walking route takes you up a waterfall, up what seems like everending steps and then out along the valley top. It can be a bit exposed for little kids, so an alternative is the route that loops back the other way through the forest. Last time I walked this I saw deer and lots of frog spawn so great for nature lovers. They were doing a lot of work felling non-native trees to encourage the native trees to grow, so you should see a good variety of trees.

7. Belleek Woods, Co Mayo

These are my favourite town centre woods just a short walk outside Ballina, so you can double up a walk with a nice lunch. At this time of year they put in loads of effort with a spooky Halloween trail that is also good in daylight for little ones. I particularly likes the big wooden animal sculptures.

So that’s my favourites, have you tried any of them, or are the others I should try?

7 woodland walks in ireland

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