Best Places to Watch the Leaves Change

There’s a simple thing that Irish people often miss when they move abroad – seasons

Watching plants transform to dramatic shades of red, brown and yellow, before disappearing and returning, is magical, eternal and reassuring.

Those of you with long memories might remember the term “deciduous” from primary school. Deciduous, as opposed to evergreen trees, change in autumn.

Chlorophyll is a key ingredient in the wonderful colour changes. It turns leaves green, declines in autumn and winter, resulting in leaves changing to shades of beige, brown and rust.

Many of our native trees are deciduous, but sadly, only a tiny percentage of Ireland is covered in them. Still, there are opportunities to see the leaves change around the country, in parks and forests from coast to coast.

Here are some key places to see the leaves change this autumn…

Glendalough

We’ve talked about this famously scenic spot before. Glendalough is gorgeous at any time of the year, but the leaf colours are especially vibrant in autumn.

This area has an unusually high number of broad-leafed, deciduous trees, some of which are centuries old. Adding to the palette, the bracken changes colours too, combining with the evergreens and deciduous trees to make for a glorious canvas.

Killarney National Park

A vast nature reserve, Killarney National park has several strains of evergreen, oak and yew trees. Many of them are reflected in the numerous bodies of water here, and the reflections of the skies and trees are glorious, particularly at sunset, and especially in autumn.

This park has enjoyed regular national attention since it was opened to the public in 1932. A recent major news story was when the Irish Times declared it the Best Day Out in the country in 2015.

Visitors to Killarney National Park often get a chance to see their most famous residents – the majestic red deer. By some estimates, the deer have been here since the last Ice Age.

Lismore / The Vee Drive, Waterford and Tipperary

This is one of the most scenic drives you can ask for, as the journey brings you to the Knockmealdown Mountains, from which you can see acres upon acres of wild and farmed land.

The drive will take you to the beautiful Kilballyboy Wood. There, you will see a rich variety of trees and leaf colours, from shades of green to a range of autumnal colours. Trees here include Scots pine, Sitka spruce and Douglas fir, Spanish chestnut, Corsican pine, rowan, larch, beech, oak and lodge pole.

Lough Gill, Sligo

A star of our previous article about lake walks, Lough Gill is also a wonderful place to see flora change at this time of year.

The plant life, including the woods, are richly varied, with some trees dating back to 4,600 BC. Woodlands include rowan, oak, willow and rare Bird Cherry. The Slish Wood Forest trail is especially worth checking out.

As a bonus, Lough Gill is also a fine spot for birdwatching. And you might spot anything from kingfishers to terns.

Botanic Gardens (Dublin and Wicklow)

Ireland’s botanic gardens are world-class, and the variety of flora, combined with the country’s climate and the staff’s dedication to botany are worth celebrating.

Naturally, an area designed specifically to nurture diverse plants has some exciting seasonal changes. The Dublin Botanic Gardens have deciduous trees and around thirty-three species of conifers. And it has regular, guided walks in autumn.

The Wicklow Botanic Gardens, meanwhile, have a tremendous collection of oak trees.

Altamount Gardens, Carlow

Yews and ancient oaks populate this scenic, serene national garden. Due to the rich variety of the flora here, different plants flourish at different times of year, which means that some hit their stride come autumn. With leaves at different lifecycles sharing the same space, the result is a varied, unique and satisfying autumn view.

These gardens once belonged to Corona North, who travelled the world in search of interesting, exotic and compatible plants for these gardens. Altamount Gardens have belonged to the Irish public since North’s passing in 1999.

Annual Leaves

We may not always enjoy the climate, but the regular rainfall and relatively mild weather make Ireland a welcoming place for a surprising variety of plants. Whether you want to spruce up your Instagram feed, watch nature in action, or just step away from cities, there is an autumnal woodland and park waiting for you.

OSI has extensive maps for the whole country, if you need any help in planning that journey.

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