Nature walks are a great opportunity to connect with our ecosystem. Books can only bring you so far, and sometimes you need to get hands-on and down and dirty to truly experience nature
Whether you’re an educator, a parent, or an eager student, autumn is an especially good time for nature walks: kids are back in school, so they might be learning about the very things you’re examining; plus, it’s a lively time in our forests and fields, as leaves are changing and the birds and insects are making plans for winter.
Here’s a guide to some of Ireland’s best places for nature walks. And we’ve also included an activities list…
Nature Walk Activities List
There are several ways to make the most of a nature walk, whether on school time or weekends. The best guides are a combination of structure and exploration. Here are a few to get you started…
For beginners, an overall, broad checklist is a great way to engage with the walk. This might include; a tree, cloud, bug, bird, brown leaf, green leaf and bark. This list could be checked off, written or (for some items) collected.
This can either be a written list, or a list of pictures (drawn by the child or downloaded).
List the bugs that you might find on this nature walk, where you might find them, and let the hunt begin! The bugs might be photographed, drawn, ticked off a list or (if there aren’t too many!) captured in a jar.
This is a simple but wonderfully effective approach: create headings on a page for each sense, and then have the child list and describe what they see, hear, smell and feel. (We recommend you leave “taste” off this sense list!)
This one is more hands-on and visceral, so kids love it! Have a list of physical activities, such as building a pile of leaves to jump in, finding a smooth stone, finding a rough stone, observing an animal or bug and writing what it’s doing, finding a smooth stick, a bumpy stick, and so on.
Nature Walks in Dublin
A relatively recent development, Irishtown Park was built in the early 1980s by residents and Dublin City Council. The result is a culmination of three decades of growth and evolution, with the park now hosting a rich variety of birds and plants. These include birds like geese and herons, and creeping thistle, blackberry and sloe plants.
Nature Walks in Wicklow
Powerscourt Estate and Gardens
We’ve talked about this gem before. Powerscourt Estate and Gardens is not just an immaculate, photogenic garden (though it is that), it’s also a hive of nature activity. Its 47 acres offer a variety of walks, whether that means walking through wildflowers and meadows; examining the flowerbeds; or exploring the mighty waterfall (recommended for older kids). We also hear it’s a great place to spot bugs!
Powerscourt also offers more formal tours and kid-friendly classes, from bug hunts to guided walks.
Nature Walks in Cork
Glengarrif Nature Reserves
This beautiful, vast nature reserve is a treasure trove of wildlife, walking trails and woodlands. Sitting on the Gulf Stream, it’s an unusually warm and humid part of Ireland.
There are several walks you can take, depending on your abilities and interests. The River Walk is one kilometre and is thick with old oak trees and ferns; Lady Bantry’s Lookout is a steeper climb, but gives you a panoramic view of natural wonders (woodlands, glens and mountains); and Big Meadow is a great one for getting up close with anthills and wildflowers, while you might spot long-term residents as diverse as cows and dragonflies.
Nature Walks in Roscommon
Warren Point Loop
The site of medieval ruins, Rindoon hasn’t been lived in by humans for over 500 years. Now, Warren Point Loop is a chance to walk among these ruins and along lakeside, through meadows, farmlands and a woodland carpeted in bluebells. Keep an eye out for local birds, cows and sheep too.
This is a signposted, well-worn loop route. It’s not too taxing, but it can get muddy, so wear appropriate boots or wellies if it’s a damp day!
Nature Walks in Offaly
Birr Castle Gardens & Science Centre
Birr Castle Gardens are the result of years of work by the Earls of Rosse, who travelled the world collecting rare plants over 150 years. Now, more than 40 champion trees, 2,000 species of plant and a range of rivers, lakes and waterfalls are all within the 50 hectares of the estate.
There are organised walks and nature sensory tours in these gardens, as well as a science centre, but even without a formal guide, there’s much to learn and enjoy here.
Nature Walks in Westmeath
Belvedere House and Gardens
This place, as well as being incredible scenic, is a perfect place to learn about trees, fish and lakes. The woodland walks and lake short part of Belvedere House is filled with beach, yews and lime trees, while the lake is fat with trout (the heaviest trout in Ireland was caught here, weighing 26 lbs!). There’s also the Walled Garden, where you’ll find colourful, varied and fascinating varieties of plants.
If you have time (and if you’ve learned enough!) there are also play areas, including lakeside swings and ziplines.
See You on the Nature Trails!
Ireland has an abundance of terrific places for nature walks, and this is a great time to explore and learn.
Don’t forget that OSI maps can help you find these wonderful walks and many more.