Trees are among the greatest natural resources we have. The more we learn about them, the greater our appreciation grows.
The Japanese have an expression, shinrin-yoku, which translates to “forest bathing”. It means that because trees fill their environments with beautiful, clean oxygen, we should seek it out, “bathe” in woodlands, and soak up that clear air.
Walking among trees is deeply therapeutic, and in recent years we have discovered that it is recommended for reducing stress, addressing anxiety and even boosting the immune system.
November is one of the nicest, most underrated months for forest walks, as Ireland’s beautiful trees are midway between their transformation from autumn to winter; foliage is still changing, branches are thinning, and the landscape is evolving before your very eyes. This being a tiny island, you’re never far away from an enchanting forest trail.
Here are some of our favourites, all of which can be found on the pages of our Discovery Series of maps…
Ticknock Forest, Dublin 18
An understandably popular spot for tourists and locals alike, Ticknock Forest offers a reasonably gentle incline on a looped walk, which ultimately brings you to Three Rock masts. This spot offers breath-taking views of Dublin and Wicklow.
As far as forestry goes, Ticknock has an endearingly diverse range of Sitka spruce, Japanese larch, Scots pine, Monterey pine and lodgepole pine.
The Fairy Castle Loop (at just 5.5 kilometres) is one of its most popular walks. For more experienced walkers, it’s also the beginning of the Wicklow Way, a legendary hike which brings you from South Dublin across the Wicklow Mountains.
Ticknock is also reasonably accessible to Dubliners: Despite feeling wonderfully remote, it’s only a 40-minute drive from the city. The two maps below will show Ticknock Wood.
Crone Woods, Wicklow
One of the most scenic parts of the “Garden of Ireland”, Crone Woods lies just east of the Wicklow Mountains. Walk among Scots pine, Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, Larch and Corsican pine. See if you can spot some of the animals that live there, like foxes, squirrels, deer and badgers.
There are three trails; the Maulin Mountain trail, which is strenuous at 6km with a steep incline, but rewards the walker with a gorgeous view into Glencree and even Dublin Bay; a section of The Wicklow Way, which will give you the highest view of Powerscourt waterfall; and the mountain access route (2.6km, very steep), en route to the Wicklow Mountains. The two maps below will show Crone Woods.
Brackloon Wood, Mayo
Arguably underrated, this immense forest covers 74 hectares (183 acres) but offers a gentle walk among its stunning oak trees.
It’s a gentle, 4km loop, with the Owenwee River running through it. And despite relatively recent preservation work, it has a handsomely wild look, as mossy trees of all shapes and sizes (including lichen and ferns) jostle for space alongside the walkway.
In addition to its natural splendour, Brackloon is of historical interest too: There’s evidence of early settlements here dating back to the Bronze Age and King Conor Mc Neasa is said to have travelled this pathway centuries ago. The three maps below will show Brackloon Wood.
[Picture credit: Oliver Dixon]
Reenadinna Woods, County Kerry
This dense, deep and magical forest is one of just sixteen in the country that are part of the Millennium Forests project – a project aimed at restoring Ireland’s native woodlands. Reenadinna’s magnificent trees are up to 250 years old.
Stepping into Reenadinna, more than nearly any other forest, feels like entering another world, as the large yew trees stretch above you and form a canopy. Thanks to its protected status, some of the walkway is fenced off, and all you can see when you look in is endless, dense, dark vegetation.
Its 6km looped trail is an undemanding but immensely satisfying walk, bringing you beyond the density of the trees to reveal lake and mountain views. The two maps below will show Reenadinna Woods.
Deerpark Forest, County Cavan
A favourite of weekend ramblers, families, runners and beloved family dogs, Deerpark Forest is the jewel of Virginia. Covering 160 hectares with conifer, broadleaf and mixed woodland, a stroll through Deerpark is relaxing and scenic. Walk routes are clearly marked here and you can take 3k or 5k jaunts.
Since many of its plants are evergreen, this is a relatively lush forest all year round.
As well as the local flora, visitors also enjoy the park river, Lough Ramor and its ancient historical attractions, including metal and stone bridges, Toberpatrick well, and Castle boat house. Then there’s Lady Taylor’s cottage, which dates to the 17th Century. The map below will show Deerpark Forest.
[Picture credit: Nigel Cox]
Clonbur, County Galway/Mayo
A wonderful work in progress, Clonbur is going through one of the biggest restoration projects in the country. It plays host to four relatively rare natural wonders in the same place; limestone pavement yew, alluvial soils and bogs. And the area is slowly being reclaimed by charming small plants and trees (bonsai) such as blackthorn, alder, pine and willow.
Clonbur is not just a place of impressive biological diversity (though it is that too). It is a massive forest of over 900 hectares, sitting between lakes Corrib and Mask and on the Mayo/Galway border. This beautiful site is a draw to countless visitors who come every year to stroll, hike, fish, or even chat to the locals to brush up on their Irish! The map below will show Clonbur.
[Picture credit: Burkesclonbur]
Ireland has more than its share of lovely forest trails worth visiting. All of these places can be handily found in the OSI Discovery Map, which will always keep you on the right track.
If you’ve got any tips or experiences of Ireland’s Forest Walks, share them with us on Facebook.
If you have any suggestions blog posts that you think people would be interested in, we’d love to hear from you on our Facebook page.