On a recent trip to Newcastle in Co Down we spent a rainy afternoon exploring Tollymore Forest Park, as an alternative to our Slieve Donard climb which got rained out the previous day (see post about that here).
Tollymore forest park is very close to Newcastle and is well signposted from there. The forest park itself is spread over 1,600 acres and sits at the foot of the Mourne Mountains. It is Northern Ireland’s first official state forest park and was established in 1955, but it dates back much further than that, the arboretum in Tollymore was first established in 1752.
Interesting facts about the park include: the wood from the oak trees there was used by Harland and Woolf for the interiors of the white star liners, including the Titanic and it has also recently been used as a location for the TV series Game of Thrones, another good reason to visit if ever there was one.
The forest park has a well-established recreation area with camping and caravan sections, children’s playground, car park and facilities. To enter costs £5 for a car and all of the walking trails start from the car park.
There are four walking trails in total the blue is half a mile long and passes through the arboretum, the red trail follows the river Shimna up to Parnell’s bridge and back down along the other side of the river, this one is three miles, the black trail (mountain trail) is five and a half miles long to which you can add another three miles to complete the Drinn’s Trail.
For our first visit we decided to follow the red trail by the river Shimna, which passes by some of the many bridges created to cross the river. In Tollymore forest park there are sixteen bridges in total, constructed from both stone and wood and we passed a fair few of them on our walk. This walk also takes in the Hermitage, an elaborate stone shelter built into the side of the gorge above the river. Designed by James Hamilton in 1770 in memory of his friend the Marquis of Monthermer.
Rain aside, spending a day walking through Tollymore forest park, along the banks of the melodic Shimna River is an absolute must do, that is if you are in the area. We are planning a camping trip very soon to relax and take in more of this wonderful forest park and its surroundings.
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