A view of Glenariff Forest Park, County Antrim.
Northern Ireland is home to many fantastic forest parks, each offering visitors something unique.
With so much on offer, Northern Ireland is a great place to get lost, with the un-crowded nature of the parks giving you the feeling you have the whole place to yourself.
Immerse yourself in nature, stumble upon historic ruins, take in the tallest trees and discover hidden lakes and secret spots on a walk in one of these must visit forest parks.
Castlewellan Forest Park, County Down
Home to an impressive mile-long lake, Scottish Baronial Castle, and some of the most outstanding tree and shrub collections in Europe, there is plenty to discover in Castlewellan Forest Park situated 3 miles from the impressive Mourne Mountains.
There are just over 7.5 miles of walking trails taking in many of the parks key points of interest including the Annesley Garden and Arboretum, the historic Moorish Tower and tranquil Castlewellan Lake as well as the iconic views from the summit of Slievenaslat.
Annesley Garden, Northern Ireland’s very own ‘secret garden’ is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered with terraces, fountains and ornamental gates on display with conifers and maples imported from throughout the world.
Top Tip: Don’t forget to check out the Peace Maze – one of the world’s largest permanent mazes.
Glenariff Forest Park, County Antrim
Known as the ’Queen of the Glens’, Glenariff is the largest of the nine Glens of Antrim.
As well as panoramic landscapes and peaceful riverside walks, the forest’s crowning glory is its Waterfall Walkway, opened 80 years ago and running the three-mile length through the National Nature Reserve.
As well as the Waterfall Walkway, walkers can also enjoy the Rainbow Trail, Viewpoint Trail and Scenic Trail.
Top Tip: If you’re looking for refreshments after your walk, be sure to call into the Laragh Lodge.
Tollymore Forest Park, County Down
Covering an area of 630 hectares at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, Tollymore Forest Park is perhaps one of Northern Ireland’s most recognisable forests due to its connection with Game of Thrones®, Dracula Untold and other shows filmed in Northern Ireland.
Along trails such as the Mountain and Drinns, River Trail and Arboretum Path you’ll come across a range of both natural and artificial curiosities such as rocky outcrops, bridges, grottos and caves.
Be sure to look out for the Hermitage, a small stone shelter designed by James Hamilton in the 1770s and originally used as a place for ladies to shelter while the men fished, and the famous stepping stones which make for a great photograph!
Walkers can also seek out the original tree of the slow-growing spruce, which originated nearby in about 1750 and is the oldest tree in any arboretum in Ireland.
Top Tip: Be sure to check out the oak wood trees in Tollymore, which were the preferred material for the interiors of the White Star liners including the ‘Titanic’ which was built in Belfast.
Lough Navar Forest, County Fermanagh
With so many marked walking trails of varying lengths offering magnificent views over Lower Lough Erne, Donegal Bay, the Blue Stack and Sperrin Mountains, make sure you pack a picnic or a hot flask and make the most of these spectacular settings.
Top Tip: Bring your binoculars and keep an eye out for red deer and wild goats along the way!
Slieve Gullion Forest Park, County Armagh
Alive with geology, archaeology and history Slieve Gullion Forest Park is home to one of the most famous ring dykes in the world having featured in geological debate and theory over the past 160 years.
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the broad slopes of Slieve Gullion, rise some 576m above the surrounding countryside and dominate the landscape of south Armagh.
Walkers can reach the summit of Armagh’s highest peak along the mountain top trail to two cairns. Once here, visitors can expect stunning views across the Ring of Gullion, Mourne and Cooley mountain ranges and the Armagh Drumlins, with over 2,000 years of legend and history.
Top Tip: Out with the kids? Visit the award-winning Forest Adventure Play Park and enjoy a well deserved break at the Grounded coffee shop.