Belfast & Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's Must-See Forests

30 Mar 2021
A trip to the Emerald Isle suggests sylvan woodlands laced with gently flowing rivers and tempting trails. And NI has a verdant selection in which to lose yourself with a wonderful walk in the park. Here's our pick of five the best in which to begin your leafy exploration. For a full list, click here.

1. Tollymore Forest Park


NI's first state forest park encompasses 1600 acres of wonderful woodland criss-crossed by four walking trails. Sixteen bridges cross the Shimna River as it wends its way through the forest from its Mourne Mountain source to the Irish Sea. The 18th century Gothic gate bridges at the entrance and exit hint at yet more stone sculptures and follies, including an obelisk, grottos and caves. The arboretum hosts an abundance of local and global trees, including the stump of a Giant Redwood stuck by lightning. Campers and touring vehicles can pitch up and stay even longer to admire and enjoy the forest whose timeless vibe has been harnessed as a Game of Thrones location. When you're through with forest bathing, the bustling Co. Down seaside town of Newcastle is just a few minutes' drive away.

2. Glenariff Forest Park


An absolute jewel in the Co. Antrim crown, Glenariff glistens with almost 3000 acres of forest trails, riverside walks and three glorious waterfalls. Lose yourself in its magnificence and admire the scenery of this special site that gets its name from the Queen of the Glens, one of nine such geographical wonders carved during the Ice Age. Seasonal camping and caravan sites are available, and the forest is en route to the iconic Giant's Causeway.

3. Slieve Gullion Forest Park


Get spiritualised at this child-friendly forest glade where fairies and elves frolic amid The Giant's Lair, an epic woodland trail enveloping local folklore and legend. Is Slieve Gullion a mountain? Or a sleeping giant? Explore every carving and cranny to find out, then have fun back at base where Slieve Gullion Adventure Playpark awaits young explorers. All ages can ascend Co. Armagh's highest peak (573m) via an eight mile drive for magnificent views as far as Co. Wicklow on a clear day. Immerse yourself in this woody wonderland just south east of Newry town 

4. Colin Glen Forest Park

So close to Belfast city, yet a whole new world of fun and adventure, Colin Glen is an adrenalin-packed day out for all ages. Little children will adore The Gruffalo Trail, older kids will love getting to grips with the rope courses and climbing walls, and everyone can get their hearts pumping on Ireland's Longest Zipline and first ever Alpine Coaster, a 565m long metal rail with karts traversing 22 twists, two tunnels at speeds of up to 25mph. Both hi-octane activities provide fantastic views across the Glen's 200 acres, and beyond to Belfast city. Archery, Laser-Tag and a calendar of party packages and guided nature walks put this urban oasis top of the list of family-friendly must-sees. 

5. Castlewellan Forest Park

The Peace Maze, Castlewellan Castle, 40 hectare lake and NI's National Arboretum collectively make for a diverse day out at this Co. Down forest park. The maze comprises 6000 yews planted in a 3.5km labyrinth designed to confuse your inner sat nav before side-stepping the dead ends and ascending the viewing platform. The striking Scottish baronial-style castle overlooks the lake and is now a Christian Conference Centre with accommodation and activities popular with youth and faith-based groups. Find the park close to Newcastle town and, indeed, Tollymore Forest Park. Campers and touring caravans are welcome.

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