Mourne Park, near Kilkeel in Co Down, is home to some of the rarest and most ancient woodland in Ireland.
It is now open to the public for the first time in 500 years. The area includes 73 hectares of incredibly rare ancient woodland – defined as having existed continuously since 1600 or earlier. Incredibly, it has been inaccessible to the public for over 500 years.
The Woodland Trust has now completed three walking trails. These have different lengths and gradients so that people of all abilities can explore this area of outstanding natural beauty.
Walking trails in Mourne Park
The 4.5km Whitewater Trail follows the river and an old carriageway through mature beech trees. This is the longest trail. If you prefer a shorter trail, the Woodland Loop explores newly restored native woodland over a 2.8km gravel path. And shorter still is the Bluebell Walk, a relaxing 1.6km stroll through ancient woodland over a long sloping section.
The Woodland Trust have done enormous work to open the park to the public. The areas were cleared of invasive species. This means that forest floor plants like wood anemone, foxgloves, and bluebells are thriving.
And, during the restoration work, the restoration team uncovered trees with carvings on them from Second World War soldiers.
The Trust plans to acquire a further 46 hectares of the estate. There, it will plant over 90,000 trees to further protect the ancient woodland, reinstate wildlife corridors and help increase tree cover in Northern Ireland.
Mourne Coastal Route
Mourne Park is one of the stops along the scenic Mourne Coastal Route. The route stretches along the County Down coastline from Belfast via Bangor, down through the Ards Peninsula to the Mourne Mountains. Along the way, there are wonderful views of the Irish Sea and the region’s undulating countryside.
And of course, the majestic Mourne Mountains lie at the route’s end, with plenty of opportunities for some mindful walking!
Feature image credit: Michael Cooper Photography
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