Ancient Irish woodland opens to public for first time in 500 years

The rare and ancient woodland is a haven for nature and wildlife, hidden in the hills of County Down.

An ancient Irish woodland has opened to the public for the first time in over 500 years.

Located in the heart of County Down, Mourne Park is home to an extremely rare woodland. So rare is it that it covers just 0.04% of Northern Ireland’s landscape.

The Woodland Trust bought a portion of the site in 2021, undertaking works to make the ancient Irish woodland accessible to the public for the first time in 500 years.

New walking trails to explore ‒ discover this rare and ancient woodland

The ancient Irish woodland opened to the public this week.
Credit: Facebook / @MournePark

The Woodland Trust has now completed the first phase of works on the site, which includes three new walking trails for the public to enjoy.

The woodland conservation charity purchased 156 hectares of the 212-hectare Mourne Park estate in 2021. Earlier this year, the charity also launched a campaign to buy the remaining 46 hectares to assist in the recovery of the natural site.

Located in Kilkeel, the park is expected to be a popular spot with those who enjoy exploring the surrounding Mourne region. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Mournes attract both tourists and locals looking to get out in nature.

Ancient Irish woodland open to the public for the first time in 500 years ‒ a stunning natural attraction

The stunning woodland features three new walking trails.
Credit: Facebook / @MournePark

Home to an array of wildlife, including otters, red squirrels, and pine martens, the beautiful Mourne Park is sure to be a popular attraction in the late summer months.

The woodland opened to public access on 1 August, welcoming those with a fondness for the Irish countryside. If you’re planning to visit, parking is available in the gravel car park at the Mourne Country Park Toptracer Driving Range.

Before the Woodland Trust purchased the estate, access was only granted via an annual subscription. Now, they have created three beautiful new walking trails. So, members of the public can enjoy the beauty of this scenic area.

What to expect ‒ take in the stunning natural surroundings

The ancient Irish woodland opened to the public on 1 August.
Credit: Jill Jennings / WTML

After completing the first phase of works, the Woodland Trust made the Ancient Irish woodland open to the public for the first time in 500 years.

They created three new walking trails over loose gravel paths that offer a range of gradients, difficulty, and length.

Guests can enjoy a relaxing stroll along the beautifully named Bluebell Walk, a 1.6 km (1 mile) gently sloping path. Alternatively, you could embark on a journey along the Woodland Loop. This 1.6 km (1 mile) trail explores the newly restored native woodland.

Finally, if you want more of a challenge, you could opt for the 4.5 km (2.8 miles) Whitewater Trail. This picturesque walk follows the path of the river and an old carriageway through a majestic area of beech trees.

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