Hillsborough Forest Park and Lake Walk

Hillsborough Forest Park & Lake Walk

Hillsborough forest park and lake walk

 

We frequently visit the North of Ireland because my hubby is from Banbridge in Co Down and one of our favourite spots to stop off for a walk with our dog Missy has to be the Hillsborough forest park and lake walk.

Located in Hillsborough town, which is not too far from Banbridge, it is easily accessible, with plenty of parking spaces at the entrance to the forest and very dog friendly. A big plus for us because we always travel with our dog and she loves her walks.

It is an excellent place to go for either a quick walk or a longer meander around the lake. There are two main routes to take, one brings you around the lake and comes in at just over 2km and the other brings you past the Fox Forth rath and is just over 3km. We generally do the lake walk because I love to watch the swans and the ducks.

Our most recent visit to Hillsborough forest was during a grey winter’s day and the forest itself was quite empty, the lake reflecting the silver and blue tones of the otherwise grey sky. Visiting is a great way to unwind for a short while especially after driving all the way from Galway.

Needless to say our springer Missy loves it there, we do keep her on the lead when she is near the water, otherwise she would be in it disturbing the ducks.

Just over half way through the lake walk there is a path leading from the lake into Hillsborough Fort. Colonel Arthur Hill finished building the artillery fort in 1650, and the Hill family built the village of Hillsborough.

We generally don’t visit the fort on every occasion but this time we did, as it was very quiet we took the opportunity to have a look around.

The artillery building was remodelled in the mid 18th century for use as a country house for large scale feasts and entertaining. It is said, at one wedding party in 1837 3,500 guests sat down to a roast beef and plum pudding. The main building also has many grotesque sculptured faces which are interesting to take note off. Standing up on the rampart inside the fort allows for a lovely over view of the lake and forest.

It is free admission into the fort but only the grounds are are open to the public. Opening hours are 10 – 4 Monday to Saturday and 11 – 4 on a Sunday.

For more details visit Walk NI website at http://www.walkni.com/walks/255/hillsborough-forest-lake-walk/

Walking Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains

Walking Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains

Slieve Donard, the highest peak in the Mourne Mountains made famous by the Percy French song and until recently my nemesis (obviously being a bit dramatic here).

I finally reached the top of Slieve Donard on an absolutely stunning day two weeks ago and it was worth every minute of the wait.

Slieve Donard stands 850m above sea level, literally from sea level, and according to my research it is a moderate to strenuous 5hour, 9km walk. Moderate to strenuous I can confirm, but I was rather slower than the 5 hours, coming in at 6.

Strangely enough I took much longer coming down than going up, and of course we sat for quite a bit at the top of the mountain taking in the clear spectacular views.

I can pretty much say I am mostly over my fear of heights now, and I am so glad I am, otherwise I would never have had the opportunity to experience this vista.

It’s funny, now I’m all about looking forward and I can’t wait for my next small adventure, which will most likely have to do with mountains.

But less than a year and a half ago the thought of walking into town was something I wouldn’t even entertain, never mind going up an 850m mountain, why – just because I didn’t!!! I’m not quite sure what happened, but in March 2016 I became obsessed with wanting to walk amongst trees, regularly. It cleared my mind and gave me the sense of calmness I was looking for.

And I just kept walking, I walked around Lisbon, Malaga, Granada, into the Serra Neveda.

I remember actually crying when I saw some of the hills in Lisbon, I was so unfit I couldn’t walk up them, little knowing that just over a year later I would be happily smiling going up Slieve Donard.

Nor did I know in January when I stood at the bottom of the Saddle, in the Valley below looking up, afraid of going any higher, (I was petrified of heights), that 6 months later I would be on top of Donard on the clearest day possible looking out across the Irish Sea and over the tops of the Mournes, all because of my want to start walking. I am so happy I did.

On my journey so far I have learned loads of lessons, from what to wear, to more importantly what not to wear, reframing my thoughts, (one of the harder lessons), embracing challenges and just putting one foot in front of the other. If you are thinking of changing things up and getting a bit fitter I am working on a post at the moment looking at all the things I have learned / embraced over the past year, plus, what I would like to have known when I started compared to what I know now.

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Road Trip

I think impromptu trips are always the best. I love the idea of waking up on a given morning and by the afternoon deciding to go away camping for the weekend, just because!

It’s a bit like being able to eat breakfast cereal for dinner, just cause you’re an adult, but not adulting.

Anyway, that’s just what we did, last Friday. We have camping gear stored in the attic for ages, ever since we sold our campervan, so this weekend just passed I decided to pull it all out, pack us and our two springer spaniels into our car and just head off.

Coupled with a few jobs we had to get sorted, the adult bit of our trip, which meant a visit to the Apple store in Belfast and a visit to family, the rest of the time was spend hanging our with our two dogs.

Hand on heart hanging out with my two dogs Missy and Daisy just makes me so happy. Daisy had been a bit sick recently so it was really good to just spend time with them. They are apparently getting older, a fact I was in complete denial off until our recent trips to the vet, and it just made me so conscious of how short the life of a pet family member can be as it passes through ours. NO taking for granted anymore!!!

Side note: Last Christmas on a trip to Belfast we stayed in Lisburn and  we had breakfast in Bob & Berts, being new vegans it was kind of hard to find places to eat. Reading the menu it seemed to be porridge was the way to go, and then I happened across their peanut butter, maple syrup and porridge offering. To be completely honest I thought it sounded disgusting, that was until I tasted it. Bob & Berts single handily converted me to liking porridge made with water, topped with the afore mentioned peanut butter and maple syrup, which I have been eating for breakfast ever since. Needless to say when in the vicinity I had to revisit to make sure I hadn’t imagined it, hands down my favourite breakfast with coffee of course.

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Porridge, peanut butter and maple syrup in Bob & Berts, Lisburn
http://bobandberts.com

One of the main things I really wanted to do was bring the dogs to Tollymore Forest Park in Newcastle, we had been there earlier in the year, see blog about the here, and at the time I thought they would love it.

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Missy loving the wind in her hair, and mouth, and nose, and eyes !!!

I also wanted to camp there, but sadly when we arrived it was completely full. Next time though I will book. As we were being turned away, the forest warden there kindly told us about a place just two miles away called Meelemore lodge, where they would have places to camp.

Camping with our Dogs

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

http://www.meelmorelodge.co.uk

Following the direction we easily found it, and the wonderful vista of Hare’s Gap that we would be waking up to the following morning. Tent/Awning erected we went for a short walk up towards the Hare’s Gap, but as it was quite warm we took it easy and sat by a small stream with the dogs.

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Camp site with Hare’s Gap in the distance.

The campsite itself was lovely, with a café/ bistro attached, ample washing area, and dog friendly, a fortuitous find for sure.

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Awning pitched for the night, first outing without the camper van.

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Pathway up towards Hare’s Gap.

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Missy ready and waiting for her walk.

That evening we went into Newcastle, had a walk by the beach with the pups and had a vegan curry takeaway sitting beneath the Mourne Mountains.

Tollymore Forest

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Entrance to Tollymore Forest Park.

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Vista from Tollymore Forest Park into the Mourne Mountains.

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

One of the many follies in Tollymore Forest Park.

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

On the way to the river.

The following morning, up bright and early we headed on to the original intended destination Tollymore Forest park. Parking up we made our down towards the river Shimna, which runs through the forest. Sitting out on the river with the dogs as the played in the water.

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Puppies in the river Shimna.

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Missy.

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Daisy.

We then opted for the Arboretum walk, which is is quite short.

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Alan & Daisy

Towards the end of the walk we came across a Cork tree, which is native to the Mediterranean basin, being Spain, Italy, France, Portugal and Northern Africa. I’d never actually seen one, but of course I’m very familiar with the product created from it, corks for the top of wine bottles, and the many bags and shoe designs found through out the shops in Portugal. The tree is quite stunning to see up close.

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Cork tree

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Cork tree details

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Short video about cork harvesting

 

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Finally it was back to the car for the trip home, with many coffee and water breaks. Till next weekend that is 🙂

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Missy & Alan in Starbucks

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Daisy at the Applegreen

Road Trip & Camping with our Dogs

Missy & Daisy on the trip back to Galway.

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