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/

Burren National Park Sunday Walk

Burren National Park Sunday Walk

It has been a while since we had a small adventure, and it has definitely been missed. Over the past few weeks we have been de-cluttering the stuff in our lives, just items we have hung onto, for really no reason. So the last few weekends have been all about, donating, repurposing, and giving away lots of the stuff we own. As a consequence we haven’t gotten out to do what we really want, which is walking, hiking through all of the amazing places we are surrounded by. On a side note, us de-cluttering our lives has really been prompted by our move to wanting to spend more time outdoors, the less time and worry over stuff the more time outside – so yeah, and yeah to more de-cluttering.

One of the walks on our very long to do list is actually quite close to us, the Burren National Park is situated in the south-east of the Burren, Co Clare, which is just about a fifty minute drive from Galway City. The trail head is at these co-ordinates Latitude: 52.996707 / Longtitude: -9.0372419

It is a little bit tricky to find, and the roads are quite narrow so I would definitely suggest using a GPS to locate, and as their website suggests park on a lay-by when you arrive.

The Burren (Irish: Boireann, meaning “great rock”) is a region in County Clare, Ireland.
The Burren is underlain by limestones of the Lower Carboniferous (Visean) period. The limestone formed as sediments in a tropical sea which covered most of Ireland approximately 350 million years ago.

The start of the trail is easily to find and shows the various trails marked out to follow. We decided on the blue route which is a 7.5 km walk. It is classed as difficult and it is best if you have the right walking gear, in particular boots. The walk loops around the summit of Mullaghmore Mountain, passing along the shore of Lough Gealain, through large expanses of open limestone pavement, some grasslands and hazel woodland.

Relatively it is quite a small mountain, the whole trail has a climb of 140 metres, and on a sunny day it is the most spectacular landscape. I was completely mesmerised by the interplay of light on the limestone paving, starkly bouncing off the lake, as the odd cloud created shadows making everything look like an upside down world.

Initially, we followed the markers, but then somehow we missed one, and ending up looping off in the wrong direction, a minor clue might have been that we ran out of blue markers and then had to hop a wall, but it was an adventure after all.

After walking a bit more than we should have, Alan consulted his map and realised we had over shot where we should have been, which meant we had to scale up a vertical grass area and go over the top of Mullaghmore, not go around at all.

So doing my best wild mountain goat impression, I followed Alan, a bit red faced up and over a few rock faces until eventually we relocated the blue trail. Easy peasy!!!

Mind you though, there were a few people who did exactly as we did, missing the turn to the left we should have followed, so we weren’t the only ones heading over the summit :).

In all the walk took about three and a half hours, and was thoroughly enjoyable, my imagination ran riot, with the landscape, trees, cows standing looking down at us from the top of the mountain, the wild goats who gave us a wide berth and the standing rocks, it was like walking through the pages of a fantasy novel from inside my head. On a sunny day there is no better place to be.

For further information on the Burren National Park log onto their website http://www.burrennationalpark.ie or follow them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/burrennationalpark

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.

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