How to have a great time visiting delightful Ards Forest Park in Donegal

Even though we have been travelling together for over 16 years, we’ve bearly scratched the surface. And, since our little one arrived into this world three and a half years ago, it’s all about embracing the art and engraving the importance of travelling slower and deeper. That’s why we made a conscious decision to spend more time exploring our own backyard. 

Some of the places we had scheduled to explore this summer like Ireland’s island’s that we have never visited and Wild Atlantic Way signature points still remain on the ever-growing list. But there is one place we are eager to share with you, one area that we didn’t even plan on visiting.

With this blog post, we would love to take you to yet another favourite place of ours – Ards Forest Park.

With conditions looking promising for an upcoming weekend in Donegal, we packed our bags and filled our campervan with healthy snacks.  We made a two-hour drive up north to Dunfanaghy town and jumped at a chance to spend some time in the heart of the ancient fishing port.

The ride itself was something special, after leaving Sligo town, we slowly traversed through pretty villages and vast fields scattered with grazing sheep. And, right after we left Letterkenny, passed by Drongawn Lough and pushed further and further up North along N56, the landscape beautifully opened up.

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In addition to woodlands and beaches, you’ll also find archaeological and historical features.

 

On our way to Dunfanaghy, we had a choice between visiting either Glenveagh National Park or Ards Forest Park.  As much as we wanted to see the Lough Veagh and Glenveagh Castle again, the need for new scenery was more alluring.

So we decided to spend a day at Ards Park, and we were treated to special conditions. The rugged coastline, the little white sand inlets and the textures of the rocks is something needed to be seen.

I was so struck by the stunning scenery that I just couldn’t tear myself away from the unfolding view. This place spoke to me volumes by making me instantly happy, fuzzy and elated. I slowly took a deep breath of hot summer air, grabbed my camera a fired off a few shots.

I will never get tired of nature, that’s for sure!

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The incredibly pretty coastal scenery at Ards Forest Park.
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Blooming wildflowers.

 

How to have a great time visiting delightful Ards Forest Park in Donegal

Ard’s forest park, owned by Coillte the Irish Forestry Company, covers 480 acres. There is a small cafe, a children’s playground with access to a beautiful beach, a spacious car park and picking area. Entrance to the park is EUR 5. If you are looking for a stroll or want to explore the park on your bike, you can visit their official online site to download a trail map.

In this blog post, we are sharing a few things you could do while visiting Ards Forest Park. Even though the list is relatively small, it took us a full day to tick off all the boxes. So, let’s get started.

 

#1. Spot the wildlife

It’s crucial to make some space in our busy life’s to see and to feel. We don’t always have to be ahead of everything and everyone. And it’s important to let the beauty of the world refill our souls and expand our minds.

Walking around the beautiful park, we were reminded that summers in Ireland are something to get excited about. We saw more birds, bees and butterflies than we could even count. And most importantly,  I saw how Ericeiras eyes light up as she pointed to delicate creatures and wanted to know everything about them.

We were exposed to splashes of colours, and whenever we look back on the photos from this particular road trip, we recalled gentle humming made by insects.

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Pretty butterflies and eventful summer days in Ards Forest Park.
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It’s the simple things that make life happy.

 

#2. Enjoy coastal scenery

We love how every part of this country has something beautiful to offer. We were very fortunate to have a warm and sunny August day for our visit. Without an agenda, we started walking down The Sand Dune Trail to the nearest viewpoint. This walk is a combination of the wooden boardwalk, forest track and sand dune complex. Even though the length of it is just 1 kilometre, we saw a lot of great views from this stretch of the walk.

As soon as we left the carpark, this peaceful and easy walk that follows the coastline took us on a very scenic tour.  We discovered fascinating views over the Back Strand and Clonmass Bay, and along the way, we caught a glimpse of soft waters and sensed a lovely pine forest smell. The sand was so soft and so warm that once we reached the beach, we continued onwards barefoot.

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Spectacular coastal views around every corner.
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Family time while visiting and playing at Ards Forest Park.

 

#3. Go for a walk

With the fullness and greenest of the forests and with the multiple trails to choose from, Ards Forest Park would suit every class of walkers. Those that decide to make a journey to this Park are rewarded with intriguing natural beauty. If you are visiting in summer, make sure you bring sunscreen and bug spray.

There are 9 different trails, all of them well kept and very well signposted. The Red Trail is the longest one and stretches for 13 kilometres around the perimeter of the forest park.

We saw many young families and active parents, some of them with pushchairs, taking advantage of the easy hikes.

After a walk, we sat in a shade of a Hazelwood and took in the sounds and smells of surroundings. The sun was beaming in all its glory as we enjoyed a perfect summers day.

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Ards Forest Park is one of the most diverse places in Ireland.

 

What to see and do nearby

See the Horn Head / As the weather began to change and dark rain clouds crawled in, slowly closing in on the view, I realised that unusual things can be found in nature even when the weather conditions turn for the worse. We could barely make out the shape of the Horn Head and the 180m high cliffs. A  little bit more of the fog and you couldn’t tell that one of the most imposing cliffs are right in front of your eyes.

Visit Duntally Nature Reserve  / is a nice mixture of an oak, hazel and ash woodland. During the springtime, the forest floor is blooming with bluebells and wild garlic. And when it comes to birds, you’ll see Tree-creepers, colourful Jays, Long-tailed tits and Woodpigeons. From the car-park, a 2.5-kilometre loop walk brings you into the beautiful valley.

Go surfing with Narosa / After a brief theory and warm-up that includes stretching and jogging, you’ll get a chance to practice paddling and board positioning on dry land before you’ll hit the water. Using knowledge and experience, your surf instructor will help you to catch the waves.

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Enjoying life and creating lasting memories in Donegal.

 

How to get to Ards Forest Park

Ards Forest Park is located 5 kilometres from Creeslough village on N56 in County Donegal. Because this part of Ireland is made for adventurous road trips, your best option is to rent a car. The landscape, the views and the wonders of Donegal is something that can be genuinely experienced (and accessible)  only when you are driving.

 

Where to stay nearby

The nearby town of Dunfanaghy, located just 10 minutes away,  is a great choice to stay for a night or two. Here you’ll find Arnold’s Hotel, Narosa surf shop, pottery studio and a few energetic pubs.

On the previous trip, we decided to stay in Corcreggan Mill, which is a rebuilt 18th century Mill House with affordable accommodation and lots of character. In addition to comfortable rooms you can also stay in a Glamping Trawler, Bell Tents, 150 years old Glamping Carriage or pitch your own tent.

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A great place to relax, read and get away from a busy life.

 

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Now, over to you!

Have you been to Ards Forest Park? Let us know in the comments below!

Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Ards Forest Park and have travel-related questions!

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Our Crossings follows the daily adventures of Latvian expats living in Sligo as they surf and explore the world

21 thoughts on “How to have a great time visiting delightful Ards Forest Park in Donegal

    1. This was one of the best days our family has experienced exploring Ireland’s parks! We had only one day and ended hiking short trails, photograph butterflies and recharging our batteries. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Marie, this was our first time visiting Ards Forest Park and we were delighted to spend a day walking around; there are so many beautiful spots in Ireland, we are truly grateful to call this island our home.

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  1. Thanks so much for the tour of this beautiful place in Ireland. I love nature! I’ve been to Scotland, but never Ireland. Hope to go someday. My cousin from Germany raves about it! 🙂

    ❤️carmen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You would absolutely love Ireland, this place has a way of working its way into your heart! And if you are willing to skip touristy stuff, you’ll encounter many magical places that will stay with you forever 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Angela, that means a lot to me. I didn’t think anyone would be interested, apart from my family, to read our travel blog because there’s a wealth of good travel blogs with spine-tingling stories that we are nowhere near to match! Have a good day

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ireland is easy to love. My last time there I got lost in the countryside, stopped at a house to ask directions and stayed for a few hours of talk and tea. My host and I were delighted to learn that a friend of hers lives in my neighborhood in New York. She knew my building. Donegal is my list for my next visit after seeing relatives in Mayo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely love your story, thanks for sharing it, and that’s one of the reasons we enjoy living and travelling around Ireland. Seeing and photographing majestic natural marvels are always exciting but encountering the kindness of the strangers while traveling the world is soul fulfilling! Have a good day and thanks for stopping by Our Crossings

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by. It was our first time visiting Ards Forest Park, and we couldn’t believe how serene it was. What made it stand out from all the other parks in Ireland – in addition to beautiful forest trails you are within a short walk from beautiful beaches and stunning coastal views. Have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

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