Even though we have been travelling together for over 16 years, we’ve bearly scratched the surface of what Ireland and this big beautiful world have to offer. 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 upon moving to Sligo, we made a conscious decision to spend more time exploring our own backyard and especially County Donegal.
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 – beautiful Ards Forest Park.
With conditions looking promising for an upcoming weekend in Donegal, we packed our bags and filled our campervan with pots, pans, hiking gear and 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.
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!
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.
#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.
#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.
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.
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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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!