International Day of Forests: The best woodland walks to while away your weekend
These wooded wonderlands are well worth discovering
There’s something about the word ‘forest’ that sounds intrepid.
It summons images of wild, uncharted woodland, and dense near-impenetrable thickets. Think the sprawling pine forests of Siberia or the mysterious cloud forests of Costa Rica.
But the British Isles quietly possesses some of the finest forestry in Europe, much of it quite easily accessible. On International Day of Forests here are a few of our favourite woodland walks across England, Wales and Ireland to get you in the mood for Spring.
1. Hackfall Wood, Yorkshire
Quite literally picturesque – the river banks were painted by JMW Turner in 1815 – the woodlands of Hackfall have been inspiring visitors for generations.
First recorded in the Domesday Book and nodded at in the writings of Wordsworth, this Eden of the Dales has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its vast biodiversity, including UK classics like otters and kingfishers.
Though Hackfall is technically an enormous garden – created by landscape designer and Tory politician William Aislabie in the 18th century – the wildflowers and water features are stupefyingly scenic so take a woodland walk here when you can.
2. Reenadinna Wood, County Kerry
The pride of Killarney National Park, this extraordinary patch of forest is one of only three plots of pure yew woodland in the whole of Europe. The trees emerge from from cracks in the limestone floor, much of which is coated in a thick layer of pillowy moss.
At only 62 acres, it offers easy and mesmerising walking.
3. Grizedale, Cumbria
Grizedale’s 10 footpaths and nine cycle paths make offer plenty of choices for ramblers. Meandering trails pick their way through thick pine forest, at gradients ranging from gentle to punishing, while on the valley floor pedestrian pathways snake along the river banks.
Hardened hikers can climb Carron Crag – the highest point in the region, offering panoramic views across the Lakeland Fells.
Whatever your preference – be it a half hour stroll or trekking challenge, dramatic lakeside or babbling brook – Grizedale can probably provide.
4. Deerpark Forest, County Cavan
A gorgeous little circuit with a wild, weather-beaten aesthetic unexpected in a stroll this easy, the Deerpark Forest Walk follows 5.5km of tree-lined path past Virginia Golf Club and the charming Lough Ramor.
A welcoming route for hikers, buggies and wheelchairs alike, visitors can expect a kaleidoscopic palette of light and dark greens, except in May when the woods come alive with a thick blanket of bluebells.
5. St Mary’s Vale, Monmouthshire
The shifting, twisting branches of this ethereal Welsh woodland have long drawn comparisons with the forests of fantasy, looking as they do like contorted figures.
Leaves blanket the forest floor, while the canopy obscures all but slivers of sky, creating an eerie atmosphere. Local legend even holds that the woods are haunted, by a giant named Jack O’Kent.
Those venturing here may also come across some much smaller angry- looking critters – rare red wood ants. For those not easily spooked, it’s a fascinating place.
6. Brackloon Woods, County Mayo
A botanist’s dream, Brackloon is one of Ireland’s few remaining native woodlands, and its ancient oak trees have been the subject of several books.
Coated with fungi and lichen, the trees look every year of their age, and a walk through Brackloon feels like a visit to an era gone by.
At ground level, the plant life is just as beguiling – including rare shrubs like St. Dabaec’s heath, and a smattering of unusual orchids.
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