Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

Enjoy a Swift cycle in a tranquil country haven

By Linda Stewart

It’s rumoured that Jonathan Swift came to the rural haven of Loughgall to write his famous books, including the much-beloved Gulliver’s Travels.

This route takes you through Loughgall Country Park, a magnificent 188-hectare estate of open farmland and orchards with buildings of great historical interest.

The emphasis of the park is very much on families, but it is also enjoyed by those in search of a helping of tranquillity.

It offers three walking trails — Bridle, Orchard and Lakeside. The Lakeside Trail is unsuitable for bikes but the other two can be combined to form a beautiful five-mile route.

Directions

Loughgall Country Park is located on the B77 Armagh to Portadown Road. Car parking is available (£2 per day).

Follow the red triangles where the Bridle Trail cuts through the golf course, cross the 6th tee by the old Lime Kiln and enter the shade of the trees alongside the wall of the Drumilly Road. Remember the trail is used by horse riders, so be prepared to pull over and stop.

Pedal back into mature woodland and follow the red triangles right through the trees and join up with the Orchard Walk using blue squares. This takes you around the Old Cope Estate through forests and meadows. It's quite hilly but the views from above overlooking Armagh's orchards are magnificent.

Descend again, crossing the estate's towering lime tree avenue to the picnic area and car park beyond.

The Backdrop

Few scenes could be more beautiful than rural Armagh during apple blossom. The ‘Orchard County’ or the ‘Orchard of Ireland’ as it is known comes alive with colour as the flowers of the apple trees blanket much of the deep green landscape with an array of beautiful pinks ranging from delicate soft pinks to bright vibrant fuchsia.

During the cycle you will see Loughgall Hermitage — these were popular structures built during the 18th and early 19th centuries to enhance the landscape around stately homes and act as places to admire the view while taking refreshments.

Drumilly Hermitage was constructed on the side of a hill and built of rough uneven stones that give a craggy-like effect. Ideally such structures had a ‘hermit’ in residence wearing rustic clothes and looking wild, to alarm visitors.

Loughgall Hermitage is a particularly fine example of the type of romantic demesne feature and is most likely to have been built between 1800 and 1820.

The lime kilns at Loughgall are large cone-shaped constructions or ‘wells’ that were built into an embankment. Blocks of lime stone and fuel were carried up the ramp and thrown into the kilns. This mixture then burnt down the face of the bank and gravity ensured that it dropped to the bottom of the building, where the lime was drawn out. The main consideration in the design of such kilns was to burn as much lime as quickly as possible using the least amount of fuel and labour.

Under the terms of their Irish settlement in the early 17th century the Cope family were required to build a fortified enclosure called a ‘bawn’, which contained housing and stabling facilities. Drumilly ‘bawn’ was described in a survey of 1619 as being made of lime and stone. It measured a 180 feet square and was protected by walls that were 14 feet tall.

It had been traditionally supposed that the walled garden at Drumilly was the original bawn — probably because of its tall walls, gothic entrance and surrounding ditch. An archeological dig carried out when the Loughgall Country Park was being developed, however, showed that this was in fact an 18th century walled garden with a walkway running around the outside.

Further information

For further information on cycling or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) tel: 028 9030 3930 or cycleni.com.

CAAN in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.

Cycle Name: Loughgall Country Park.

Nearest big town to start point: Armagh, Portadown.

Distance: 5 miles circular.

Terrain: Traffic-free paths.

Refreshments and Facilities: Car parking, toilets, changing rooms, showers, trim trail, junior adventure trail, golf course, and a coarse fishing lake.

Publications: Loughgall Country Park Brochure downloadable from|loughgallcountrypark.co.uk

Cycle Developed By: Loughgall Country Park and Armagh District Council.

Map: Sheet 19 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).

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