Walk of the Week: Beech Wood Walk, Castle Coole
This short walk leads through the beautiful grounds of the Castle Coole Estate, a National Trust treasure on the eastern fringes of Enniskillen.
Castle Coole provides an escape to the country for locals and visitors alike. Within the estate you will discover a Romanesque gate lodge built around 1860, an impressive Wellingtonia tree standing at more than 40 metres in height, and a pump house originally powered by horse to pump water from Lough Coole uphill to the mansion.
Castle Coole is located 1.5 miles south east of Enniskillen, off the A4 to Belfast. Parking is located beside the reception and tea room area.
Adjacent to the car park is the grand yard and laundry yard, where visitors can imagine the hive of activity in this area in former times. Also from the car park, visitors will see the entrance to the servants’ tunnel that connected the outhouses to the servants’ quarters in the basement of the house. The grand yard was occupied by US officers during the Second World War.
From the car park, take the steps. At the top of the steps, the Beech Wood Walk is signposted to the left. The path takes a circular route through the early 18th century woodland, with Beech, Oak and Scots Pine overhead.
After walking for approximately 350 metres, a footpath to the left leads a short distance to the Ice House, which dates back to 1794.
Retrace your steps back to the main Beech Wood pathway. Continue on the pathway for approximately 150 metres — at this point the walker can turn left or right. To continue on the Beech Wood Walk turn right. For any walkers feeling energetic, taking a left turn at this junction leads to the Gortgonnell Walk, which will take a further 30 minutes to complete.
Approximately 50 metres further along the Beech Wood Walk, the front of the mansion will come into view. The path will continue on and finish at the starting point at the top of the steps which leads back to the car park.
The park at Castle Coole, apart from its role as the setting of the mansion, is of considerable importance in its own right. It has survived relatively intact and still retains much of the integrity of a late 18th century landscape park with an important residual content of early 18th century formal landscaping and planting.
The beech wood, which forms an important backdrop to the mansion, is a tranquil walk through unspoilt nature. The wood was planted around 1709 with a mixed group of Beech, Oak and Scots Pine. The wood still has oak trees dating back to the early 18th century and contains the oldest trees in the park.
As part of the Beech Wood walk, walkers will pass the Ice House, which dates back to 1794. It is made of brick and shaped like an inverted cone with a dome vaulted top.
In frosty weather it would have been filled with ice from a nearby pond, the ice being broken into a coarse powder, rammed down and consolidated with water or salt water. Meat game, fish, poultry, dairy produce and fruit were stored in the body of the ice or the space above it. The ice was also used in the making of cold drinks and frozen puddings.
The top of the slopes on the walk provide splendid views eastwards to Topped Mountain.
The 18th century mansion will also come into view, designed by James Wyatt and completed in 1798 for the 1st Earl of Belmore. The interior was created by some of the leading craftsmen of the 18th and 19th century.
Fermanagh is also home to two other National Trust properties — the 18th Century Florence Court and Crom, a tranquil landscape of islands, woodland and historic ruins.
For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com.
Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (formerly CAAN) in association with Belfast Telegraph has provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland 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.
Walk Name: Beech Wood Walk, Castle Coole.
Area: Fermanagh Lakelands.
Nearest big town to start point: Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.
Distance: Less than 1km.
Terrain: This is an easy grade walk on surfaced woodland paths. However, it is not suitable for wheelchair users as there are some steep inclines in places.
Access Restrictions: The estate grounds at Castle Coole are open to the public from 10am to 7pm from March through until October and from 10am to 4pm from November to the end of February. There is an admission charge of £3 per adult for cars and £2 per adult for pedestrians.
Refreshments: Snacks and refreshments can be purchased from the tea room, which is open from 11am to 5pm everyday throughout the summer and at weekends during September and March. The tea room is closed during the winter.
Publications: 25 Walks in Fermanagh. You can pick up a copy of this from Fermanagh Tourist Information Centre, tel: 028 66 323110
Walk Developed By: The National Trust.
Map: LPSNI Fermanagh Lakeland, on both Upper Lough Erne and Lower Lough Erne maps, 1:25000 scale. Also Discoverer Series, Sheet 18 Enniskillen 1:50000 scale.