Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Walk of the Week: Tollymore Forest Park

This trail descends Tollymore’s Azalea Walk to the Shimna River and then turns upstream along the attractive tree-lined riverbank past the Hermitage to cross the river at Parnell's Bridge. The 10-metre cascade fall is a spectacular sight.

Directions

Tollymore Forest Park is signposted from Newcastle. Take the road to Bryansford, the entrance to Tollymore Forest Park is on the left.

Walkers should follow the red waymarker arrows from the car park down the Azalea Walk towards the Shimna River to the Hermitage.

This trail passes through both conifer and broadleaved woodland before crossing the Shimna at Parnell’s Bridge. There are dramatic views of the Pot of Legawherry — a distinctive corrie carved by ice on the north-western slope of Slieve Commedagh — on offer from a number of points along the trail.

There is an optional spur to the White Fort Cashel before following the Spinkwee River downstream, past the cascades and back to the Meeting of the Waters.

The trail then proceeds through conifer plantations, past the duck pond and crosses the Shimna River over the Old Bridge, returning to the car park via the Green Rig.

THE BACKDROP

Tollymore lies in the heart of the designated Mourne and Slieve Croob Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The diversity of landscape within the park also provides a wide range of habitats that are rich in wildlife. One of the many species present within Tollymore is the native red squirrel.

The Forest Service became the sole owner of the former privately owned Roden Estate in 1941 and has continued the forest management that was begun by the Earls of Clanbrassil.

In 1955 it was opened as the first Forest Park in Ireland, to encourage the general public to come and visit the forest environment and enjoy its natural beauty. With the backdrop of the Mourne Mountains, the rivers and the afforested hills offer a recreational resource that is unparallelled within the province.

Two rivers, the Shimna and the Spinkwee, join together at the meeting of the waters. The Shimna is famed for its migrating native salmon.

The Spinkwee is also known as the Cascade due to a narrow gorge that, during high water levels, has a great volume of water cascading through it.

The Drinns are the two distinct hills seen from the main car park. The easterly drinn is the highest point within the forest park at 255m. The Curraghard viewpoint on the Drinns offers a resting spot to view the expansive view of the northern Mournes, Dundrum Bay and Slieve Croob.

Parnell’s Bridge, the last of the stone bridges constructed within the forest, was built in 1842 in recognition of Sir John Parnell’s visits to Tollymore in the latter half of the 18th Century.

Built into the edge of a gorge on the Shimna River, the stone hermitage was built in the 1770s by James Hamilton, 2nd earl of Clanbrassil. When the lady gentry of the day needed shelter they would sit inside the hermitage while the gentlemen fished for salmon or trout in the Shimna River below.

THE BACKDROP

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (caan) at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.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.

Walk Name: Tollymore Forest Park — River Trail.

Area: Mourne and Slieve Croob Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Nearest big town to start point: Newcastle.

Distance: 3.1 miles / 5.2km.

Suitability: This walk enjoys a mostly moderate gradient with some short steep sections. It must be noted that this walk is not suitable for those with limited mobility.

Access Restrictions: These walks are situated in a working forest environment and may be subject to diversion and closure from time to time. The park is open every day all year from 10am until sunset.

Facilities: Car park (fee charged), toilets (disabled access), picnic areas, camping and caravanning, electronic 'In-Touch' information kiosk, waymarked nature trails, guided tours available.

Publications: Tollymore Forest Park leaflet available at the park or to download from walkni.com.

Walk Developed By: This walk has been developed and is maintained by Forest Service NI.

Map: Sheet 29 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop, Lincoln Buildings 27-45 Great Victoria Street Belfast BT2 7SL or visit lpsni.gov.uk.

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