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Walk of the Week: Loughbrickland

By Linda Stewart

The Historic Trail through Whyte’s Estate follows tree-lined paths through the woods and open countryside.

Historical traces range from more than 1,000 years ago when the impressive Coolnacran Ringfort and the smaller Johnston’s Fort were in use, to World War II when troops were stationed at the estate.

Directions

This walk is located within a privately owned estate. Public access is welcome but along the waymarked trails and on foot only. Please stay on the designated route as all other areas are private.

The walk starts at the entrance to Whyte’s Estate (Loughbrickland House) at the junction of Scarva Street and the Old Newry Road, Loughbrickland. There is a small private car park next to the estate gate lodge.

At the entrance stop and look for the interpretative board on the left with a map of the route.

The walk starts to the right of the avenue just past the replacement gate lodge built by the owner of the estate in 2008. You will see a wooden fingerpost indicating the start of the walk.

The walk travels through a woodland strip with glimpses of the parkland to the left — the surface can be uneven. Look out for the sections of concrete, vestiges of an army training camp of up to 2,000 troops which was based here during World War II.

You may see large, black targets along the woodland trail, as Ballyvally Archery Club uses the wood as its outdoor training range. On competition days the woodland walk will be closed. The Archery Club post notices at the entrance.

At the junction of the path, ignore the entrance to the Boundary Trail for now and follow the Woodland Trail up the hill, through the ash plantation, and climb two sets of steps to Coolnacran Fort, a scheduled historic monument.

Just beyond the steps you will pass the original entrance to this ringfort or ‘rath’ on the eastern downhill side of a drumlin. Follow the yellow waymark posts out of the wood to an avenue and turn left and walk towards a set of gates.

Go through the gate, closing it behind you, and turn right onto the back avenue, away from the house and gardens, which are strictly private.

Walk towards the Coolnacran Road gates at the back entrance to the estate. There is a choice of routes here with the turn to the left (waymarked yellow) completing the Woodland Trail and leading back to the Scarva Street entrance. The tree-lined path to the right is the Boundary Trail and follows an old ride that runs around the perimeter of the estate.

The surface can be uneven, wet and muddy with rough crossing places, steps and gates.

As you approach Johnston’s Fort, the second scheduled historic monument along the trail, you will see the Boundary Trail interpretative board to the right. Johnston's Fort, a raised rath, affords views down to Loughbrickland village and across the fields to the much larger Coolnacran Fort to the south west. On leaving Johnston's Fort the trail drops down to run parallel with the Old Newry Road.

As the trail re-enters the woodland, stay on the upper path and look out for the veteran oak on the left, estimated from its girth to be about 350 years old. On rejoining the Woodland Trail retrace your steps to Coolnacran Fort and follow the waymarkers to the back gates of the estate.

Take the Woodland Trail to the left and follow the waymarked path to return to the starting point.

The backdrop

In 2004, archaeological digs carried out just south of Loughbrickland uncovered evidence of three Neolithic house sites located near the lakeshore — dating from nearly 6,000 years ago, during the period when the first farmers came to Ireland.

The dig also uncovered a Bronze Age burial site containing cremation burials — evidence that people were living and burying their dead by the lake nearly 4,000 years ago.

Further information

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

CAAN and Banbridge District Council 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: Loughbrickland Walk (Whyte’s Estate).

Area: Co Down.

Nearest big town to start point: Loughbrickland.

Distance: 2.5 miles/4km Circular.

Time: Walkers should leave approximately an hour and a half.

Suitability: This trail can be uneven with some rough surfaces, which can become muddy in wet weather. Not suitable for those with limited mobility

Facilities: Toilets at Loughbrickland Park. Café at Centra Store, Dublin Road, in Loughbrickland

Publications: Walk in the Whyte’s Estate & Loughbrickland Historic Trail available free of charge from Banbridge TIC, tel: 028 4062 3322 or online at banbridge.gov.uk.

Walk Developed By: Banbridge District Council.

Map: Sheets 20 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).

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