Less than an hour from where I live is Lough Key, a lake hosting over thirty islands and some spectacular scenery. I took a drive around the lake and my first stop was an impressive modern sculpture of The Gaelic Chieftan on the Curlew Pass, unmissable on the N4 Dublin to Sligo road. Affectionately known locally as ‘the ass on the pass’, it commemorates a battle, which took place in 1599. I’d admit the sculpture looks better from afar, but the views of the lake are equally fabulous.
Driving a couple of miles towards the town of Boyle, I rediscovered Doon Shore, where I used to swim when I was a child, several decades ago. It still looks safe enough to swim, an area having been cordoned off, and I may well bring my suit next time and take a dip.
Driving into Boyle, where the actor Chris O’Dowd grew up and filmed his childhood memories in the Sky comedy, Moone Boy, I turned left and found one of the many entrances to Forest Park: Rockingham Arch, an impressive gate lodge built in the early 1800s.
I walked in and found myself in the park itself. Forest Park, on the shores of Lough Key, has a myriad of activities to offer.
Driving into the entrance on the N4, my Satnav stated I was in the Rockingham Demesne, and indeed the remains of Rockingham Castle, on the nearest island to the shore, can be seen amongst the leafy, green foliage.
I have not been out to the island, but I did take a closer look at a folly to the right of the car park, where in days gone by the gentry may have sat to enjoy the beautiful view.
The ruins of a church, destroyed by fire, is at the entrance to the park. Bring a picnic, or eat in the café and the time will soon slip away as there is plenty to do, even if it’s just kick a ball around the lawns with the kids and indulge in an ice cream whilst watching the swans and ducks!
Boasting 1,300 acres, I didn’t participate in the zip wire, nor hire a bike, nor take a boat onto the waters, nor climb the concrete tower. What I did do was walk, and walk and walk some more. It is a dog walker’s paradise, and a joy for joggers and runners with numerous trails of varying degrees of length and difficulty.
As the name suggests the landscape is mostly forest, but the trails are easy to follow and there are little surprises around every corner. A carved wooden seat, or a fairy bridge, where I made a wish. It seemed the right thing to do, when crossing, but I’ve no idea if it’s a common occurrence. Perhaps I’ve set a trend.
On another trail is a statue of a mother and child is set back in a small clearing in the trees…
…and for those who can deal with heights there is a walkway through the treetops giving fabulous views across the lake and surrounding countryside.
A few miles further down the road is Carrick upon Shannon, in the county of Leitrim, which is a bustling county town with plenty of places to eat, drink and be merry, but I will write another blog about my visit there. Meanwhile, during the Covid pandemic I’m enjoying exploring closer to home, discovering the wonders on my doorstep, revisiting places, and finding new ones.
Keep safe and keep well.