At the foot of the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland sits the traditional seaside resort of Newcastle and nearby, the Tollymore Forest Park. On the Easter bank Holiday Monday this is where we headed on a family day out.
It seemed everyone in Northern Ireland was planning on heading to the coast on the same day so it came as no surprise that we were stuck in a queue on the roads approaching bottlenecks on the way to the Tollymore Forest Park but eventually we made it, paid the £4.40 car entrance fee and joined the parade of hundreds of other cars that once parked sprawled over the tarmac and grass all around the front of the grounds to the park. It was a little worrying that there seemed to be more cars and people then trees on this day in this forest park but after a picnic lunch we headed out onto one of the trails to see what we would find. We just stuck to the red path as we were planning on heading on into Newcastle afterwards so didn't want to be too long.
The red trail passes down a scenic garden path lined with colourful bushes and trees.
At the bottom of this path there is the Shimna River.
We walked along the path upstream admiring the small waterfalls and pools before eventually crossing a bridge to the other side where there were more views of the river and it's scenic paths to be had.
At the other side of the river was a walk through a section of managed evergreen forest and very tall trees they were, looking up really meant bending your head back...
We carried on along the path avoiding large groups of people until we reached a shallow lake.
This was the point where I started to notice the lack of wildlife in this forest park. It might just have been the amount of people and dogs present that had scared all the creatures into hiding but take the lake for instance... there were more dogs swimming in the lake then ducks. The reflections of the trees on the water (where the water was not disturbed by pesky dogs) was rather memorising.
We then crossed back across the river looking back down into the river from the bridge.
Just over the bridge were some some young trees where bluebells were scattered the forest floor.
What goes up much come down and we'd already had the down so it was time to go back up. A lengthy hill followed, filled again with people and a worrying amount of canines.
This grassy hill was a mess that was peppered by the remains of hard boiled eggs presumably from some Easter egg roll. The dogs were all sniffing and in some cases trying to eat the eggy remains, some a little old and some seemingly being freshly created... as we reached the top of the hill, there were some parents with their teenage kids throwing hard boiled eggs at one another and to their dogs. Must be some 'dog person' tradition or something, I just found it a real inconvenience trying to dodge dogs on the floor and cooked yolk and egg white whilst whistling through the air whilst slightly out of breath and I put my camera away for safe keeping!
Thankful, we reached the top we headed back to the makeshift car park.
My mother-in-law was waiting for the four of us to return and after another chill and having to prevent a dog (admittedly a very cute one) from trying to join us in the car, we headed on to Newcastle - the one in County Down that is.
The forest park was very pretty and I'd love to go back at some point in the future to walk the rest of the trails but I think for my own sanity it'd have to be at a quite time and not on a bank holiday Monday.