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Saturday, 12 April 2014

Surprise Visit to Gortarowey (Ben Bulben)

As part of some Saturday errands, Claire wanted to check in to Drumcliffe Te Room as they sell a lot of her Yeats CDs there and were out of stock.

In two week's time our Bards In The Woods meet up is at Gortarowey Forest on Sunday 27th April. I wanted to get a Facebook Places locked in, to help people find the place, and a few pics near the entrance. This is near Drumcliffe.



I was a bit sceptical of going to this forest. I have not been there and reviews I have read were not favourable. This is a mainly sitka spruce plantation and the track is a straight path. I thought this could be a very boring place. What a surprise to discover it is not boring at all !!!

The Google Maps Street View shows a raggedy road going up to a gate and no vision of anywhere to park.



This turning left and forest sign are not on the Street View. But there is a new and quite spacious car park here.



Surprisingly, no picnic tables but I think this amenity is only just starting to be promoted. From the main N15 its is well signposted, with brown signs, as 'Ben Bulben Forest Walk' and is very well signposted thereafter.

My idea was to just log in the car park on Facebook Places, take a short walk and take a few pics, then leave to return for the walk in two weeks.

Here's the map of the two walks here, one 4 km, and the other local loop walk, 0.25 km



Already mesmerized by the scenes from here, I totally forgot to log into Facebook Places. We took the short circle walk first that starts off with a lovely trees and Ben Bulben scene.



The the path is like this ...

Getting mysterious like this ...



Then to this seat overlooking the Donegal Bay sea.



On the return a look through the trees at Ben Bulben again, and this circle walk is all local native trees of birch, alder, willow, holly, hazel, rowan, hawthorn.



Then within a couple of minutes, back to the car park again and a clearer view of Ben Bulben.



Curiosity had got us. How about a look at a bit of the long trail?

So we set off on that, which starts as a windy path.



that follows a narrow bubbling stream



Then the path opens into a long straight track with a monoculture plantation of sitka spruce one side, but some native woodland on the other side behind the rhododendrons.



That track is quite an uphill climb for about 1.5 km, but that's useful for the downhill on the way back.

Some wonderful vistas of Ben Bulben opened up

and the landscape beyond quite awesome




We wanted to just keep hiking on.

Storms had obviously gushed around the mountain and hit come of this monoculture woodland head on.



We reached The Gate, half way. Shall we go on?



Of course we did. That bit of forest in the horizon is a loop at the end of the trail, and it looked so near :-)

Landscape away from the forest was interesting too.



So we reached that wee forest, and here is where the loop starts



First, a winding section



Then it opens up like this. The flat rock face to the left of the pyramid looking bit is a disused quarry.



Around the loop there is a glorious view of Donegal Bay. Normally, Slieve League cliffs and the SW Donegal coastline would be clear, but it was hazy today. Also visible is Inishmurray Island, but it does not show in photograph here.



There is one seat here. Its the only on on this longer walk.



Time to return ...



but there are still spectacular pics of Ben Bulben to take ...



And now the last stretch to the car park ...



Overall, this Ben Bulben Forest Walk is much more exciting than I imagined, but looking back at these pics perhaps I have not captured that as it is hard to capture in still pictures.

This is not really a mindfulness or forest bathing kind of forest. Neither is it really an activity forest. The track is an easy walk for people with wheelchairs and strollers right through.

This is a forest for everyone to enjoy, and enjoy its calmness but also its spectacular presence.

There are two ancient ring circles above the car park. I may investigate those next time.

Meanwhile, I highly recommend you joining us for our Bards In The Woods meet up here on Sunday 27th April at 3 pm. I cannot see anyone not enjoying here. Pity there isn't a picnic table or two here yet. PLenty of nice places for a picnic blanket though, on the smaller native woodland circle.







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