Ards Forest Park is a large, publicly-accessible area of parklands located on the northern coastline of County Donegal. Near the town of Dunfanaghy, the park encompasses perhaps the widest variety of landscapes of any of Ireland’s many forest parks. The park stretches to 118,00 acres (480 hectares) -- more than one hundred thousand football fields.
In addition to the coastal area of Sheephaven’s Bay, the park contains
- salt marshes
- sandy beaches
- and rivers
Within the wooded grounds of Ards Forest Park, visitors will fine several fortified prehistoric sites, including a megalithic dolmen. Also interesting is the Capuchin friary estate, still inhabited by Capuchin monks.
The park has three wooded trails for walking -- two of these are about 2 miles / 3.5km long each, and follow a circular route. The third is about 8 miles / 13km long, but does not loop back to the starting point.
Ards Forest Park also offers a car park and children's outdoor playground. There are also many picnic sites available in the park.
The park is also popular with ornithologists -- expert and amateur. The main area of interest to this group -- the salt marshes -- is well sign-posted within the park. The salt marshes are a protected wildlife conservation area, since they are a wintering ground for many species. A purpose built hide has been constructed on the marsh to allow visitors to view the feeding birds.
The park also contains a popular mountain bike trail through the wooded and hill areas.
From Letterkenny, County Donegal, take the N56 road to Kilmacrennan/Dunfanaghy for 30km / 18.5 miles. Go straight through the villages of Kilmacrennan and Creeslough, staying on the N56. The entrance to Ards Forest Park is located on the right, and about halfway between Creeslough and Dunfanaghy. Travel time is about 35 minutes.
Ards Forest Park. Image: Liam Moloney