• Ali Isaac

Planning your Visit to Ireland? Deerpark Forest

Updated: Feb 22, 2020

Welcome to a new feature on Aliisaacstoryteller. Are you planning a visit to Ireland? Over the coming weeks, I’ll be featuring places in Ireland that I love, and which are, I think, well worth a visit. Some will be familiar to you, others will get you off that beaten tourist track, and make your visit to Ireland a more memorable and unique one.

A notice board with map greets visitors to Deerpark Forest
The entrance to Deerpark Forest, Virginia, Co. Cavan.
Paths are good for buggies and wheelchairs.
Paths are good for buggies and wheelchairs.
View from a bridge looking upriver amongst the trees
You’re never far from water.
The aperture in the hillside which reveals St Patrick's Holy Well
St Patrick’s Holy Well blends unobtrusively into the hillside.
A Close up of St Patrick’s Holy Well.
Close up of St Patrick’s Holy Well.
Tumble-down stone structure of the old boat house
Approach to the old boat house.
The remains of an old stone stair case in the old boat house.
The old boat house.
Old boat house partially reclaimed by nature.
Slowly being claimed by the forest - the remains of the old boat house
Texture… rock, moss and lichen.
Texture… rock, moss and lichen.
Majestic tree cathedral.
Majestic tree cathedral.
Reflection of a cloudy sky in the still waters of Lough Ramor between stands of rushes.
Looking out over Lough Ramor from the old boat house.

Deerpark, Lough Ramor, Co. Cavan

I‘ve been coming here for years with my family, and love it just as much now as when I first ventured in among the trees. The Slí na Sláinte is a 5.5km circular walk through the forest, which passes the Virginia Golf Course, and follows the edge of Lough Ramor, but there is also a shorter 3km route, too.

The forest was established by the second Lord Headfort, Thomas Taylor, in the early nineteenth century; he planted ash, elm, oak, larch, spruce and Scots pine and some are still standing today. Now, the forest is managed by Coillte, but there is little interference with nature’s gardening plans.

The crumbling old boat house is all that remains of a once thriving ferry system which connected the small town of Virginia with Munterconnaught, dating as far back as the seventeenth century, when Virginia was established as a strategic staging and resting place for coaches travelling between Enniskillen and Dublin.

Prehistoric remains found in the region date back to 2000 BC. There are also many islands and crannogs on the lake, some of which were once inhabited by monks. In fact, it is said that a church on one of the islands was attacked by Vikings who came in boats up the River Boyne and Blackwater into Lough Ramor.

Lough Ramor is one of the largest lakes in Co Cavan, being 7 km long, and only 1 km wide at its narrowest point. It flows into the River Blackwater, and has been designated as a proposed Natural Heritage Area. It is popular with anglers, as it waters teem with  pike, bream, roach, trout and eel.

Ramor and the forest are home to many species of wild life:  cormorants, whooper swans, ducks and grey herons are most noticeable from among a thriving bird community, and I’ve also seen foxes as I’ve been walking there. However, the forest is most famous for its jaw-dropping blanket of bluebells in the spring… it really is incredible to see!

It’s very quiet and peaceful beneath the trees. Golden sunlight filters through a thick canopy of leaves which screens the sky from view, and a choir of birdsong harmonised by the trickle of water, or the wash of lakeside wavelets floats through the air. I’ve never seen so many variations of green anywhere else! I always leave the forest relaxed, with all my problems solved… in theory, at least.

Head north up the M3 from Dublin, and keep going until you get to Virginia. In the town, take the left left fork by the triangle, go past Supervalue on your left, and turn left by the Rugby Club. You can park in the Rugby Club’s car park, which is right beside the entrance to the forest. Parking and visiting the forest is free. Enjoy!

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