Go walk: Donadea Forest Park, Co. Kildare
Photograph: Getty Images
Although rewarding, getting to the tops of mountains can be a trial for some at the best of times. This winter, with so much water rolling off the hills, approaching summits has been a far muckier and draining (no pun intended) experience: the hills are alive with the sound of running water.Which is why, today, I am bringing you to the bogs of north Kildare. It is not some cruel sense of humour that makes me recommend this area, where the water table lies mere centimetres below your feet, but more because the walk is on roads and established trails – waymarked in the forest park – and the worst you will end up with is mucky boots.
On our day out we used one car which left us with a 2.5/3km road walk at the end, but with two cars you can shorten the walk by leaving one in the forest carpark. Our starting point was at Roche’s Pub, in Derrycrib. Roche’s is a sight to behold and is worth the journey if only to marvel at the quality of construction in days gone by.
From Roche’s, head west along this busy road (take care) for 650m, before turning left at a point where a green-stained wooden shed/stable lies below road level in the field on your right. Continue down this narrow lane – in a southwesterly direction – and then swing left (southeast) until you reach a T-junction about 1km from the road. You are now in bog country, and the evidence of turf-cutting is all around you. Go left at the T-junction (east) and continue to another, less obvious, T-junction and turn right. Continue along this twisting lane, known locally as the Range, for 2.2km, which near its end becomes a metalled road and is graced on the right by a row of terraced, well-preserved, estate-workers cottages, also known as the Range. At this point you are at the Enfield-Prosperous road, and on the other side lies an entrance to Donadea Forest Park.
Cross the road and head into the park. Now you enter an area steeped in history – it is the site of part of the Slíghe Mhór (the very old Dublin/ Galway road), one of the ancient roadways of Ireland. Apparently, St Patrick travelled on this road and established a church here in 455AD, on the site at St Peter’s church on the edge of the park. The Normans arrived in the 12th century and the Aylmer family in 1558. The Aylmers continued to develop the estate, finally selling the property to the Department of Lands, in 1935.
After you enter the forest you encounter a major junction (200m). Just ahead lies the 9/11 Memorial – a replica of the Twin Towers cut from limestone – in commemoration of those who died in the attacks in 2001, but especially to the memory of Sean Tallon, a firefighter with the New York Fire Department who lost his life in the Twin Towers and whose father was born in Donadea.
Back at the junction, turn south on to the Aylmer Walk. After 1.6km the trail swings east and loops around the park and back towards the castle, crossing Lime Tree Avenue along the way. Here you will find a welcoming log-cabin café before continuing past the castle towards St Peter’s church, where many of the Aylmers are interred.
From this point, you continue on a metalled road for 500m before reaching the main Maynooth-Derrycrib road. Turn left and you face into a 2.5/km road walk back to Roches, passing Connolly’s Pub on the way.
WALK IN NORTH KILDARE:
Getting there:M4 Dublin to Maynooth, exit 7 on to R406 (to Barberstown). After 2km, right at ESB substation. Continue for 13/14km.
Start/ finish:Roche’s Pub, Derrycrib.
Distance and time:11/12km. 2.5/3 hours.
Suitability:Easy (take care on roads).
Map: coillteoutdoors.ie for the forest park; google maps, satellite view, for bog trails.