32 great parks in Ireland – one in every county

Over the past year, Irish people have fallen back in love with the beautiful parks dotted around the island. Sylvia Thompson picked 32 of the best.

Antrim

Park name: Stormont Park, Upper Newtownards Road (A20), Belfast
Amenities: An all-inclusive play park for children of all abilities and outdoor gym equipment for older ages, signposted short and long woodland walks
Special features: Barbecue facilities and picnic tables.
Access: Public car parking and bus numbers 4a and 4b from Belfast City. (it is, actually, across the water in Co Down). Google Map “Stormont Park, Belfast”.
Dogs: Dogs must be kept on a lead except in the dog park known as “the bullfield” where dogs can run free.
Tip: If it’s lashing rain you can take a free tour of Stormont Parliament Buildings between 9am-4pm.

Armagh

Park name: Gosford Forest Park, Markethill
Amenities: Beautifully crafted wooden playground among the trees, walking, mountain bike and horse riding trails.
Special features: There’s a special “pump track” where beginner or experienced cyclists can improve their riding skills. Game of Thrones fans will recognise Gosford Castle used as a location for the hit TV series
Access: On-site car parking. Google Map “Gosford Forest Park”.
Dogs: Yes on leads and the Green Dog Walkers Pledge encourages all dog walkers to always clean up after their dog and encourage others to do so.
Tip: Bring a picnic and use barbecue facilities and picnic tables next to playground.

Trunk of a huge old tree in Gosford Forest Park, Markethill, Co Armagh
Gosford Forest Park

Carlow

Park name: Oak Park Forest Park, Carlow Town
Amenities: This 120 acre park has colour coded circular walkways of varying lengths with wheelchair-accessible surfaces. Accessible playground with a slide, swings and a wheelchair swing.
Special features: A great selection of trees including beech, oak, Scots pine, larch and sycamore.
Access: Free car parking on site. Google Map “Oak Park Forest Park”.
Dogs: Yes
Tip: Check out the ducks and swans on the lakes and go bird-watching for wild birds.

Cavan

Park name: Cavan Burren Park
Amenities: With over 10km of trails through one of Ireland’s most intact prehistoric landscapes, this is a perfect destination for geology and archaeology enthusiasts.
Special features: Signs along the walking trails explain the megalithic tombs and geological layers under your feet.
Access: On site car parking. Google Map “Cavan Burren Park”.
Dogs: Yes, dogs on leads allowed.
Tip: Discover the history of this ancient landscape in the interpretative centre or consider booking a tour with a local tour guide.

Clare

Park name: Dromore Wood Nature Reserve, Ruan
Amenities: Part of the Burren National Park, this 1,000 acre wood was designated a nature reserve in 1985. The natural features include rivers, lakes, turloughs, callows, limestone pavement, reed and rush beds, peatlands and woodland.
Special features: Plenty of historical and archeological interest including the 17th Century O’Brien castle, two ring forts, a limekiln and a children’s burial ground.
Access: car parking and free drop off and pick up on the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk shuttle bus. Google Map “Dromore Wood trailhead”.
Dogs: Yes, it’s great place for dog walking.
Tip: Download maps on burrennationalpark.ie to plan looped walks in advance. Consider asking for a free guided walk of the flora, fauna and geology of the Burren.

Cork

Park name: Fota Wildlife Park, Fota Island near Carrigtwohill
Amenities: A 40 hectare wildlife park with monkeys, giraffes, bisons, lemurs, pandas freely roaming in recreated spaces similar to their natural habitats.
Special features: Through its breeding programme, Fota Wildlife Park cares for several animal species in danger of extinction (including Cheetahs), helping to restore populations in the wild.
Access: €3 car parking fee gives entry to grounds of Fota House. Adults €16.50, children 3-16 €11.50, families from €49.50, see fotawildlife.ie.  Trains from Cork city stop at Fota Wildlife Park. Google Map “Fota Wildlife Park”.
Dogs: No dogs allowed. Seek advice on assistance dogs.
Tip: You can book a behind-the-scenes tour to interact with wardens and animal feeding staff.

Giraffes at Fota Wildlife Park. Fota Island near Carrigtwohill, Co Cork.
Fota Wildlife Park

Derry

Park name: Downhill Demesne, Sea Road, Castlerock
Amenities: This National Trust property is set in a stunning landscape which offers magnificent clifftop walks along the North Coast of Ireland.
Special features: The spectacular location of and views from the Mussenden Temple folly is a must see.
Access: Parking is advanced booking via paybyphone.co.uk. National Trust members park for free. The Ulsterbus 134 from Coleraine to Limavady stops very close by. Google Map “Downhill Demesne”.
Dogs: Dogs on leads.
Tip: Bring snacks and drinks and be prepared for energetic walks.

Mussenden Temple, Downhill Demesne, Castlerock, Co Derry. Has has became a major tourist attraction due to its popularity amongst Game of Thrones fans. Mussenden Temple, Downhill Demesne, Castlerock, Co Derry. Has has became a major tourist attraction due to its popularity amongst Game of Thrones fans.
Mussenden Temple

Donegal

Park name: Glenveagh National Park.
Amenities: A vast track of land (16,000 hectares) with moorland, mountains, woodlands and lakes, this park is suitable for families who enjoy hiking.
Special features: Glenveagh Castle, a 19th Century castellated mansion surrounding by gardens with exotic plants.
Access: 24 km north-west of Letterkenny, the park is most easily accessed by car. Cars park near visitor centre. Google Map “Glenveagh National Park”.
Dogs: Dogs on leads only.
Tip: Check weather conditions before planning an outing and bring rainproof clothing and footwear.

Glenveagh National Park, Lough Veagh Donegal
Glenveagh National Park

Down

Park name: Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Ballydrain Road, Comber
Amenities: Home to Ireland’s largest collection of exotic and local birds, there’s also natural play parks, a zip wire, a duckery, bird-watching hides and great views across Strangford Lough.
Special features: The Sustainability Trail teaches children about protecting nature.
Access: On site parking and bus no 11 from the Laganside Bus Centre in Belfast. Adults £8.54 (€9.90) child £4.72 (€5.50), see wwt.org.uk Google Map “Castle Espie Wetland Centre”.
Dogs: assistance and guide dogs only.
Tip: Wear clothes and footwear that you don’t mind getting dirty.

Dublin

Northside
Park name:
St Anne’s Park, Raheny/Clontarf, Dublin
Amenities: At almost 100 hectares, this is the second largest park in Dublin: Perfect for long walks through a beautiful variety of trees, wildflower meadows and a rose garden.
Special features: A well equipped playground for children, football pitches, tennis courts and café and food market with outdoor seating areas. Check out the chestnut walk from the rock garden to the duck pond and spot the many follies dotted throughout the park.
Access: Dublin City Bus nos 29a, 32 and 130 stop nearby; Car parking along the edges of the park. Google Map “St Anne’s Park”.
Dogs: Dogs are welcome on leads.
Tip: Take a walk on nearby Bull Island if you’re on a day out.

Autumn colours in St. Anne’s Park, Clontarf, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
St Anne’s Park

Southside
Park name:
Cabinteely Park, old Bray Road, Cabinteely (off N11 or take junction 15 from M50), Dublin 18
Amenities: This 45 hectare park has a spacious variety of adventure playgrounds, grassy meadows, a small forest and pond.
Special features: Look out for sculptures along some of the paths and enjoy the Japanese style cafe.
Access: Bus numbers nos 84, 84a and 145 and car parking. Google Map “Cabinteely Park”.
Dogs: Yes but must be kept on leads except in the dog park.
Tip: Keep your eyes peeled for rare birds including the great spotted woodpecker.

Fermanagh

Park name: Florence Court, Enniskillen.
Amenities: Short and long walks through parkland, woodland and pleasure gardens and some special climbing trees.
Special features: Among the many champion trees (ie the tallest and thickest of their species) is Ireland’s original Irish yew tree. It is believed that almost all the Irish Yew trees in churchyards throughout the world come from this one tree.
Access: Car parking via Grand Gates on Mill Road next to visitor centre. Ulsterbus 192 from Enniskillen to Swanlinbar, getting off at Creamery Cross (two mile walk from there). Google Map “Florence Court”.
Dogs: Dogs on leads only.
Tip: Advance booking advised.

Galway

Park name: Rinville Park, Oranmore
Amenities: Woodland trails, a small lake and big meadows in a lovely location overlooking southern Galway Bay. Also there is a children’s playground and adult gym equipment.
Special features: A great place to spot wildlife such as otters or herons if you are lucky.
Access: Car park. Google Map “Rinville Park”.
Dogs: Yes but must be kept on leads.
Tip: Check weather forecast in advance and bring raingear.

Kerry

Park name: Muckross House, Gardens and Traditional Farms
Amenities: Three working farms with animals, poultry and historical machinery give visitors a first-hand experience of traditional farming life. The beautiful formal gardens include a sunken garden, a rock garden, a Victorian walled garden and glasshouses.
Special features: Craftworkers who can be observed at work in their studios also sell their work in the craft shop.
Access: On site car park and bus or jaunting car rides from Killarney. Adults €9.25, age 13-18 €6.25, u-12 free. Google Map “Muckross House”.
Dogs: Dogs on leads in informal gardens but not on the traditional farm.
Tip: Plan your trip well to fit in guided tours of Muckross House and visits to the traditional farm.

Muckross House and garden near Killarney is a major tourist attraction
Muckross House

Kildare

Park name: Japanese Gardens, Kildare town
Amenities: One of the best examples of Japanese gardens in Europe, these exquisite gardens are laid out with trees, plants, flowers, lawns, rocks and water to symbolize the journey through human life and beyond.
Special features: A self-guided leaflet for the Japanese Gardens is available in 15 languages.
Access: Free car parking on site. A shuttle bus operates from Kildare train station. And Bus Éireann route 126 from Dublin stops in Kildare town, a 10 minute walk away. Adult: €13, child 3-16 €7.50. Google Map “Japanese Gardens, Kildare”.
Dogs: Dogs must be kept on their leads at all times.
Tip: Your ticket covers access to the gardens and National Stud so try to visit both.

Bridge, Japanese Gardens , Kildare
Japanese Gardens 

Kilkenny

Park name: Castlecomer Discovery Park, Castlecomer
Amenities: Mapped out walking, mountain biking and orienteering trails scattered throughout this 30 hectare woodland demesne.
Special features: A tree-top walk, high ropes course and zipline over water.
Access: Paid car parking on site.  Park entrance free, but charges for activities.Google Map “Castlecomer Discovery Park”.
Dogs: Dogs on leads only
Tip: Book ahead and plan your trip, preparing for all weathers.

Laois

Park name: Emo Court Parklands
Amenities: Lovely walks through the formal gardens, around the artificial lake and outlying forests.
Special features: Beautiful range of specimen trees including giant sequoia, atlas cedar, tulip and handkerchief trees.
Access: Car parking on site. Google Map “Emo Court”.
Dogs: Dogs on leads allowed.
Tip: Consider advance booking for a tour of Emo Court, the 18th Century neo-classical villa built by James Gandon.

Tree in Emo Court Parklands, County Laois, Ireland.
Emo Court Parklands

Leitrim

Park name: Glencar Park
Amenities: Varying lengths of walks in this wild and beautiful landscape include walks along the bog road or along the lake shore or the short walk to view the magnificent Glencar Waterfall via a paved path suitable for all users.
Special features: Picnic tables and a children’s playground close to the lakeshore.
Access: Car park. Google Map “Glencar Park”.
Dogs: Dogs are not allowed.
Tip: Wear hiking boots as it can be wet underfoot.

Limerick

Park name: Curraghchase Forest Park between Adare and Askeaton
Amenities: Exquisite woodland walks and plenty of archaeological treasures including a cairn, three ringforts and a standing stone in this Coillte-managed forest. Also walks along an artificial lake onto Lady’s Island.
Special features: A great place for bird watching and keen birders will be pleased if they spot the rarely sighted hawfinch and more common brambling on a visit to this former demesne.
Access: Car parking on site. Google Map “Curraghchase Forest Park”.
Dogs: dogs on leads
Tip: The on site caravan park means that it’s a possible stop over on a tour of the area.

Longford

Park name: Leebeen Park, Aughnacliffe
Amenities: Nature trails, a green gym, walking loops and a boardwalk along the lake.
Special features: The timber frame playground overlooks the lake and has an excellent zip wire. Also, a fairy garden for little ones.
Access: car park on site. Google Map “Leebeen Park”.
Dogs: Yes.
Tip: Consider visiting the Pulliness Waterfall, a short walk from the park.

Louth

Park name: Ravensdale Forest Park
Amenities: Magnificent mixed woodland with walking trails including a walk to the summit of Black Mountain (506m) and the popular Ravensdale looped walk/run. Plenty of archaeological features.
Special features: Two longer walking routes – The Táin Trail and The Ring of Gullion Way - pass through Ravensdale Forest.
Access: Car park on site. Google Map “Ravensdale Forest Park”.
Dogs: Dogs on leads.
Tip: Check the weather forecast before setting out on longer walks. 

Mayo

Park name: Westport House and Gardens, Westport
Amenities: A pirates’ adventure park with slides, swinging ships, swan pedalos and a miniature train. Extensive parklands and woodland walks and cycles.
Special features: a 3.5 km looped walk
Access: On-site parking reopening in June, multiple pedestrian entrances from Westport town. Google Map “Westport House”.
Dogs: Dogs on leads only.
Tip: Consider staying over at the camping and caravan site in the farmyard.

Westport House in Mayo. Photograph: Eye Ubiquitous/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Westport House

Meath

Park name: Balrath Woods, Burtonstown
Amenities: Nature walks and play equipment including a giant climbing web and accessible swings.
Special features: Signposted long and short walks. The nature walk, which is designed as an outdoor classroom, has information panels along the way.
Access: Car park on site. Google Map “Balrath Woods”.
Dogs: Yes.
Tip: Check out balrathwoods.com for descriptions of animals, insects, birds, flowers and trees that you might see when you get there.

Monaghan

Park name: Rossmore Forest Park, Monaghan town
Amenities: Woodland and lakeside walks and family cycling trails. This former demesne of Rossmore Castle also has a great variety of mature trees including Scots pine, cedars and giant redwoods and yew trees.
Special features: a wonderful play park for children with a spectacular sculpture trail.
Access: Car parking. Google Map “Rossmore Forest Park”.
Dogs: dogs must be kept on leads.
Tip: Download the map from coillte.ie and plan your walks in advance.

Offaly

Park name: Lough Boora Discovery Park
Amenities: This former industrial bogland between Tullamore, Birr and Clonmacnoise has restored wetlands, woodlands and lakes interspersed with walkways and cycle paths.
Special features: A fantastic range of sculptures dotted throughout the park evoke the former industrial activity and natural environment on the bog. You can hire bicycles to take longer trips through the park.
Access: Car park costs €4. Google Map “Lough Boora Discovery Park”.
Dogs: Dogs on leads only.
Tip: Bring insect repellant to protect yourself from midge bites.

Lough Boora Discovery Park. Art on the bogs: 60 Degrees by Kevin O’Dwyer (foreground); Sky Train by Michael Bulfin. Photograph: Tom Egan/Lough Boora Discovery Park
Lough Boora Discovery Park

Roscommon

Park name: Lough Key Forest and Activity Park, Boyle
Amenities: 800 hectares on the southern shore of Lough Key with woodland biking and walking trails, ziplines and boat hire.
Special features: The adventure playground has towers, slides, climbing frames, roundabouts, swings and puzzles.
Access: Car parking on site. Adults €8, child 5-17 €5. Extra charges for some activities. Google Map “Lough Key Forest”.
Dogs: Yes.
Tip: Plan your activities in advance as there are so many things to do here. Loughkey.ie.

Sligo

Park name: Doorly Park, Sligo town
Amenities: Part of the Cleveragh Demesne, this park has woodlands and wetlands for walks and boating.
Special features: The playground has a good range of play equipment.
Access: Free car parking. Google Map “Doorly Park”.
Dogs: Yes
Tip: Consider walking to the park from Sligo town along the Garavogue River.

Tipperary

Park name: Castlelough Lakeside Park, Portroe
Amenities: The designated recreation areas of the Arra forest on the shores of Lough Derg. Walking trails along Lough Derg, water skiing, paddleboarding, canoeing, fishing and cruises along the River Shannon.
Special features: Those keen for longer walks can consider doing stages of the Lough Derg Way which passes through Castlelough.
Access: Car park on site. Google Map “Castlelough Park”.
Dogs: Dogs on leads are welcome.
Tip: Plan water activities in advance and don’t forget your wetsuits.

Tyrone

Park name: Drum Manor Forest Park, Cookstown
Amenities: Forest walks and cycles. Plenty of space for running, dog walking and picnics by the lake. A play park for younger children.
Special features: A detailed downloadable map of forest park trails
Access: Paid car parking. Google Map “Drum Manor Forest Park”.
Dogs: Dogs on leads welcome.
Tip: Consider camping here as seasoned campers rate the campsite highly.

Waterford

Park name: Waterford Nature Park, Tramore Road, Waterford City
Amenities: This former city dump has been converted into 150 acres of parkland. Plenty of linear and looped walking/running trails along tarmac paths and on paths mown through meadows to allow children interact with nature.
Special features: Plenty of seats dotted along the routes for little ones to rest on.
Access: Free car parking. Google Map “Waterford Nature Park”.
Dogs: Dogs on leads.
Tip: Bring a picnic and enjoy this traffic-free urban oasis.

Westmeath

Park name: Belvedere House, Gardens and Park, Mullingar
Amenities: Plenty of lovely walks through woodlands, along the shores of Lough Ennell and Belvedere Lake. Four children’s play areas, one of which includes a 30 metre zip line.
Special features: The Victorian walled garden has a special dedicated fairy garden.
Access: Free car and bicycle parking. Adults €6.40, child 4-16 €3.20. Google Map “Belvedere House, Westmeath”.
Dogs: Dogs on leads welcome.
Tip: Check to see if Belvedere House is open for tours on the day of your visit.

Belvedere House Gardens and Park, Mullingar, Westmeath.
Belvedere House, Gardens and Park

Wexford

Park name: Irish National Heritage Park, Wexford Town
Amenities: A chance to explore 9000 years of Irish history through replicas of a castle, crannóg, Viking house, monastery and ringfort. Also walks through woodlands and two playgrounds.
Special features: Activity-based experiences such as archery, medieval cooking and interactions with birds of prey at the falconry centre.
Access: car parking on site and buses from Wexford town. Adult €11, child €6, irishheritage.ie. Google Map “Irish National Heritage Park”.
Dogs: Only guide and assistance dogs allowed.
Tip: Give yourself plenty of time to see everything on a self-guided tour or join a tour with a costumed guide.

Wicklow

Park name: Russborough House and Gardens, Blessington
Amenities: Lovely easy looped woodland and nature walks suitable for all ages, a good sized playground, a fairy trail, walled garden (under restoration) and occasional food and craft market in the courtyards of Russborough House.
Special features: Japanese gardens with cute bridges that you can walk onto Lady’s Island. Information boards identify flora and fauna on nature walks and the special tree trail. The Blessington Greenway walk and cycling route is a short walk from the gates.
Access: Paid car parking. Family of two adults and four children: €15. Google Map “Russborough House”.
Dogs: Dogs on leads only.
Tip: Check to see if the maze and National Bird of Prey Centre are open on the day of your visit.

Russborough House and Gardens, Blessington, Co Wicklow
Russborough House and Gardens