Brush off the festive excess – by visiting a wood in Northern Ireland
The festive season is upon us and it’s a time for indulgence but also a great time of the year for getting outside and taking in the beauty of nature.
In winter, woods take on a whole new character – spectacular, frosty landscapes. Perfect for enjoying nature’s sights and sounds while burning off some of those extra calories!
Crunch through frosty leaves, discover ancient hidden history or spot some elusive wildlife – a woodland walk could spring up surprises you’ll never forget. Of course a visit is free and you’ll feel great after too. Find more locations on our visiting woods page.
Must visit woods in Northern Ireland
Drumnaph Wood, Maghera, Derry-Londonderry
Drumnaph occupies a ridge above the meandering Grillagh River, which allows you to enjoy the views west to Carntogher Mountain and the beautiful Sperrin Mountains.
With over 30,000 trees planted in recent years, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was relatively young woodland, but actually, around 50% of the site is ancient woodland, making it a rare remnant of the great forest that once covered much of mid-Ulster.
Winter provides a good chance to spot Irish hare as they are often seen around the edges of the woodland and in the surrounding fields in the colder months of the year.
Carmoney Hill – Newtownabbey, Co Antrim
With awe-inspiring views of the city, Belfast Lough and the coast, Carnmoney Hill is a must visit. Steeped in history and folklore with a mix of ancient woodland, floral grassland and wetland, it is home to a wealth of wildlife and has a wide range of walks to suit all abilities. With easy access from Belfast, and plenty of interest for keen flower and wildlife spotters as well as history buffs, Carnmoney Hill is a great destination for a day out. Stalked by ghosts of the Vikings, witches and highwaymen, a walk on Carnmoney Hill offers balcony views of Belfast. It can be pretty chilly though so wrap up warm. There’s a great walk of 8.5 miles.
Credit: Michael Cooper / WTML
Corrog Wood, Portaferry
Corrog Wood lies in a particularly scenic part of County Down. Enjoy a walk through the young woodland and keep an eye out for buzzards and Irish hares as well as a sculpture of a tree spirit known locally as 'The Frump'.
Since our native red squirrels have been sighted at Corrog Wood recently, and as reds don’t hibernate for winter, keep an eye out for chewed pinecones and nibbled nuts, sure signs that they are nearby.
Prehen Wood, Derry-Londonderry
This rare and irreplaceable ancient woodland has a magical feel, with carpets of bluebell, celandine and wood anemone in the spring. It is home to the red squirrel, sparrowhawk and long-eared owl and offers terrific views overlooking Derry/Londonderry city, as well as the River Foyle.
Look out for the wooden sculptures created by Michael Rodgers that watch over the woods. There’s a squirrel, fox, hedgehog and butterfly to spot as you wander through the woodland.
Credit: Michael Cooper / WTML
Glasswater Wood, Crossgar
Glas means green in Gaelic and the Glasswater river runs near to this site which was once part of the Great Wood of the Dufferin that ran from Downpatrick to Bangor. The three fields which make up this wood were planted in 2000 with much help from the local community. A pond was created incorporating two wet areas in 2002 to encourage a greater biodiversity within the site. A small car park exists at the north-west corner leading off the Glasswater Road.
Cabin Wood, Cookstown
Located just outside Cookstown, Cabin Wood has the perfect setting, bordered by Ballinderry and Killymoon Rivers, with beautiful Killymoon Castle and its mature woodland as neighbours. Over 12,000 young trees including oak, willow, alder and birch have been planted. Although still in its infancy, Cabin Wood glows with peace and tranquillity. Keep an eye out for otters, kingfishers, kestrels and Daubenton’s bats. Red and fallow deer sometimes visit by swimming across the river from Killymoon Estate.
Canal Wood, Poyntzpass
On first approach you will encounter young woodland, planted as part of the community project ‘Woods On Your Doorstep’, walk through a natural wetland setting which leads you into a wooded area with a veteran Oak. From here you can enjoy a walk along the board walk back through the wetland and this is the perfect time of year to spot nesting swans. Access to Canal Wood is via the canal towpath crossing a wooden bridge at the beginning of the wetland and a stone bridge at the middle east of the site.
Mill Race Wood, Maguire’s Bridge, Fermanagh
This is one of The Woodland Trust’s 'Woods On Your Doorstep' woodlands created to commemorate the Millennium. Located near the town of Knocks it was planted with the help of the local community. The paths here have been recently upgraded and you can follow the boardwalk to a spectacular viewpoint out across Lough Lea, spotting little grebes, moorhens and long tail tits along the way.
Credit: Michael Cooper / WTML
Notes to editors
For media enquiries contact Glynis Watt at the Woodland Trust’s Northern Ireland Office on 0343 7705 405 or email her at email@example.com
The Woodland Trust Press Office can be contacted on 01476 581121; email firstname.lastname@example.org
About The Woodland Trust
The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.
The Trust has three key aims:
- i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
- ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
- iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.
Northern Ireland is one of the least-wooded countries in Europe, with just 8% woodland cover compared to the European average of 46%. Ancient woods (areas wooded since at least 1600) are home to many rare and threatened species. This resource covers just 0.08% of Northern Ireland’s landscape.
Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 28,700 hectares. Access to its woods is free. Further news can be found at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk
Top 10 tips for walking in woods
- Check the weather the day before you visit. It’s always advisable to pack a rain mac, just in case.
- Bring walking boots or wellies. The woodland floor can get muddy all year round.
- Check access restrictions and car parking before you leave. Take a map, too, particularly if you’re planning a long walk – don’t rely on 4G as many woods are out of signal range. Be sure to stay on the paths to avoid damaging wildlife habitats. Also, some woods might be privately owned, so make sure there is public access.
- If you’re bringing your dog along, make sure you read our dog walkers’ code of conduct so you know what’s expected in our woods.
- Help us prevent the spread of tree pests and diseases by cleaning your footwear before and after your visit. Wash down your car and bicycle tyres to remove any mud, and ensure you don’t take plant material or cuttings from the countryside.
- Pack a first aid kit, including plasters, sun cream and antihistamines.
- Take a bottle of water and some snacks or pack a picnic. Remember to pick up after yourself – don’t leave litter behind.
- Be extra aware in areas with cattle and look out for horses on bridleway. Don’t get too close, and don’t shout or run as this will startle the animal. Ensure you close gates behind you.
- If your walk takes you onto a road with no pavement, and you’re in a small group, keep to the road's right-hand side so you can see the oncoming traffic. Stay in single file and keep close to the side of the road.
- If you’re walking in the woods at night, ensure you wear reflective clothing and take a torch with you.