Five Fabulous Forest Walks Close to Westport

Five Fabulous Forest Walks Close to Westport

Perhaps the trickiest part of walking in Westport is deciding which of the many walking trails to choose! If you fancy a change from all the sea air or a break away from the greenway we highly recommend exploring our local woodlands and forest trails just a short drive from the town centre. Stunningly beautiful and off the beaten track you will find fewer people walking these routes and will reap the rewards of breathtaking scenery no matter what the season. Most of the trails below are suitable for all fitness levels, so no excuses!

Just south of Westport, a mere 7km out the Leenane Road (N59), lies Brackloon Wood – a precious remnant of Ireland’s once-substantial mixed Atlantic-Oak woodlands. Alongside centuries-old oaks, you’ll find a host of other native beauties, including ash, willow, hazel, birch and holly. It’s truly magical and ancient place, made even more so by its lush moss, lichen and ferns.

This undemanding loop walk is about 4km. Bargain on around 45 minutes, or longer if you have small kids.

Take the turn marked Owenwee Kennels and keep right at the fork. Pass Brackloon National School school, and keep following the road as it curves to the right. Soon the entrance to Brackloon will pop up on your right – look out for the wooden gates.

Speaking of ancient Atlantic Oaks, head out to Old Head for something truly unique: Ireland’s only Atlantic-Oak forest that grows right on the coast.

Take the 20-minute drive to Old Head Beach out the coast road (R335). You’ll find the woods by crossing the smaller beach to the left of Old Head Pier. On the far side of the strand, you’ll spot a little gate and stile in the rocky rise. This will lead you into the forest.

Take a short stroll along the path that leads through these magnificent woods to emerge on the cliffs overlooking the sea, or leave the path and spend some time exploring (this way no one will see you hugging the trees).

Another enchanting gem, Toumakeady Forest is just half an hour’s drive away from Westport. The short 2.5k forest trail that hugs the Glensaul River is perfect for a morning or afternoon stroll. As you walk among the oak, birch, ash, hazel and holly, keep an eye on the ground for autumnal stands of golden chanterelle mushrooms – these much-prized fungi are to die for when fried up in butter and seasoned. As if this wasn’t enough, at the end of this little trail lies magical Tourmakeady Waterfall. It’s almost too much!

In the village of Partry turn off the N84 at the signpost for Tourmakeady. Follow the signs through a series of minor roads for around 10km, and you’ll spot the forest entrance.

The lodgepole pine forest of Tawnyard Wood is nestled within the Sheeffry Hills. A trailhead for the Western Way, it includes jaw-dropping views of of Tawnyard Lough and the surrounding mountains and countryside. (A few islands can be seen on the east end of the lake – the most westerly of which is thought to be Crannóg, an artificial island constructed in the Bronze Age as a dwelling place.)

The forest trail is 7km, so give yourself 2.5 hours or so. Along the way you’ll come across bridge crossing at the Owenduff River. This is a perfect picnic spot, with views of Ben Gorm to the southwest and the majestic Mweelrea to the west.

Tawnyard Forest Trail is a 25-minute drive from Westport. Take the road for Leenane, and continue for around 8km, then turn right for Drummin. Continue past Drummin Church and up and over the Rock Road. Tawnyard Carpark is on your left after the viewing point.

The wooded Moorehall estate is also just half an hour’s spin from Westport, on the shores of stunning Lough Carra. The ruins of the once-glorious country house, Moorehall, are surrounded by a network of enchanting woodland trails. The house itself was built in the 1790s by the Moore family but it was destroyed by fire in 1923, during the Civil War.

The estate has two kinds of woodland, coniferous and deciduous. A large plantation of spruce is home to pine marten and, more recently, red squirrel. There is also a heart-stoppingly beautiful beechwood forest, and deep within its dappled light, you’ll find church ruins and an old family tomb. Keep going, and the woods will bring you out to the lakeshore.

Breathtaking, romantic, tranquil, enchanting and ghostly, a trip to Moorehall will stay with you long after you leave.