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Letterkenny Accommodation - Ards Forest Park

Ards Forest Park
Situated on the main road between Creeslough and Dunfanaghy, Ards Forest Park is perhaps the most beautiful and certainly the most varied of Ireland's Forest Parks.   The Park is over 480 hectares (1200 acres) in extent and contains a great diversity of plant and wildlife forms. It features sandy beaches, rivers, viewing points, nature walks, picnic and play areas. It also has several features of historical and archaeological interest

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Hours can be spent here in complete relaxation, be it on the many nature walks or on its sandy beaches. It is a place for everyone to get away for a while. There are a large number of trails in this park giving the walker the opportunity to explore a variety of habitats from foreshore and sand dunes to semi natural oak woodlands on rock outcrops. By “stitching together” a number of trails, it is possible to hike for 5/6 hours on forest tracks and trails, taking in the full circuit of the park. The opportunities are endless.

Ards Forest Park is located 5km north of Creeslough on the N56 to Dunfanaghy.

At Ards Forest Park you can enjoy many forest walks, a car park and a children's play area  The remains of four ringforts are to be seen in the park as well as a number of megalithic tombs - legend has it that these were the beds of Diarmuid and Grainne in their flight from Fionn Mac Cumhaill. A Holy Well - the Ague Well - which is reputed to have curative powers, can be seen on Bealach na hArdaigh Walk. On the same walk there is a Mass Rock where Mass was celebrated during the time of the Penal Laws.

More information about Dunfanaghy Donegal

Forest Walks:
There are a number of well signposted walks incorporating the main features of the park. These include the Ards Heritage Trail which is 3.5km long, the Nature Trail and the Green trail which are both 3km long and the Red Trail which is 13km long. This walk does incorporate some provision for shortcuts back to the starting point should the weather turn.

The park is situated on the shores of Sheephaven Bay on the rugged  North Donegal coastline. Uniquely amongst Irish Forest parks it incorporates a sandy beach, rocky shoreline and a diversity of habitats. Natural and Heritage Areas and a Special Area of Conservation enhance its special ecological and wildlife value.

Tree Species:
The broadleaved woodlands although small in area are important  because of their location as some of the most northerly semi-natural woodland in Ireland. The main broadleaf block includes sessile Oak,  Birch, Ash and Rowan with occasional Hawthorn, Yew and Elm - all native trees. Beech, Spanish Chestnut and Sycamore are common introductions. Conifers in the park include Sitka Spruce, Noble Fir, Lodgepole Pine, Western Hemlock, Silver Fir, Scots Pine, European Larch (the remnants of old plantings) and Corsican Pine.

Flora - Hazel, rhododendron, blackberry, holly and bramble are common at the shrub layer, while the herb layer is rich in many species, flowering plants and especially ferns. Lough Lilly is an area of interest to the naturalist. A small fen has developed at the western end of the lake where approximately half the surface area is covered with white and yellow water lilies. Near the shore the fen is in a transitional stage of development into raised bog. The main lakeshore species include various grasses, sedges and ferns.

Fauna -
The red squirrel, field mouse, rabbit, hare and hedgehog can all be found in Ards Forest Park. Among the carnivores the fox, badger, stoat and otter can be spotted. The Park also provides a unique opportunity for observing many of Ireland's birds within the confines of a relatively small area and in such diverse habitats as broadleaf and conifer woodland, sand dunes, salt marsh, seashore, river and estuary.

In the Plantation of Ulster, which followed the flight of the Earls in 1607, the lands of Ards and the surrounding territory were granted by the British Crown to Turlough Ó O Boyle on the condition of his continuing loyalty. Following that family's part on the Irish side in the 1641 Insurrection, the O Boyles lost their lands, which by 1700 had passed to the Wray family. The latter remained in possession until 1782 when the lands were sold to Alexander Stewart, brother of the then Marquis of Londonderry. The Stewart family held Ards until 1926, and the Irish Land Commission finally broke the great estate up following its acquisition of the land.

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