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Family-Friendly North West

Family-friendly walking trails in Derrynoid Forest

5th March 2021 by Nathan Rea (Instagram: Gallion Images) Share

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Derrynoid Forest is a little hidden gem in the heart of Mid Ulster, just 1.5 miles from the village of Draperstown in County Derry/Londonderry, which is situated at the foot of the Sperrin Mountains.

The forest is easily accessed via the entrance on Derrynoid Road. It’s made up of 100 hectares of coniferous and native woodland which was an estate originally owned in the 1700s by Judge Torrens. Derrynoid offers free parking facilities and a pleasant 1.4-mile wood trail with a well sign-marked gravel pathway, which is perfect for family walks. It also offers an additional river trail loop which extends the forest walk to 2.3 miles, perfect for keen walkers.

I started my walk on a lovely summer’s morning by parking in the main forest car park at the Derrynoid Centre – it has a clearly signed entrance on the right hand side on the Derrynoid Road from Draperstown.

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Upon entering the forest, visitors arrive at a car park that’s well-maintained by the forestry service, with information boards providing the visitor with a clear map of the walking routes and other visitor information. I commenced from the car park and followed the clearly signed green and yellow way markers, following the 1.4-mile circular wood trail in an anticlockwise direction.

The Derrynoid woodland trail

I then followed the river trail way markers, exiting the main Derrynoid forest. The Derrynoid river trail entrance is directly on the opposite side of the road from the main Derrynoid forest. So I crossed the main road, entering into the river trail, which was another well maintained area with clear information boards showing the visitor the river trail route.

I followed the 0.9-mile circular river trail gravel path; it initially led me through the woodland then the path sweeps into close proximity with the Moyola River. Here, I enjoyed the peaceful sounds of the water flowing down the river.

At this point there are some seated benches where I could sit down and listen to the sound of the water flowing by and the sound of birds singing in the trees – it was such a picturesque little spot.

Along the Derrynoid river trail

I then continued to follow the path which took me away from the river back into the woodland and back to the entrance of the river trail. I then crossed back over the road again, then back into the main forest and followed the green and yellow way markers back to the car park, completing a 2.3-mile loop in the shape of a figure eight.

Overall I felt Derrynoid forest trails were very well maintained and looked after by the forestry service. I thought the trails were very enjoyable, and the flat-surfaced gravel paths make them well-suited to both families and keen walkers. I felt the entire walk was very picturesque, featuring lovely scenery of both the woodland and the Moyola River.

Moyola River

This route was 2.3 miles in total, taking me 1.5 hours to complete at a gentle pace – this included stopping to take photos and sitting at the bench seats enjoying the scenery. But if you are a keen walker who is up for a much longer walk, several laps could be done of these picturesque trails as you can never get tired of such scenic paths within the forest.

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It’s probably not the place for hiking purists because of its flat terrain and short distances, but it’s a good walk for all abilities and families with young children because of the short, flat trail routes. The golden nugget of the walk is being down by the river Moyola, which is so peaceful, and at the seats beside the river where you get a lovely view of the Moyola flowing under Derrynoid Bridge – such a scenic spot.

Derrynoid Bridge

The forest is well equipped with seats and the signage for all the trails is excellent. The only draw back is that there are no toilet facilities, but apart from that it’s well worth a visit. I definitely recommend that you visit Derrynoid, because I definitely want to come back again myself!

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