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Castlewellan Forest offers many beautiful scenic walking trails of varying difficulty and distances through 460 hectares of luscious woodland with panoramic views of the famous park lake, the magnificent Mourne mountains, and the surrounding Drumlin countryside.
Other facilities include a stunning Victorian castle, the hedge-grown Peace Maze, the Annesley gardens and Arboretum, and 27km of mountain bike trails, making it a fantastic location for a day out, whether you’re walking, hiking, cycling or just spending time with your family outdoors surrounded by nature!
My favourite walking trail in Castlewellan Forest has to be Slievenaslat but I suppose I’m a bit biased as I just love mountain climbing! At 272m and the trail only 2.7 miles long it’s quite a small mountain, but don’t be fooled, it’s a steep, strenuous climb to the top!
If you check the map at the car park or lake you will see that the Slievenaslat trail follows the yellow waymarkers. You can follow the trail clockwise into the forest alongside the lake and then start climbing the path to your right after a few minutes, or you can go anti-clockwise up round the back of the castle and past the gardens. Either way though, you’re in for a steep climb and a steep descent!
Close to the summit you will come across the beautiful mountain lake, a place of complete quiet and serenity. The last time we were up we could tell it had started raining as we could see the raindrops falling softly on the perfectly still water, but we couldn’t feel anything as we were completely sheltered by the huge trees and shrubbery.
You will also come across a viewpoint near the top which is a perfect spot for a snap or a selfie with the majestic Mournes as a backdrop, but in my own opinion the best snaps will be further up at the trig pillar after climbing the stone steps, where you will again see the Mournes in all their glory!
Unfortunately for us we’ve still to reach the Slievenaslat summit on a completely clear day but nevertheless even with some of the mountain peaks covered in cloud the views are amazing!
Because the Slievenaslat trail only roughly takes between an hour to an hour and a half, it gives the chance to explore one or two other trails in the park to make the most of your day out!
The climb to Slievenaslat summit is not only steep, but the terrain is also quite uneven with loose stone gravel and tree roots, so I would recommend wearing good walking shoes or boots to protect the soles of your feet and to support your ankles, and to give you good grip on the way down!
I would also recommend bringing a pair of binoculars if you have them to get an even better view of the mountains! The last time we were here there was a light dusting of snow on Donard, Commedagh and Bearnagh, but when we looked through the binoculars we could see it was a little more than a dusting, and that the snow was actually sitting thick on most of the peaks! We could also follow the Mourne wall and see the stone towers on Donard, Commedagh and Meelmore!
I should also mention that unless you have a membership don’t forget to bring your bank card or cash for the £5 car park fee! The car park is big with ample space, so you should find a space even at busy times.
So whether you come to the beautiful Castlewellan Forest to take on Slievenaslat or for a walk round the stunning lake and gardens (or just to have a picnic and entertain the kids), you are guaranteed a fantastic, nature-infused, action-filled day out! Enjoy!
Sorcha McCann: 40, from Lurgan Co.Armagh, mum of 4, Irish language assistant in a Bunscoil/Irish speaking unit in a local primary school. Hobbies are walking, running, hiking & exploring, and spending time with family & friends.
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3rd May 2019
Slievenaslat: A lovely walk in Castlewellan Forest Park