A friend recommended the app “Meetup” for getting to know some new people in Ireland. No sooner said than done – and we were already registered for a trip to Lough Key Forest Park together with about 15 other people from Galway and the surrounding area. The 800-hectare park on the south shore of Lough Key (Lough = Lake) promised to offer quite a lot: nature walks, a viewing tower, a wishing chair, boat tours, underground tunnels, a tree canopy walk, an adventure playground for the little ones and an adventure game (Boda Borg ) for larger ones as well as an old forfeited castle on an island in the middle of the lake.
We gave one person a lift for the pretty long way to County Roscommon that belongs to the Irish Midlands. We three were the only non-Galway arrivals, so we started very early to arrive punctually in the forenoon and to meet up (see what I did there?) with the others.
When we had finally found the others once having arrived there, we went on an extended hike through the fairy-tale Forest Park. Of course, a lot was exchanged and talked to all sorts of people from all over the world. Most of the participants also had been in Ireland for a little while only, coming from Spain, India or even Australia. Also age-wise we were a diverse group. Everyone wanted to find new friends this way, or at least make interesting acquaintances for the day.
At some point we reached the lake with a landing stage, from which we could see the lonely old castle on one of the many islands. After a few snapshots and a group photo, we went back along the circular trail to our starting point to have some lunch.
Afterwards we split up into different groups depending on the focus of interest for the upcoming afternoon. We opted for the tree canopy walk including audio guide.
In doing so, we learned for example that the kings of the area, the McDermotts, once had their residence on the Castle Island. This was actually a castle called “Carraic Locha Cé” or “Rock of Lough Key” in English. Since space on this small island is quite limited, they still had another mainland residence. This burned down in 1957 unfortunately. The fortress on Castle Island, on the other hand, was taken from the McDermotts in the 17th century under Cromwell and handed over to the English royal family, who renamed it Rockingham. They rebuilt the island castle and used it as extravagant accommodation for guests until one day it burned down, too.
The tour started with a 19th century underground tunnel that led to a less beautiful and modern looking concrete tower, the Moylurg Viewing Tower. This was built in 1973 exactly on the spot where once the Rockingham House stood. From the top of the tower we had a wonderful view of the Forest Park and the many small islands in Lough Key, as well as on Castle Island. We were also able to enjoy great views from the 9-meter-high tree canopy path subsequently.
After an adventurous day full of new impressions and acquaintances, we hit the road for the long way back home in the late afternoon together with our passenger.
Our conclusion: The Lough Key Forest Park is ideal for a day trip full of nature and action, especially for families. We couldn’t test all the features that would’ve been of interest to us young adults, e.g. the Boda Borg adventure. Probably it would’ve become an even more exciting day then. We’re still a bit angry with ourselves because Falk didn’t have his drone with him this day to fly to the great old castle on the island. Still, it was definitely a good place to meet new nice people in a beautiful environment. This wasn’t supposed to be our last Forest Park to explore either. 😉