Sunny Sunday in Armagh...
Get up • Get Out • Get On
That’s my daily mantra, espeically when the weather is great. This morning’s spur of the moment decision was to head for Armagh, to Gosford Forest Park and also the Palace Demense.
Heading from Belfast along the M1 the trip is just under an hour (with tailwind!!). At the start of the this year I purchased a Forestry Service pass, so I was all set to make use of it, only to discover that Gosford Forest Park is no longer part of the Forestry Service, so it’s a £5 fee per car.
There are four walking trails to choose from, The Arboretum, The Deer Park Trail, The Castle Trail and the Boundary Trail. I opted for the Castle Trail today (red). The grounds themselves were very busy on arrival but the walking trails were not busy which was great. Lots of dogs out for a walk. This route was very peaceful and scenic, taking you past the rear of the Castle. It’s extremely easy to navigate with wayward markers at every turn. I should have brought a small basket to collect some blackberries too, as they were starting to appear! The Castle was sold in 2006 to a developer to convert into 23 luxury residences. One remaining part of the Castle has also just been sold and is proposed to be converted into a further 6 luxury apartments. In it’s hay day the Castle was a hotel, and has also been used as filming location for Games of Thrones.
The red trail has just had some new installations which will appeal to dog owning families! Some fabulous wooden play structures have been placed along the trail including a Giant slide, and some zip wires from the Wood Castle!
When I returned to the main car park, there were lots of people enjoying picnics in the sunshine. There are catering carts in the car park too, serving ice-cream, coffee’s and snacks, but I imagine they are probably only there at weekends, particularly at this time of year.
Plenty of red bins around the trails and Forest Park for disposing of dog poop and rubbish.
For anyone living within the council area, dog owners are being encouraged to join the ‘Green Dog Walker’ scheme.
After a small picnic, it was time to head into Armagh and visit the Palace Demesne Public Park (also listed as a walk in the new Dog’s Guide to NI).
It’s easy to get to from Gosford, simply turn right upon exiting, and stay on the road until you reach Armagh City. Veer left as you approach and pass the Armagh City Hotel, it’s about 100 yards past that on the left.
The Demesne is home to Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, which is currently closed, however the grounds are open. Some 300 acres of them!
Upon entry you will pass the former Friary ruins on your left, and as you head on up the driveway, you will see the Palace in front of you. It was the former residence of the Archbishops of the Church of Ireland from 1770 until 1975.
We walked past the front of the Palace and around the back to Sensory Garden, lots of herbs like Rosemary and Lavendar for people to smell, and while it’s been a bit neglected since lockdown, it’s a lovely space to walk around.
Again, for families there is a children’s play park on site too.
Unfortunately, the dog friendly venues in Armagh are few and far between to grab a bite to eat and drink, so you will need to drive back towards Portadown and head to Sally McNallys (booking required under current circumstances).
All, in all a lovely sunny day spent in Armagh, highly recommend Gosford Forest Park – bring a picnic, walk the trails and enjoy the Autumn sunshine.
NB: An annual pass for Gosford Forest Park was £50 per year, but last year the council took the decision to reduce the fee to £25 per year.
The Forest Service annual pass is £50 per annum for the forests under it’s jurisdiction. Apparently a decision about a refunds or extension to this year’s passes is to be confirmed for people who purchased at the start of the year and who have been unable to use them. (NB: The Forest service is currently waiving entry fees to encourage people to get outdoors and enjoy themselves post lockdown, not sure when it will end).