I first visited Ards Forest Park with my National School as a little boy. I loved it so much, in an attempt to persuade my parents to bring me back, I told them about all the animals I ‘saw’ there – giraffes, crocodiles, you name it. I’m reminded of this story by my parents now at least once a month. (You’ve got to be thick skinned in our house!)
But Ards Forest Park is a truly spectacular Donegal attraction without any exotic extras. There is no need to exaggerate the truth. It’s located between Creeslough and Dunfanaghy on the N56 and it’s now a regular Donegal day out for my family in both Summer and Winter.
It takes a few visits to experience all the elements of the park as it is much more than a forest. It’s uniquely located along the coast so there is an extensive beach which is stunning whether the tide is in or out. From there, the views of Downings and Carrigart are most rewarding. The forest paths and trails which have colour coded signposts lead to archaeological features and monuments, not to mention one of the best nature walks you could wish for. There are varying lengths and levels of difficulty.
At the entrance to the beach, there is a spacious childrens’ playground with swings, climbing frames, slides and of course a sandpit. A relatively new feature is the boardwalk all the way onto the beach. For us it means we can bring the pram on this while the older kids run alongside on the sand. It’s a game changer for making a beautiful Donegal beach accessible to all.
There is a small tea and coffee hut open in the Summer which is a lovely spot when you’ve worked up an appetite after hours of walking and playing.
Ards Forest Park is a beautiful natural resource that we are very lucky to have in Donegal. If you visit, please leave no trace. Take any rubbish you bring home with you and stick to the paths and trails so that the wildlife and plants aren’t affected. For €5 per vehicle, this is a very budget-friendly family day out in Donegal.
The car park opens at 8am and 8am (April to September) and 8am to 5pm (October to March).
Entry into the park is €5. The machine at the gate is unmanned and only takes coins. I would strongly advise against parking at the road and walking with kids as it’s a very long walk.
Toilet and baby changing facilities onsite are in very good condition.