Length: 6 kms of trails, various lengths to suit all levels of fitness.
Estimated Time: 1-2 hours
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Trail surface: Forest paths
What to bring: Walking Shoes, Raingear, camera,
Belleek Woods are situated along the banks of the River Moy. These 1,000 acre woodlands, adjacent to Ballina town, are one of the largest urban forests in Europe. They are managed by Coillte, who are keen to develop them as a major recreation amenity.
Belleek is a peaceful haven of up to six miles of natural forest pathways. It is an area of great tranquility, peace and beauty, where you can enjoy the natural forest pathways running both through the forest and along the majestic River Moy.
One of the trails, which stretches over 1km in length, is the first wheelchair-accessible forest trail in Ireland. The development includes a number of other new facilities such as a wheelchair parking bay, which will cater for one large vehicle and one smaller vehicle, plus the addition of wheelchair-friendly seating and picnic area along the route. The new wheelchair route is part of an ongoing forest-management strategy being implemented by Coillte at Belleek.
Belleek Woods are an ideal place to experience Irish woodlands, and their native wildlife, including badgers, squirrels and the occasional otter.
The Moy Estuary is also the haunt of many wild birds, and frogs are aplenty in the pond and marshy areas. You can also avail of picnic areas situated throughout the forest, giving you a chance to rest and relax and enjoy the views and surroundings.
The recent announcement by the new British government that they are looking at possibly selling off some of their forests has led to protests from groups who believe that these forests are public amenities and should remain so. I would hope that our forests also remain in public ownership.
David Gunning, CEO of Coillte, said: “Coillte is working to attract people to nature and to enhance the benefits our forests offer to the maximum number of people. Coillte is committed to enriching lives locally, nationally and globally through innovative and sustainable management of natural resources, and the development of Belleek Woods is part of that commitment to adding value to the lands we manage.”
To get to Belleek Woods, you pass through the town of Ballina. Watch out for the signs for the woods. At the forest entrance you will find an information board, which will indicate which trail suits you. You can also download a map from www.coillteoutdoors.ie.
Tom Carolan works for South West Mayo Development Company as Recreation Officer. His job involves the design, construction, and promotion of recreational trails. He can be contacted at email@example.com.