Castlewellan Forest Park, County Down
Set on a dramatic backdrop of mountains and sea, in Castlewellan Forest Park you’ll find one of the most outstanding tree and shrub collections in Europe. Tree enthusiasts from all over the world come to this very park for its stunning tress, which reside in the National Aboretum, although this is not all Castlewellan has to offer. You’ll find a range of informal and formal design from terraces and fountains to ornamental gates and flower borders.
It is an absolute joy to wander around the forest park’s mile-long lake, discovering intriguing sculptures and beautiful 18th Century landscaping around every bend. The main focus of the arboretum is the walled Annesley garden. Planting on this section began in the 1850’s and later rare conifers and maples were imported directly from Japan. After this even more rich varieties were added including: Chilean euctphias, Australian athrotaxis and pittosporum; and finally Chinese rhododendrons. Among broad and intriguing range of greenery you’ll also find some trees which stand at record height for the British Isles.
The latest addition to the forest park is the Peace Maze – the world’s largest permanent hedge maze, which represents the path to a peaceful future for Northern Ireland. The maze was planted in 2000 thanks to much community involvement and as a result of its rapid maturing, visitors can now attempt to solve their way to the peace bell, which rests in the centre of the maze.
Access is available for people with limited mobility on scooter. Manual wheelchairs - the total distance including the Peace Maze and Gardens is around 9.7 km (6 mi) and would recommend a challenge to any pushers at any one visit.
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