Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland have been working hard with local councils and communities to develop a series of community trails across the country. Although Northern Ireland offers many opportunities for outdoor recreation within its urban and rural environments, opportunities on people’s ‘doorstep’, close to where they live, are often limited. Community trails are therefore valuable in creating safe off-road greenspace for local residents to enjoy the outdoors.
Last month we shone a light on Tobar Mhuire Heritage Trail in Crossgar.
This month we are highlighting the community trails in Darkley Forest which offers two enchantingly unique walking experience through a small and peaceful coniferous woodland. A chance to discover this unspoilt hidden gem using its two walking routes along with the rich historic landscape of Darkley Village including Tyllynawood Lake and the old Linen Mill.
The £220,00 trail development scheme was delivered thanks to a partnership between Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development (DAERA) – Rural Affairs Division and Forest Service – and Outdoor Recreation NI (ORNI). Funding was provided from DEARA’s Targeting Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRPSI) programme and from the National Lottery through Sport Northern Ireland’s ‘Every Body Active: Outdoor Spaces’ programme. There was also significant input from the community association in the area.
The Aughnagurgan Trail
This is a moderate walk 1.4 mile walk will take approximately 40 minutes to complete.
This trail initially follows the same route as the Mountain Lodge Trail before leading walkers into the heart of the woodland past the ruins of the original Mountain Lodge and on to a beautiful picnic spot surrounded by beech trees. Two short cuts lead back to the car park.
Finding your way about:
Follow the Aughnagurgan trail waymarker discs on the wooden posts located throughout the forest.
Mountain Lodge Trail
An energetic 1.9 mile walk taking approximately 1hour 15 mins to complete.
The trail follows the forest perimeter, leading walkers through a varied woodland overlooking the Callan River. Take a rest while enjoying the impressive viewpoints and enjoy the carpets of bluebells in springtime. A steady ascent leads back to the car park.
Finding your way about:
Follow the Mountain Lodge trail waymarker discs on the wooden posts located throughout the forest.
Is there a car park?
Yes. A 10 space car park is available onsite accessed via Mountain Lodge Road. Direct access is also available from the church car park onto the trail.
What are the paths like?
The paths are compact gravel. The walk is suitable for those with prams.
Are dogs allowed?
Dogs are allowed but must be kept under control on a lead at all times.
Are there toilet facilities onsite?
No toilet facilities onsite.
Commenting on the trails Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon ABC Councillor Julie Flaherty said;
“It is wonderful to see something that the community has wanted for so long coming to fruition and I know that these trails will really make a difference to the lives of those living within the Darkley area. This Forest was once inaccessible but now residents have something truly unique to enjoy right here on their doorsteps. So get out, experience and explore this fantastic new facility!”
In 2021 Outdoor Recreation NI ran a survey to find out what impact the community trail was having. Here are the results:
Check out this walk for yourself on WalkNI: Darkley Forest