Lough Key Forest Park, a popular recreational and family-friendly attraction near Boyle in Co. Roscommon was named the “Best Public Park” in Ireland at the 2020 Lama Awards.
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The annual All Ireland Community and Council Awards are presented by Lama (Local Authority Members Association) and celebrated by IPB Insurance.
The 2021 winners were announced at a gala event on April 9, 2022.
The park beat out seven other public parks across the country.
Lough Key is close to 2,000 acres in size and is 3 km (under 2 miles) from the town of Boyle.
It is approximately 31 minutes from Sligo.
The History of the Park
It was formerly part of the Rockingham Estate in the hands of the King family, who owned vast tracts of land throughout Ireland.
The house that stood on the estate was burned to the ground by an electrical fire in 1957.
Only some of the tunnels once used by the estate’s servants, as well the ruins of the Rockingham Estate Church of Ireland remain.
In May 1959, the Land Commission took control of the estate, and the part that is now Lough Key Forest Park was taken over by the Forestry Commission.
The commission, now known as Coillte, owns and manages the park.
What to Do and See at Lough Key Forest Park
There’s a whole lot to see at Lough Key Forest Park.
The forested section of the park contains a mix of non-native evergreen trees as well as native deciduous varieties.
The park is home to a lot of wildlife species, including deer, fox, hare, rabbit, red squirrel, and stoat. Bats, otters, and badgers are also part of the park’s vast wildlife habitat.
Bird enthusiasts will see plenty at Lough Key.
Herons, swans, mallards, robins, kingfisher birds, and tufted ducks are often spotted in the park.
Nature trails and walks are suitable for both walkers and cyclists, with the opportunity to also hire electric bikes.
One of the jewels of Lough Key is the popular tree canopy walk.
The only one of its kind in Ireland, it offers a bird’s eye view of the surrounding forest.
A self-guided audio tour titled the “Rockingham Remembered Tour” tells the story of the park’s history, including the people who lived and worked at Rockingham House.
Guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more.
Other outdoor activities include orienteering and zip lining.
Additional must-see attractions at Lough Key Forest Park include the Ice House, Gazebo, the Bog Gardens, the Wishing Chair, the Fairy Bridge, Drumman’s Bridge, and a deer paddock.
Perhaps the most exciting activity to date at Lough Key Forest Park is Boda Borg, a questing adventure that transports visitors into a real-world gaming environment where they are expected to solve a number of challenges, testing their mental and physical capabilities.
The activity is suitable for groups of 3 people and more.
Boat tours are available for those who want to explore the lakes around the park as well as the much-photographed McDermott’s Castle, which is located on Castle Island in the southeast corner of Lough Key.
Tours and boat hires are available from Lough Key Boats.
For opening times, click here.