There’s a new treetop attraction in County Wicklow that is sure to become the perfect destination for families looking for something cool and exciting to do while exploring the beautiful Avondale Forest Park.
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The recently opened Beyond the Trees Avondale treetop walk, beginning in Avondale’s walled garden, offers a breath-taking bird’s eye view of the forest and the surrounding countryside in a county known as the Garden of Ireland.
The attraction is a flagship tourism and recreation destination of Coillte, an organization that manages 7 percent of Ireland’s forested land.
The elevated walkway stretches for 1.3 kilometers (0.80 miles) and is 23 meters (75 feet) above the forest floor.
It ends at the foot of an impressive 38-meter (124-foot) viewing tower that has been built among eucalyptus trees.
From the top of the tower, visitors can enjoy stunning 360° panoramic views over the park, in addition to seeing other familiar Wicklow sites like the Vale of Avoca, the Wicklow Mountains, and beyond.
Interpretative stations can be found along the walkway describing the flora and fauna of the forest, as well as the history of Avondale and its importance as the birthplace of the Irish forestry industry.
For the adventurous, there’s the option of returning to the ground level by taking the giant spiral slide within the tower, the first of its kind in Ireland.
Other Attractions Within the Avondale Forest Park
The large walled garden, first created three centuries ago, has been rejuvenated into a relaxing contemporary space that is home to a state-of-the-art children’s play area and a café with an outdoor dining terrace.
Another attraction, especially for parents of special-needs children, is the park’s stimulating sensory garden.
The Coillte Pavilion is an immersive exhibition that tells the story of the forestry industry in Ireland.
The free exhibition also tells the story of innovation in the Irish forestry industry and how the organization is working to combat climate change.
Perhaps even more interesting is the story of forestation in Ireland, a country once covered in forest and then depleted of it over centuries due mainly to farming practices beginning in the 12th and 13th centuries when the land was cleared for grazing.
Further exploitation by English settlers beginning in the 1600s also depleted the nation's woodlands.
By the beginning of the 20th century, only 1% of Ireland's total land mass was made up of forest, the only country in Europe to experience such devastation to its environment.
The exhibition explains how forests in Ireland are now being managed and restored, and more importantly, how they are being protected for future generations of people to enjoy.
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There are numerous walking trails scattered throughout the 500 acres of the park’s mature woodlands.
It is also home to over 100 different types of trees from all over the world.
They include varieties of yew, larch, fir, oak, spruce, and giant redwoods, some of which were planted by the estate’s founder, Samuel Hayes, 300 years ago and others planted during the Great Tree Experiment of the early 1900s.
Sitting in the middle of the estate is Avondale House, the birthplace and home of the Irish nationalist politician Charles Stewart Parnell.
The Georgian-style house was constructed in 1777 for Hayes, a barrister who wrote a book on Irish forestry and was also a pioneer of the re-afforestation of Ireland.
He bequeathed his property to Sir John Parnell, the great-grandfather of Charles.
After Parnell’s death in 1891, the estate was sold to a Dublin butcher who felled most of the trees around the house to recoup his investment.
In 1904, it was acquired by the Irish government.
Guided tours of the house are expected to begin in the fall, with visitors learning about the Parnell family and getting the chance to see the beautiful interiors, including the American Room dedicated to Admiral Charles Stewart, Parnell’s grandfather who commanded the USS Constitution during the War of 1812.
Tickets to the new treetop attraction in Wicklow can be booked online.