The lands were formally part of the Ashford Estate which were owned by the Guinness family until 1939. This is a very interesting site which combines scenic walks, historic buildings with forest and water. On entering the abbey grounds, one is taken back in history. The last High King of Ireland, Rory O Connor lived here in the old abbey for the final years of his life and reign.
The Abbey grounds have many fine specimens of Yew that are hundreds of years old. On reaching the river, cross over the small bridge that leads onto the main river. To your left, you will see a small stone building by the edge of the river. This is known locally as “the Monks fishing house”. It was here that the monks from the abbey spent time in prayer and meditation and, at the same time, tried out their fishing skills.
On passing over the” Abbey bridge”, you enter the forest by going through an attractive stone gateway. Follow the nature trail which is signposted through the “wilderness”. Many of the old trees here were planted by Lord Ardulan who lived in the nearby Ashford Castle. Many of these trees are over 140 yrs old.
The area has many fine caves eg “Teach Aille” which is reputed to have been used by the monks as a fridge or larder, due to its low temperatures in the summer months. “Pigeon Hole Cave” can be accessed by descending the stone steps into the bowels of the earth. The water that you see flowing at the bottom is, in fact, the waters of Lough Mask travelling underground towards Lough Corrib.
Some fine examples of stone viaducts are to be seen along the route. Also just off the nature trail is the Guinness tower which is circa 20 metres high and can be accessed by narrow stairway.
Things to do
Cong nature trail: A scenic loop walk, (2.3 Km, 1Hr, Easy). takes you through a diverse forest containing a wide range of both exotic and native trees. Observe the many fine trees along the route. These include large specimens of common silver fir, Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, Scots pine, Coast redwoods, giant sequoia, Monterey pine and many others, both coniferous and deciduous. You will see Teach Aille sink reputed to have been used as a fridge or larder by the monks in bygone days. Pigeon Hole Cave can be seen which carries an underground river between Lough Mask and Lough Corrib.
Cong to Clonbur: The 12 trail (12Km return, 3.5Hr,easy) goes under county roads via two underpasses to the car park beside the village of Clonbur. You will pass along Cong Nature Trail and through Pigeon Hole Wood where you can see a cave/sink. A large proportion of Clonbur wood is a designated Special Area of Conservation under the Lough Carra/Mask complex. In addition to its wildlife value, this wood has a wide variety of both native and exotic trees and shrubs. The geology of Clonbur wood is mainly limestone in sheet formation. Because if its conservation value, circa 293ha has been designated a priority woodland and a restoration life nature project co-funded by Coillte and EU is ongoing to remove exotic species. There is signage erected along the route to explain restoration work undertaken.
Cycle: The road network is suitable for cycling.
Explore nature: There is a wide diversity of species here, and information signage on the trails to explain restoration works undertaken under EU life funded project.
Don’t miss our hidden gem
Visitors Facilities on site
Car parking at Cong Village.