Avondale Forest Park
Avondale Forest Park is the birthplace of Irish Forestry. Samuel Hayes built Avondale House in the 1770’s and he collected and planted a range of tree species from all over the world. The House moved into the ownership of the Parnell family in the 1800’s and was the birth-place of the great Irish statesman, Charles Stewart Parnell.
The state purchased Avondale in 1904 and its magnificent 505 acre estate is synonymous with the birth of Irish forestry. Here, the tree species which are now commonplace in the Irish forest industry were planted and trialled for the first time in experimental plots. Laid out along the lines of a continental forest garden, these plots laid down from 1904 to 1913 are still visible today along the majestic sweeping lawn known as the ‘Great Ride’. It was at Avondale that the early foresters of Ireland were educated until Kinnitty Castle in Offaly took over as the state forestry school.
Today, the Forest Park provides a variety of trails for walking and family cycling. The Railway Walk links the park directly into Rathdrum – that which Parnell himself took to connect to the train at Rathdrum and onward to the Houses of Parliament in London. The trails are of varying lengths and feature the best the Park has to offer – along the vast expanse of the ‘Great Ride, through majestic stands of Sequoia, Spruce and broadleaves and down along the steep-sided river valley.
Coillte, in partnership with Fáilte Ireland and Wicklow County Council are undertaking a significant re-development of Avondale Forest Park during 2019 & 2020. A new visitor destination will take visitors ‘under’ and through the trees, to an incredible viewpoint high over the Avonmore river valley. A new ‘living history’ experience in Avondale House will open the life and times of Parnell to visitors in a highly engaging way. A new restaurant/ café and pavilion with the story of Irish Forestry will demonstrate how Coillte are at the cutting edge of technology in managing Irelands forest estate. In advance of the re-development, Avondale House and Café will not be open to the public during 2018, but the wider Forest Park remains open every day. Please also note that disabled toilets are not available at the Park currently.
Things to do
The River Walk: The longest and hardest walk at Avondale with some steep descents and climbs, therefore strong footwear is recommended.
Walking alongside the river you pass under two railway bridges, still used today. There are magnificent river views and further up the hill you can see Lovers Leap
Tree Trail: This is a loop walk: (2 kms , 1 hour, Moderate)
On the Tree Trail you will meet trees from many corners of the world that have taken happily to the Irish Environment. The trail takes you through Eucalyptus trees A grove of trees stand testimony to Augustine Henry (1857-1930) The tree trail guides you through a showcase of tree species found on the estate.
Railway Walk: This is a linear walk: (2 kms, 1 hour each way, Moderate)
This is a linear walk from Rathdrum railway station through the woods to Avondale House, and could have been used by Parnell on his frequent journeys.
For a map of all trails click this link Avondale Forest Park
Leisure cycling trail (1.5kms, 20 mins, Easy) This is a dual purpose (walking and cycling trail) please respect walkers during your cycle.
There are 3 permanent orienteering courses (short, medium and long courses) with downloadable maps and there are also answer sheets for when you complete the course.
There is a children’s playground which is located close to Avondale House.
There are picnic tables located in the car park with barbeque grids.
Don’t miss our hidden gem
The grassy expanse of the 'Great Ride' sweeps through Avondale and opens up incredible vistas of the Vale of Avoca.
Visitors Facilities on site
Picnic tables with barbeque grids.
Car Parking: 400 spaces
Car Park Opens: 7.00am April to September and 8.00pm (October to March)
Car Park Closes: 9.00pm April to September and 5.00pm (October to March)
Note that the House and Café are closed for the 2018 season, prior to re-development