Enjoy the Forest Park
If you’re looking for information regarding activities/services within the Forest Park, please visit the local tourism site:
- Castlewellan Forest Park & Peace Maze
- Caravanning & Camping
- Mountain Biking
- Life Adventure Centre
- The Moorish Tower
- Park Walks
- Park Admission Information
These facilities are all managed by agencies outside of Castlewellan Castle. Unfortunately we are UNABLE to assist with Forest Park inquiries.
Castlewellan Forest Park covers some 460 hectares, including woodland and a 40 hectare lake
It was opened to the public in 1967 after the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture purchased the land from the Annesley family. Features of the park include the National Arboretum, the Peace Maze and Castlewellan Castle. Outdoor activities include camping and touring, walking, cycling, horse riding, fishing on the lake (permit required), canoeing and orienteering.
The Castlewellan Gold Leyland cypress was developed in the park from a mutant tree. It was selected by the park director, John Keown, and named Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Keownii’ in 1963. The original specimen is located in the ornamental gardens.
The national Arboretum of Northern Ireland is located in the park. It was first started in 1740 and contains trees from Asia, Australasia, and North and South America, including Japanese Maple and Giant sequoia planted in the 1850s.
In May 2018 the arboretum was awarded a plaque by the International Dendrology Society for having a “dendrological collection of exceptional merit.” The society encourages the conservation of rare and endangered plants and trees.
The Giant sequoia were planted as saplings in 1856. They were from a group of seed collected in California by renowned plant collector William Lobb and grown in a nursery from 1853. One of the trees has developed 19 separate trunks, a form rarely seen in cultivated specimens of this plant. The tree was voted Northern Ireland’s Tree of the Year for 2018.
Castlewellan’s Peace Maze is the world’s second largest permanent hedge maze and was designed to commemorate the peace and reconciliation efforts of Northern Ireland in the past century.
The hedge is comprised of 6,000 yew trees, many of which were planted by people from all over Northern Ireland during December of 2000. The hedge height of 1.5 meters, is lower than the usual hedge maze height, so as to facilitate communication and interaction between visitors in different areas of the paths.
Planning for the maze began in 1998, the attraction officially opening on September 12, 2001. The original concept was created by landscape designer Beverly Lear, though input from nearly 4,000 schoolchildren was taken into account in an effort to encourage a sense of common ownership. The entire construction heavily reflects the steps being taken in order to help uphold the peace brought about by ending “The Troubles.” This is most strongly recognized by the maze’s two distinct halves, which must be crossed in order to escape the maze. In the centre lies the Peace Bell, which visitors ring to indicate they have solved the puzzle.
The yew was specifically chosen for its connotations of peace and natural longevity; the physical maze and its message of peace will outlast those who planted it and exist for future generations.
The Peace Maze held the record of Largest Permanent Hedge Maze until 2007, when the Pineapple Garden Maze in Hawaii expanded to a total path length of nearly 4,000 meters.
The average completion time is 40 minutes, and the ringing of the centre bell is encouraged upon finishing.
Enjoy the Forest Park and remember to follow The Countryside Code