Monday, 28 April 2014

Lissard : Varied woodland and lakeside trails near Skibbereen

Beautiful woodland walks lead down to this peaceful lake

  • Free entry to extensive woodland and beautiful gardens
  • Start-point just 1.5 kms outside Skibbereen town
  • Approx 3 to 7 km walks available, choose route at info board
  • Plenty room to park bikes and cars
  • Mostly level walking, hills can be bypassed, suitable for anyone
  • Initial trails on road and through woods
  • Trail passes by pond garden then on to lakeside garden
  • Options include climbing hillside garden, before return to car park

 This is another of Ireland's hidden gems, a beautiful garden created around an old estate (with country house) woodland and lake. And it's open to the public all year round, except I believe for rare occasions when the house is let out for a function, and it's free of charge.

 From Skibbereen, take the turning left after LIDL for Castletownshend, the R596, and in less than a kilometre the gates of Lissard Country Estate appear on the right. You need to park here at the gate, and there's plenty of room. Then set off down the drive, having first consulted the information boards at the car park, which are very helpful.

 The information boards will show you the different routes, but I would suggest your first destination (by whichever route you choose, but try to take in the ponds on the way) should be the lake. Your walk will wind you down through woodland to the lake shore, where a stone-flagged path leads you to seats by a stone pier at the lakeside. Especially if you have good weather, the view from here as you sit by the lake is superb. It is an excellent place for a mid-walk picnic.

 Lissard Estate prides itself on its 'garden rooms', which have different themes such as lakeside, waterfall, woodland, etc. There is also an old hilltop walled garden. It is simply a place to explore at your leisure, and if you have the time, I would say try to see all of it, as it's just so good. There is a garden art work called 'The Irish Sky Garden', created by artist James Murrell, which I haven't yet got to see, but you can take a guided tour to it for 5 euros. The tours are popular, as the art work is so admired by garden enthusiasts and garden designers internationally. I'm not sure if the 'Irish Sky Garden' is also open for no charge to visitors, say in the evening, but I'm trying to find out.

 Because of the dense woodland, the number of streams cascading through them and the imaginative and quite Robinsonian gardens created around them, there is so much interest and variety at Lissard to keep you exploring for an afternoon. They also have festivals in summer. In a time when private gardens are rarely open free to the public, this beautiful estate, created to showcase the variety and excellence of Irish gardens and nature, is a must-visit for any walker and nature-lover. And in almost any weather conditions, but especially on a sunny day or evening, it's a supremely romantic place.

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