Down the road from the Boyle Abbey, lays a hidden gem. Lough Key Forest Park. Featuring moss covered trees, a few ruins, underground tunnels, a marina, a 'folly' island castle, sequoia trees, and fantastic locals, Lough Key is one of those spots I could camp out in for a week, and still not be satisfied with the length of my trip.
The moss covered trees alone were enough to make me fall in love, but if nature just "doesn't do it for you" (and if it doesn't - why are you reading this blog?), the park has plenty more to offer.
Lough Key Forest Park (formerly known as Lough Ce), is located in an area absolutely steeped in history. There is reference to "Castle Island" in the annals of Lough Ce as early as 1184. Castle Island, simply known as The Rock to many, was home to the McDermotts, the Kings of Moylurg. "Castle Island" is known to many locals as a "folly" castle, due to the fact that the castle was truly made only for show, it was never a stronghold, and did not protect the McDermotts from anything but the wind. The McDermotts ruled the area until the 17th century, when it was granted to the King family from England under the Cromwellian settlement. Many of the buildings you can see on the grounds today were built by their hired architect, John Nash, who was famous in his time.
Similarly, these new owners also hired a renowned landscaper by the name of John Sutherland, who you can attribute to the fantastic trees and fauna that spans the park, including a few sequoias.
As we left the park, we enjoyed a small rainbow, which disappeared too quickly for me to capture with any castles or ruins in the background (dreams dashed again!), but I WAS able to catch a lovely, Instagram-worthy selfie, which I've included below. ;)
In all seriousness, and selfies aside, this park is amazing, and if you're in Ireland, it should be at the top of your destination list.