In search of the fairy trail – a trip to Slieve Gullion Forest Park

The fairy trail - Slieve Gullion Park

We’d heard some good reports about a fairy trail located in North Louth and on a whim recently, we decided to pack a picnic and pile into our new vehicle for a short road trip. Our new car allows us to take extra passengers in the back, so it was the first time we could bring the whole brood out anywhere. We were only delighted with ourselves driving off up the road shouting at my husband’s eldest perched in the boot.

“Can you hear us back there?”

She couldn’t. She was so squeezed into the tiny space, her knees were hitting the ceiling and ear muffing her head. Oh well.

We said we’d set out for half ten / eleven and were delighted when we hit the road around one – only an hour and a half late and good going by any family’s standards. A quick phone call to the sister-in-law on the way, confirmed that the park was not in fact in Louth but in County Armagh across the border and she advised us to take sterling to buy the ice creams. “Not at all,” said the hubby shaking his head, confident in his pocketful of euros.

I was worried about the coins. We were all worried about the RA. (Joking. It was Brexit, we were worried about Brexit).

The journey from our house outside Drogheda to the park took less than 40 minutes – and that included the bit where we got lost behind a tractor. This was good for poor Abbie stuck in the back with Bambi legs and she was almost as happy as our toddler daughter to spy the sheltered playground appear in front of us, which meant we could unload and go and discover.

Our sister-in-law had told us that the playground was really good, and she wasn’t wrong. There’s plenty of covered slides and tunnels, climbing frames and merry-go-rounds and in the middle of it all were nicely placed picnic benches, so you could sit and have your food, letting the kids run riot, while still staying close. For a moment, I felt as though I were in France, such were the facilities.

Here’s the only pic we captured with a bit of the playground – you can see it’s really well kept and presented

After our picnic, in which I managed to bring enough hot water to make tea for myself and my husband but run out just as I poured Abbie’s – I really am a wicked stepmother – we set off on the trail in search of fairies.

We weren’t quite sure where we were going and nearly wandered up the end of the trail first, so our advice is to keep left and head under the arch. It doesn’t really matter if you do walk round the wrong way but we were a bit confused at first and there wasn’t any signage that we could see telling you about the walk, or how long it might take. Depending on how many babies, buggies or different ages of children you have you may not be keen to wander off too far when you don’t know what’s ahead of you so here is, so I’ve put together some tips if you are planning on visiting.

The only way to travel

How long does the fairy trail take to complete?
To get around the whole trail will take the guts of an hour to hour and half – it really depends on how long you take to stop at each of the fairy points. I don’t know the length of the trail but it felt like 2 – 3km or so. We took little rest stops along the way – there was bench sitting at points, plenty of large roots and various steps and parts of the trail that served as seats. It was nice to stop and rest and take it all in.

What can we expect?
Lots of fairy houses, story telling points – giant tea cups, witch’s head, large and small doors to knock and check if any fairies or goblins are in. It’s imaginative and at an eye level perfect for small children.

Me most mornings

Any highlights?
Our daughter loved the boardwalk that starts at a fairy house and leads you deep in the forest. Along the forest trail on the path, she kept thinking a giant was going to appear and eat her up – she felt safe on the boardwalk! It leads you into a fairy house and across a rope bridge and it was lots of fun.

What if it’s raining?
We found the whole trail to be very sheltered as it runs through a dense forest with branches overhead. This was good for us on the day as it was sunny and warm, and equally would work on wet or showery day – as long as you wrapped up. So Irish weather proof then.

Can I take a buggy?
You could push a buggy around, but we decided on the sling to give us a bit more freedom. Parts of the trail were muddy and a lot of it is uphill – it’s located on the side of a mountain, but it wasn’t too taxing and you could bring a buggy if you wanted. The boardwalk has parts where you can go inside down narrow tunnels into the fairy house, so you would need to skip these with a buggy.

What ages is it suitable for?
The trail is really geared towards younger children, who would believe in fairies and all the magic that they bring, but as we all know, kids just love getting out and about with their family, so it doesn’t matter if the kids are older. There were some giant musical instruments to play at the end of the trail which might appeal. It was a really lovely way to spend a family afternoon.

We were all smiling when we came down off the trail, even our toddler who spent the whole first part clinging to us for dear life, lest Jack had not in fact killed the giant and he appeared from behind a tree or a fairy house to gobble her all up.

If you have a child who is reaching the stage where it’s time to give up on the dodee, it’s worth dropping it off at the special drop off point they’ve created along the path for this exact purpose. Lots of the donated dodees were hanging on the trees and it was a really sweet idea, especially if Christmas seems too far away for the big man himself to come and take it away.

Dodee donations please

After our walk, we headed back to the playground and straight for the parked ice cream truck to see if we would indeed take our euros. To finish our practically perfect day out – he did and we sat and ate them, while our toddler, still safe from the giant played again in the fab playground.

It was lovely to see a public facility that so well kept, felt so safe and was completely free to take part in. As we brought our picnic, the only money we spent was on our ice-creams.

If you’re interested in visiting the fairy trail and park yourself you’ll find directions and further information on upcoming events on Slieve Gullion website.

My favourite fairy house of all – the Dew Drop Inn.

Have you visited this park or would you like to? Would love to hear your thoughts.

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