Tollymore Forest Park

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Tollymore Forest Park
Tollymore Forest Park, September 2010 (10).JPG
A wooden footbridge crossing the Shimna River in Tollymore Forest Park
Map showing the location of Tollymore Forest Park
Map showing the location of Tollymore Forest Park
Location of Tollymore Forest Park
Location Down, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Coordinates 54°12′58″N 5°55′01″W / 54.216°N 5.917°W / 54.216; -5.917Coordinates: 54°12′58″N 5°55′01″W / 54.216°N 5.917°W / 54.216; -5.917
Area 630 hectares (1,600 acres)
Established 2 June 1955
Governing body Forest Service Northern Ireland

Tollymore Forest Park was the first state forest park in Northern Ireland, established on 2 June 1955. It is located at Bryansford, near the town of Newcastle in the Mourne and Slieve Croob Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It covers an area of 630 hectares (1,600 acres) at the foot of the Mourne Mountains and has views of the surrounding mountains and the sea at nearby Newcastle. The Shimna River flows through the park where it is crossed by 16 bridges, the earliest dating to 1726. The river is a spawning ground for salmon and trout and is an Area of Special Scientific Interest due to its geology, flora and fauna. The forest has four walking trails signposted by different coloured arrows, the longest being the "long haul trail" at 8 miles (13 km) long. It was listed in The Sunday Times top twenty British picnic sites for 2000. The Forest Park has been managed by the Forest Service since they purchased it from the Roden Estate in 1941.


The earliest mention of Tollymore was in records dated 1611 when it was stated that the Maginness family of Upper Iveagh received a grant of 7.5 townlands including the Estate of Tollymore, from James I. This remained in the family until about 1685 when Bryan Maginness died unmarried and his sister Ellen, who had married Captain William Hamilton of Ayrshire, inherited the land. The Hamilton family remained owners of Tollymore until 1798. The great grandson of William Hamilton, James, died in 1798 without children and Tollymore was transferred to his sister Anne, who married Robert Jocelyn, 1st Earl of Roden. The Roden family continued in possession of Tollymore throughout the 19th century, and in 1930 the Robert Jocelyn, 8th Earl of Roden sold part of the estate to the Ministry of Agriculture for afforestation purposes. The remainder was sold to the Ministry in 1941.[1]

Structures, follies and bridges[edit]

Clanbrassil barn
The Hermitage, Tollymore Forest Park
Horn Bridge

Tollymore features many follies whose design were influenced by Thomas Wright of Durham, a friend of James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Clanbrassil.[2] At the entrance and exit to the park there are Gothic gate arches built by James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Clanbrassil (Viscount Limerick). The gate and gate lodge at the exit were built in 1786 and, along with the front walling, are grade B1 listed structures.[3] The barbican gate, also of Gothic design, is located on the main drive at the entrance to the park. It was built in 1780 and is a B+ listed building.[4]

Clanbrassil barn, located near the exit to the park, was built in around 1757 by James Hamilton (1st Earl of Clanbrassil). The building was designed to look like a church. A steeple containing a bell, clock and sundial was added to the east end of the building in 1789. The barn, attached Gothic gate and wall are grade B1 listed buildings. The barn functioned as a stable and store until 1971. The ground floor now contains toilets and an education room.[5][6]

A granite obelisk, located on a small grassy hill near the main drive, was built in between 1812 and 1820 by Robert Jocelyn, 2nd Earl of Roden as a monument to his son James Bligh Jocelyn who died of an asthma attack while serving in the navy.[7]

There are numerous artificial and natural features along the Shimna River, including bridges, grottos and caves. The Hermitage is a small stone shelter designed by James Hamilton (2nd Earl of Clanbrassil) in the 1770s in memory to his friend the Marquis of Monthermer. It is built into the side of the gorge above the river and was used as a place for ladies to shelter while the men fished.[8][9] There is an inscription in Greek within the Hermitage which translates as "Clanbrassil, to his very dear friend Monthermer 1770".[10]

The Shimna river is crossed by 16 bridges as it flows through Tollymore. The Old Bridge, built by James Hamilton in 1726, is the oldest of the current bridges. The Ivy Bridge was built in 1780 and Foley’s Bridge in 1787. Parnell Bridge, named in recognition of Sir John Parnell who visited Tollymore in the late 18th century, was constructed in 1842. It was the last stone bridge to be built in Tollymore. The more recent footbridges are constructed from wood.[8] Horn bridge crosses a small culverted stream and is crossed by a gravel road. The stream below the bridge is covered with a board walk connected to a path. It was built c.1770 by either the 1st or 2nd Earl.[11]

The King's Grave is a megalithic cairn located in the western end of the park. It is 22 yards (20 m) across and 10 feet (3.0 m) high and dates to 1000 - 1500 BC.[12][13][14]

In 2014, the Mourne Heritage Trust carried out restoration work on 15 structures within the park including the granite monument, both gates, the hermitage, Foley's Bridge, Horn Bridge and the Old Bridge.[15]


Birds: Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major).[16]


Tollymore Forest Park in autumn

Algae: Nitella flexilis (L.) Ag. var. flexilis.[17] Pteridophyta: Hymenophyllum wilsonii Hooker; Phegopteris connectilis (Michx.) Watt; Polystichum aculeatum (L.) Roth; Dryopteris aemula (Ait.) Kuntze.[17]

Angiospermae: Acaena ovalifolia Ruiz & Pavon; Acaena novae-zelandiae Kirk; Rosa arvensis Huds; Prunus padus L.; Circaea × intermedia Ehrh; Pyrola minor L.; Scrophularia auriculata L. Mimulus moschatus Dougl. ex Lindl.; Melampyrum pratense L.; Lathraea squamaria L. Pinguicula lusitanica L.; Mentha gentilis L.; Sambucus ebulus L.; Erigeron karvinskianus DC; Hieracium senescens Backhouse; Hieracium argenteum Fr.; Hieracium duriceps F. J. Hanbury; Hieracium grandidens Dahlst.; Hieracium stewartii (L.) Willd.; Neottia nidus-avis (L.) Rich.; Carex laevigata Sm.; Carex pallescens L.; Carex pilulifera L.; Festuca altissima All.; Melica uniflora Retz; Milium effusum L.[17]

There are experimental forest plots of exotic trees such as monkey puzzle and eucalyptus and giant redwoods and Monterey pines. Oak wood from Tollymore was the preferred material for the interiors of the White Star liners including the RMS Titanic built in Belfast. The original tree of the slow-growing spruce, Picea abies 'Clanbrassiliana', which originated nearby in about 1750, remains and is the oldest tree in any arboretum in Ireland. The avenue from the entrance of the park is lined with Deodar cedars.[18]


The Forest Park has camping and caravanning facilities.[19]


In 2005 the 10th Earl of Roden published a history of Tollymore, his family's estate, entitled Tollymore: The History of an Irish Demesne.


  1. ^ "Tollymore Forest Park". The Mourne Mountains. Archived from the original on 23 January 2009. Retrieved 22 December 2008. 
  2. ^ Stewart, Linda (January 5, 2013). "See the Wood for the Trees". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 31 October 2014 – via HighBeam. (subscription required (help)). 
  3. ^ "Historic Building Details - Byransford gate and gate lodge". DOE NI. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  4. ^ "Historic Building Details -Barbican gate". DOE NI. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  5. ^ "Tollymore Forest Park". NI Direct. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "Historic Building Details - Clandrassil barn". DOE NI. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  7. ^ "Historic Building Details - Monument". DOE NI. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  8. ^ a b McKee, Linda (January 3, 2009). "Enjoy a Tolly good walk in the heart of Narnia country; WALK THIS WAY". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 16 October 2014 – via HighBeam. (subscription required (help)). 
  9. ^ "Historic Building Details - Hermitage". DOE NI. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  10. ^ "Tollymore Forest Park". NI Direct. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  11. ^ "Historic Building Details - Horn Bridge". Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  12. ^ Evans, Emyr Estyn (1951). Mourne Country: Landscape and Life in South Down. Dundalgan Press. p. 207. 
  13. ^ Northern Ireland. Ancient monuments advisory council (1940). A preliminary survey of the ancient monuments of northern Ireland. H.M. Stationery office. p. 135. 
  14. ^ Fairbairn, Helen and McCormack, Gareth (2010). Hiking in Ireland. Lonely Planet. p. 258. ISBN 9781741044683. 
  15. ^ "Restoration project to preserve structures for future generations". Mourne Observer. 23 October 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  16. ^ A. M. G. McComb, R. Kernohan, P. Mawhirt, B. Robinson, J. Weir & B. Wells (2010). "Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major): proof of breeding in Tollymore Forest Park, Co. Down". Irish Naturalists' Journal 31: 66–67. 
  17. ^ a b c P. Hackney, ed. (1992). Stewart & Corry's Flora of the North-east of Ireland (3rd ed.). Institute of Irish Studies & Queen's University, Belfast. ISBN 0-85389-446-9. 
  18. ^ "Tollymore Forest Park". Discover Northern Ireland. Retrieved 22 December 2008. 
  19. ^ "Tollymore Forest Park". Forest Service NI. Retrieved 22 December 2008. 

Further reading[edit]