It’s still “Easter week” here in Northern Ireland and that means many people are off work and school! This has been fun for us because we’ve been able to spend more quality time with friends. Yesterday we joined a convoy of cars driving to Castlewellan Forest Park in Castlewellan. Driving from Larne, it took us about an hour and a half to get there. It was an absolutely gorgeous day so we had a beautiful drive! We journeyed through Belfast to get there but also traveled on beautiful country roads. We saw green hills, mountains and sheep, and passed by lovely cottages.
Once we parked (£5 per car), we walked down the hill and folded out our blankets on the huge stretch of green. We were right next to the lake and in view of the castle too. Such a gorgeous setting in the Mourne mountains! We were able to get one of the scattered picnic tables but we had blankets for the ground too. We didn’t go inside the castle but apparently you can stay there overnight in their dorm-like rooms. Various conferences and retreats are hosted there.
My 2 year old loved watching the dogs run around and jump in the water, and sticking his own feet in the water too. There are a few steps down into the lake where you can sit and play in the water if you want. We saw several people kayaking in kayaks they had rented at the visitor centre. (I want to do that on our next visit!) My toddler also enjoyed flying our kite, kicking around a ball, and walking along the path to collect sticks! There’s a 1-mile trail around the lake and you can even rent bikes to cycle it. This portion is very buggy/bike-friendly!
The Peace Maze, on the other hand, is not so buggy-friendly. People did have them but it’s a gravel path and very rocky. My 2 year old rode on my husband’s shoulders and I wore the wee man in my onya carrier. The sign said that most people get through the maze in about 40 minutes but we lucked out and finished it in 25! There is a peace bell at the end that my toddler enjoyed ringing. The maze was lovely and called the “Peace Maze” because it represents the path to a peaceful future for Northern Ireland.
At the end of the maze there is a nice wooden playground that was filled with kids on this busy Easter Tuesday!
There are toilets and changing facilities near the car park so use those before you head down to the lake/castle area. If you get hungry or thirsty there is a cafe on site too. We definitely want to visit again if we have another free day with beautiful weather!
Today was what our Northern Irish friends call “Easter Monday” which basically means it’s the day after Easter and most everybody has the day off work/school. Hoping for nice weather, everyone seems to flock to outdoor venues to spend their time. With the gorgeous forecast, Carnfunnock was popular today and we thoroughly enjoyed this huge park!
Set right on the coast near Larne, Carnfunnock boasts over 190 hectares (over 470 acres) of gardens, trails, trees, and stunning views of the coastline. We loved walking around and looking at all the flowers. My toddler especially loved smelling them. There are many attractions for wee ones of all ages! There are remote control boats and cars, bouncy houses, crazy golf (putt putt), a train for younger ones, trampoline jumps for older kids, a huge labyrinth, and even those big inflatable balls you can get inside! All of these cost a couple pounds each.
The very best activity in my opinion is the gigantic play area, the “Adventure Playground” which is free! There are a few different playgrounds inside this area, each designed with a specific age group in mind, although all kids can climb on any of the structures. My 2 year old loved the one that looked like a ship, but was very brave and bolted to the top of the bigger one to fly down the slides! There’s even a zip line and some sort of skateboard/skiing simulator activity that looked really neat. Scattered between the play equipment were all types of spinning chairs, tire swings, balance beams, and traditional swings. We could’ve spent all day in this one area.
Just a few steps away is a big grassy pitch where kids were running around playing tag, kicking soccer balls, and throwing frisbees. This is right next to the crazy golf area. There is a small shop that sells ice cream and other treats, along with a Visitor Centre that has balls, bubbles, and toy swords. They also have postcards and all sorts of baubles labeled with “Carnfunnock Country Park”. So if you’re looking for a souvenir, this is the place to be!
We paid for parking today but they don’t always charge for that. There is also a coffee shop in the Visitor Centre if you need a pick me up after all the walking. We did a lot of walking, but all on paved paths of course so it is really buggy-friendly. My 2 year old did great but spent a lot of time riding on my husband’s shoulders. If you have one like we do who is still wearing nappies, I’m happy to point out that there are accessible changing stations too!