At Castle Caldwell Forest in Northern Ireland’s far west, spring appears in a joyous riot of colour. At first, just one or two buttercups appear in the forest glades, poking their yellow heads above a sea of green. Then four or five; a dozen; a score. A few days on and the meadows are awash with brilliant flowers. Other spring highlights include red clovers, woodland bluebells and courting waterbirds out on the lough.
You could do far worse than find an oak on the forest edge, lay your back against its trunk and watch insects whir as the sun and wind throw shapes across the leas.
But for those with a little more energy, there are many more spring sights and sounds to be found on this wooded peninsula that stretches more than a mile into Lough Erne.
Castle Caldwell Forest walk
2.5 miles/4km | 1.5 hours | easy
1. Ivy facade
There are three waymarked trails in Castle Caldwell Forest: Castle Scenic Walk (0.3 miles), Beech Wood Walk (1.2 miles) and Rossergole Point Walk (2.5 miles). For the third option, park at the western end of the forest where there are picnic tables, interpretation boards, toilets and a jetty.
Follow the Rossergole Point markers east through budding trees to the ivy-cloaked ruins of Castle Caldwell. Built in 1612, the castle was once “a most comfortable good house, a very large court of excellent offices” (Francis Newbery, 1780).
2. tufts and crests
Take a slight left from the castle to join the lough shore, where alder and willow trees lean like parasols over the water. Until the late 1800s – when the lough was lowered by three metres – this path was submerged; the old water line is marked by a verge of oak and beech trees above the trail. After half a mile you will pass a small pond before swinging south to Rossergole Point. In spring, tufted ducks, red-breasted mergansers and great crested grebes can be seen courting on the water.
3. Southern shores
Continue around the peninsula for half a mile then veer once more into forest, where bluebells grow among mats of moss and yawning ferns. Follow the boundary of one of those pretty buttercup meadows – looking out for red clover flowers, too – to return to the castle, then retrace your steps to the car park.
For more details on walking routes and maps, visit the Castle Caldwell Forest website.