On Easter Monday my dad and I took a drive to Portglenone Forest, approximately a 45 minute drive from Belfast. It’s a place I’d never visited before but it’s been on my ‘must visit’ list for some time. Thankfully, this year, good weather and a day off combined perfectly to allow us to make the trip and off we set early on a beautifully sunny morning on our first visit.
Portglenone Forest is classified as ancient woodland and is home to extensive colonies of ancient woodland flower species including wild garlic, wood anemone and bluebell. Approximately 45 hectares in size, the woodland originally formed part of one of the biggest oak forests in the country. Sadly, for historical reasons, most of that forest had disappeared by the early 1800s. Consequently, despite the fact that we are surrounded by greenery here, less than 1% of the land area of Northern Ireland can be classified as long established woodland. This makes areas like Portglenone Forest very special indeed.
So while everyone else was rushing to the coast to soak up the sunshine on a busy Easter Monday, we wandered round the forest enjoying the birdsong, the dappled light and the sheer peace and tranquillity of it all.
Of course, at this time of year, the bluebells are the main attraction. It’s the first thing that hits you – a beautiful haze of blue extending along the woodland floor. I’ve never seen anything quite like it – great swathes of bluebells in every direction, the smell of wild garlic rising up through the air and, overhead, shafts of sunlight piercing through the canopy of trees. Up close too, the fragrance of the bluebells hits your senses.
‘Enter the wood with care, my love
Lest you are pulled down by the hue
Lost in the depths, drowned in blue’
‘Bluebell’ from The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane
I just hope these photographs give you a feel for what is a magical place – it truly felt like something from a fairy tale. And I’m so glad now I finally took the time to visit.
Have a lovely Sunday x
ps the forest is currently open between 8am and 8pm and there is a £4 entrance fee. There is parking adjacent to the forest as well as toilets and picnic tables.