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Griston Bog 0237

Ballyhoura offers a wide variety of natural places where you can explore not only beauty but also a science which leads to a greater connection with nature. Outdoor improves our health and wellbeing, so why not to learn something while enjoying the beauty of our surroundings - especially in Ballyhoura Country!

Ballyhoura Outdoor Classrooms are unique, natural and inspiring places especially chosen and managed for learning, discovering and setting curiosity appetite.

Griston Bog in Ballylanders is a raised bog that developed within a lake of meltwater after the last ice age. It now has areas of bog, fen and ponds, semi-natural woodland as well as planted forestry. It is rich in insect life which in turn supports many birds and other animals such as frogs, newts and lizards.

To facilitate easy viewing of the bog, a special wooden walkway has been put in place which visitors can use as they guide themselves through this peatland with the help of the informative interpretative boards.

Lough Gur with Boy Louise Laffan

Lough Gur Lake & Lough Gur Native Tree Trail offers an insight into Ireland's past. Lough Gur is a unique site in that it has visible remains and evidence from every age beginning with Neolithic and including modern times. Home to Ireland's largest Grange Stone Circle and finest stone forts, Lough Gur is a living landscape.

There are 22 native tree species in Ireland and Lough Gur is working to ensure that all varieties are planted for prosperity within the grounds. To celebrate the natural heritage all 22 native tree species were identified and plotted to form part of a new tree trail.

Where there is nature there is, of course, an abundance of fairies. Lough Gur, in particular, is home to a great number and it is reported that the King of the fairies lives in the hill of Knockadoon. He is known as Fer Fí and to be sure that we stay on his good side you will find a purpose-built fairy throne outside the front entrance to the Lough Gur Heritage Centre. A miniature castle is also in place there for Aine who is Queen of the fairies.

Lough Gur is botanically rich and has a magnificent variety of wetland and woodland creatures who make Lough Gur their home throughout the year. The relationship between archaeology and nature are intrinsically tied as the first settlers to the area over 6,000 years ago chose Lough Gur for its abundant wildlife and awe-inspiring beauty. The protective hills at of Knockadoon and Knockfennel at each side of the lake also provide protection against the elements.

34 Doneraile Park Alan Noonan Photography

Doneraile Wildlife Park extends to c. 500 acres of woodland, wetlands and deer parks adjacent to the River Awbeg in Doneraile, Co. Cork. It contains formal gardens, pleasure grounds, river cascades and lakes, ancient trees, deer herds, Kerry cattle, and beautiful flora and fauna associated with the river and managed woodlands. The pathways are generally accessible for people with special needs.

Doneraile Court, the former residence of the St. Leger family, is situated within the Park. It is opened to the public following completion of restoration works, there is a Tea Rooms onsite (open 7 days a week) and New Large Children's Playground. There are a number of free guided tours throughout the year, tours can be arranged for groups and visitors.

Doneraile Wildlife Park is free to visit during the official opening times.

Mitchelstown Caves 2

Mitchelstown Caves is one of the largest and most complex cave systems in Ireland. On the guided tour you will follow ancient passageways and visit massive caverns in which you are surrounded by indescribable dripstone formations, stalactites, stalagmites and huge calcite pillars and one of Europe’s finest columns the inspiring “Tower of Babel” which stands some 9 meters in height.

It was discovered accidentally on the 3rd of May 1833, by Michael Condon who was quarrying limestone when he dropped his crowbar into a crevice. He stooped down to pull out a few boulders to retrieve the bar, next minute he found himself looking down into a vast series of underground chambers, passages and caverns.

Visitors, families, coach tours and group outings are guided through half a mile of this world-famous show cave. Coach tours should phone ahead of time for an appointment and are catered for all years around. Parking for cars and coaches is provided and toilets are on site.

Apple blossom tigin honey

Discover amazing a life of bees in Ballyhoura Country and visit Crokers Bee Farm a family-run farm with sheep and beef cattle, a vegetable garden, fruit garden and allotments and a variety of poultry including ducks, geese and hens. A dedicated Bee classroom allows visitors to participate and explore further the amazing life and work of the Honey bee.

Another local Bee Farm and honey producer is Pauline Walsh of Tigín Honey. Pauline studied organic growing and sustainable development where bees and she began an amazing journey. She began her first two colonies of bees in 2014 increasing year on year developing delicious Tigín Honey.

A lot learned but so much more to know as bees continue to share their lives with us.

Apple Farm

As part of Ballyhoura Food Trail, Ballyhoura Apple Farm is a must-visit experience. Located in the beautiful hillside town of Kilfinane Ballyhoura Apple Farm values its roots in the local community and cherish Ireland’s traditions of local, co-operation, support and friendship.

The tradition of apple growing in Ireland, and Kilfinane in particular, goes back to the 1700s. This tradition needs to be nurtured and developed as the climate conditions in Ireland are perfect for the production of world-class apples and apple products.

Farm tours and apple juice tastings are available on request.