The Mullaghmeen Forest walk offers a real hidden gem to walking enthusiasts. Located in the heart of Ireland, Mullaghmeen is one of the best walks I’ve completed in recent years. To give you an idea of how high this praise is, my most recent blog post was about the Stairway to Heaven walk in County Fermanagh. For me, Mullaghmeen is right up there with this famous Irish walk.
Mullaghmeen Forest Walk Details
Distance: Four different waymarked walks available varying from 1.5km to 8km. We choose a combination of 2 of the routes which was just over 7km in total.
Time Required: 2 hours to complete the 7km.
Elevation: 261m (the highest point in Westmeath)
Grade: Moderate however there are some short steep inclines which are difficult.
What Makes Mullaghmeen Forest Walk so Good?
From my experiences of forest walks in Ireland, you are normally surrounded by imported varieties of coniferous trees such as sitka spruce, Scots pine or fir trees. Often walking through these means a long stretch in dull shadows.
While these types of tree do exist in Mullaghmeen, they are in the minority. Mullaghmeen forest walk is located on 400 hectares of woodland mainly planted with beech trees. In fact, Mullaghmeent is the largest planted beech forest in the whole of Europe. The beech plantation occurred during the 1930’s which means that the woodland is now wonderfully mature. So this walk offers that lovely dappled sunlight effect as the high trees above you sway in the breeze.
Mullaghmeen Forest walk also is home to the highest point in county Westmeath. Standing at 261m it is the lowest county top in Ireland. A nice fact but no big deal you might think. However, what you have to take into account is the flatness of the midland countryside around you. When you reach the summit (and indeed as you ascend) the views from this lonely hilltop are spectacular.
I have to admit that my enjoyment of the Mullaghmeen Forest Walk probably was impacted by the wonderful weather we got when completing the walk. We had picked a Thursday at the start of June for our walk. Blue skies and warm sunshine make everything in life that little bit better. Despite this, I think if I had to choose a perfect time of year to complete the Mullaghmeen Forest walk, I would pick the start of May. The bluebells that carpet much of the forest floor were fading fast by the time we got there in June. It would be lovely to see them in full bloom.
Finally, one other intangible added to the overall feelgood factor of the Mullaghmeen Forest walk. I completed the walk along with my Mother, my Godmother and my Brother. It was great after 15 months of lockdown life to finally have a relatively normal meet-up with loved ones. Just to spend a few hours catching up with family as we ambled through the forest was really enjoyable. Being a Thursday morning, the forest was very quiet. We saw a few others in the car park but otherwise had the route completely to ourselves.
Mullaghmeen is 8km from Oldcastle to the east and 9km from Castlepollard to the south. If you input Mullaghmeen Forest Recreational Area into google maps it will bring you the car park where the 4 marked trails all start from.
Mullaghmeen Forest Walk
As mentioned above, we chose to combine two of the trails. The white route is the longest at 8km. We followed this until it combined with the blue route for a short period. We then followed the blue markers for the remainder of the walk. The blue route takes in the summit of Mullaghmeen Hill. By combining these two, we were able to get a nice distance and also take in the highest point in Westmeath.
There is also a short yellow looped 1.4km walk which is popular with people with younger children and a medium length red walk of 3.5km. All of which go through the mature beech forest.
We started off from the carpark and headed uphill up the main pathway.
The whole trail is well signposted and it was no problem finding our first turn to the left which brought us even deeper into the forest. In fact it was easy to follow the route along the forest tracks the whole way around.
In some parts, the trail took us along the perimeter of the woods and afforded us some lovely views out to the surrounding countryside.
Approaching the 4km mark, we came across this first steep ascent of the day. This time along the western edge of the woods. With green pastures to our left and the woodland to our right we made the climb. It is very steep but luckily it climbs quickly before levelling out again.
After about 4km the white route meets the blue route and they follow the same path for a short period. We switched to following the blue markers as we wanted to make the climb to the top of Mullaghmeen. We were now on gravel paths which was a change from the soft earthen paths we had been walking on up to this point.
The climb to the summit is very steep and is the second difficult part of our walk. It was lovely though to take a look backwards every time we stopped to catch our breath. The views behind us were simply stunning.
The Summit of Westmeath
A dishevelled looking stone cairn marks the top of the hill. Lough Sheelin in County Cavan can be seen over the trees to the north.
Be careful on the descent from the top as the path downwards is a very steep decline so it’s important to take your time.
As we continued our walk back through the forest, we came across the remains of an old booley hut at around the 6km mark. In days gone by, booley huts acted as a summer shelters for shepherds looking after sheep or cattle.
The remaining kilometre and a half or so is more of the same lovely forest walks with the occasional place to view out into the surrounding countryside.
There are wooden benches back at the car park where we stopped for a well deserved cup of tea and picnic. There is a coffee truck that comes to Mullaghmeen on weekends selling teas, coffees and snacks.
The walk had taken two hours in total. I found it thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.
As a result of the Covid pandemic, there is much more interest in outdoor family activities. I hope that when we eventually get back to a more normal world, that this practice continues. The facilities at Mullaghmeen certainly make a great option for anyone looking for a nice walk with family or friends.
Other Attractions in the Area
For anyone looking to make a full day out in this locality, there are a couple of other really nice resources close by. You can experience the Seven Wonders of Fore which is 15km away. Also about 15km away is the Lough Crew Megalithic Centre, one of the main passage tomb cemeteries in Ireland.