A visit to the brilliant Belleek Woods is, in my opinion, one of the best things to do in Mayo.
Once part of the extensive Belleek Castle estate, Belleek Woods stretch over a 1,000-acre site and are one of the largest urban forests in Europe.
The woods provide a peaceful wooded retreat beside the Rover Moy for scenic walks spotting birds, mature trees, flora and wildlife.
In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from the Belleek Woods walk to what to do nearby. Dive on in.
Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Belleek Woods
Although a visit to Belleek Woods in Mayo is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
The Belleek Woods Trailhead is just over 2km north of the lively town of Ballina in County Mayo. The woods are on the west bank of the River Moy which marks the border between Mayo and Sligo counties.
2. Park of Belleek Castle
Part of the Belleek Castle estate, now a luxury hotel, these woodlands are 35 minutes from Knock Airport and a similar distance from Downpatrick Head.
Follow signs from Castle Road to the main car park in Belleek Woods where there is ample free parking. There’s a second smaller car park known as Duck Pond Car Park further north in the woods. From either car park, enjoy a loop walk through the woodland surrounded by nature, wildflowers and mature trees.
4. The woodland walk
The main loop trail in Belleek Woods is 4km long. You should allow about 90 minutes to complete as there are plenty of stopping places for admiring the river views, wild flowers, an abandoned boat and a family mausoleum along the way.
A speedy history of Belleek Castle
Built in 1825 as the family home of the Knox-Gore family, Belleek Castle replaced an earlier 13th century tower house. Designed by John Benjamin Keane, this grand manor house passed through several generations before falling into disrepair.
Marshall Doran bought the magnificent neo-Gothic manor in 1961 and restored it. He was a merchant naval officer, adventurer and craftsman, restoring the rooms including the wood-panelled Armada Bar.
He filled it with fine antiques, collections of armour and Jurassic fossils before opening the castle as a luxury hotel in 1970. It’s well worth taking a guided tour to hear the full story!
The Belleek Woods walk
There are few places more lovely for a walk than Belleek Woods, and it’s for this reason that a visit here is one of the most popular things to do in Ballina.
Located next to the mighty River Moy, the 4km loop trail here takes about 90 minutes and is moderately taxing.
Explore well-maintained trails through mixed woodland with Norway spruce, Scots pine, beech, oak and ash trees and soak up the sights and sounds that surround you.
Look out for the family grave, abandoned concrete boat, ice house and glimpses of the castle. You might want to drop into the castle’s Armada Bar for drinks or treat yourself to afternoon tea at Jack Fenn’s Café.
Things to do near Belleek Woods
One of the beauties of the Belleek Woods walk is that, when you finish up, you’re a short spin from some of the best places to visit in Mayo.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Belleek Woods (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Belleek Castle
The woods were once part of a 1000 acre estate surrounding Belleek Castle. This beautiful neo-Gothic castle has been restored as a luxury hotel but has a fascinating history as a stud farm, hospital and military barracks! Take a guided tour to see the resplendent rooms, chandeliers, antiques, armour, Armada Bar (decked out with timber from the wrecked fleet) and the museum.
2. Enniscrone Beach
If you fancy a day at a gorgeous sandy beach, hop across the border into County Sligo and head to Enniscrone Beach. Stroll along the 5km crescent of golden sand or dive in – the Blue Flag waters are so inviting! Explore the dunes to find the Valley of Diamonds. Alas, no sparkly treasure, but some very unusual volcano-like formations.
3. Downpatrick Head
A 30-minute scenic drive from Belleek Woods is Downpatrick Head on Mayo’s north coast. Stroll along the cliff top to see the dramatic sea stack, Dun Briste, and visit the remains of an early Christian Church established by Ireland’s patron saint and see the modern St Patrick statue. There’s also a blowhole (Pul Na Sean Tinne) which is especially awesome at high tide.
4. The Ceide Fields
Close to Downpatrick Head, the Ceide Fields are the chance to see some serious history. Discovered by accident in the 1930s, this site was the settlement of a Neolithic community. Take a tour around the stone-walled fields, village and tombs and enjoy the spectacular views from the roof observation deck at the award-winning Visitor Centre.
FAQs about visiting Belleek Woods in Mayo
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from the Belleek Woods walk to what to do nearby.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Is Belleek Woods worth visiting?
Yes – if you’re a fan of a good forest walk, Belleek Woods is well worth dedicating a morning or afternoon to.
What is the Belleek Woods walk like?
The walk should take you around 1.5 hours and it’s said to be moderately taxing.
What is there to do near Belleek Woods?
You have the obvious choice of Belleek Castle and then many of the North Mayo coastlines’ top attractions a short spin away.