Lough Key Forest Park is located a few kilometres east of the town of Boyle in north Roscommon just off the N4. The Park consists of 800 acres of forest and parkland facing onto Lough Key which is one of the lakes in the Shannon navigation system.

Bluebells on the Forest Floor (Pic: K Feely)

The Park is a location of immense historic significance, having been the seat of the ancient Gaelic McDermott Chieftains. The lands were granted to Sir John King by Queen Elizabeth I in 1603. At that time the estate consisted of 50,000 acres and covered much of the area of north Roscommon.

Fairy Bridge 1836 (Pic: K Feely)

Various grand houses were built by subsequent generations of the King family but the most important was Rockingham House. One of Sir John King’s descendants, Robert, 1st Viscount Lorton commissioned the famous architect, John Nash to build a lavish Palladian mansion overlooking Lough Key. The building of the house began in 1810 and it was finished in 1817 at a final cost of £52,000. The parkland was laid out by landscaper John Sutherland.

Pine Avenue (Pic: K Feely)

The estate was itself was distributed to tenant farmers under various Land Acts from the 1870s to 1903 and by the time all land transfers were completed, the owners of Rockingham were left with about 2,500 acres. The house burned down in 1957 because of an electrical fault. The family left the estate which was then taken over by the State. The Land Commission distributed the agricultural land to estate workers and retained the 800 acres that makes up Lough Key Forest Park.

The Park is owned by Coillte, the State forestry company and is a working forest as well as a public amenity. The public facilities are operated by Roscommon County Council.

Lough Key Marina (Pic: K Feely)

The main amenities are extensive walks and cycleways through forest and parkland. There are many unique features to the estate including western red cedars, follies, bridges and canals. It is home to a vast array of trees, plants and wildlife.

Activities for visitors include a Swedish adventure (Boda Borg), tree canopy, adventure play kingdom, orienteering, zipit, electric bikes, woodland Segway, woodland safari and boat tours of the lake. The Park has excellent camping and caravan facilities as well as a restaurant. There is also a marina with newly-constructed floating jetties.