Tollymore Forest Park is a fantastic spot to visit, situated at the foothills of the Mourne Mountains in County Down with the Shimna River passing through it. The park, which was Northern Ireland’s first national forest park, has become a major tourist attraction over the past ten years due to being a filming location for the Game of Thrones series. The area that Tollymore is situated in was in the possession of Magennis clan since shortly after the Norman Invasion of Ulster in 1177, it stayed in their possession until around 1650 when it passed into the Hamilton family through William who married Ellen Magennis. The grandson of this couple, James Hamilton, became Viscount Limerick in 1719 and shortly before his death in 1758 became the first Earl of Clanbrassil. James’ eldest son, also James, became the second Earl of Clanbrassil, and on his death in 1798 the estate passed to his sister who had married Robert Jocelyn, the first Earl of Roden.
Most of the construction of follies, pathways and roadways throughout the park were built during the period from 1719 to 1798 while the Earls of Clanbrassill were in ownership. Many of the features of the park were influenced by Thomas Wright of Durham, who was a friend of the 1st Earl Clanbrassil. The structures erected by the 1st Earl include the Gothic gate arches at the entrance and exits of the park. The Clanbrassil Barn and the ‘Old Bridge’ and the ‘Horn bridge’ were also constructed y the 1st Earl in 1726. Construction continued apace during the lifetime of the second Earl who was involved in the building of the gate and the gate lodge, alongside the Barbican Gate (built in 1780). The second Earl also added a steeple to the end of the barn in 1789. The Hermitage, one of the most fascinating of the ruins, was built by the second Earl during the 1770s memory of his friend John Montagu, during this period the Ivy bridge and Foley’s bridge were also constructed. The Joceylns added one or two structures such as the granite obelisk located on a small grassy hill near the main drive. All in all 16 bridges cross the Shimna River that winds its way through the park. I wholeheartedly recommend spending a few hours in Tollymore, its links to Game of Thrones have obviously had an affect on footfall but the area is still so large one is still able to find peace while traversing the Shimna River over and over again on the marvellous structures built by the Earls of Clanbrassil.
GPS: 54.22445, -5.94022