Carrick Wood is a hidden gem just on the outskirts of Portarlington, County Laois. The first time I went there was a number of years back when Noel and I were dating. It was a lovely spring afternoon fresh after a soft Irish rain, some dear friends who lived in the area invited us to go for a walk. I had no idea the treat I was in for, but hey, this is Ireland, there is always something amazing to see! We walked down a little country road, over a rail bridge, to the Robin-Hood like-forest. Tall trees, moss and ivy, fresh air, and the most beautiful blue-bell covered woods greeted us. We followed the main trail that led up the hill to an old spire. Being the girl fresh from America, newly living in Ireland, I was fascinated by this 18th century round tower with its pointed roof. Reminded of the fairy tale Rapunzel, we played around the grounds for quite some time, taking picture and making up silly stories. It was a time of growing friendships and budding love, romance and history all in the making.
Fast forward to today.
We were out on a family day drive heading towards the beautiful Emo Hall. After a bit we realized we had been distracted and missed the turn off. Deciding to circle around rather than turn back we headed into Portarlington. Foggy memories came back and I reminded Noel, “do you remember that forest with the tower we walked at years ago?” Taking a few deters we made our way back to the forest where the sign greeted us, “Welcome to Carrick Wood Forest Recreation Area.” Another sign boasted about the spire and indicated that it was most likely an 18th century windmill. In the parking area there was a picnic table and a couple fairy doors attached to trees. A lovely place for a little picnic and big imaginations. We took the main path as we had years before in our first visit, but soon veered off in favor of a more direct route up the fairly steep hill. Noel carried the baby and watched our 4 year-old while I followed at a slower pace with my very independent 2 year-old. It was a fine autumn day and the leaves crunched under our feet. We passed a couple dog walkers, but for the most part this beautiful wonderland was ours alone. At the top of the hill, my kids squealed in delight! My daughter remarked, “Mummy, it’s a girl’s princess tower,” my son disagreed, “it’s a boy tower.” The old wooden bench where my husband and I played in years passed was gone, but otherwise the place was unchanged, still as remarkable as ever. I was glad we had made our way back to this particular place where we were able to see it once again, only this time through the eyes of our children. They raced up with sticks and pretend swords, running from leaves to trees to tower, up and over rocks not wanting to leave.
In the distance a train or two blew their whistles and chugged on by. A farmer put away his straw and a lady walked her dog. This secluded place is ideal for family adventures, peaceful quiet time walks, and photography. The main path is suitable for a good buggy, though it may be a bit muddy at times. However, the path veering to the Left, with the red indicator circle on its stake, is only suitable for those with more grounded feet with the ability to climb over stumps, up rocks and a bit of a steep slant. Both paths are beautiful and well worth the effort.
This is an interesting site about the area, http://www.coillte.ie/site/carrick-wood/