Clare / Hikes & Walks / Munster

Dromore Wood Walking Trails & Nature Reserve

Dromore Wood, located on the southeastern edge of the Burren region in Co. Clare, is the perfect place to enjoy a few hours immersed in nature. This woodland nature reserve covers approximately 400 hectares, while an extended area including Dromore Lough, several other lakes and the River Fergus has been designated a Special Area of Conservation.

In additional to the beautiful woodland, rich in flora & fauna, there are also some historic archaeological delights to discover. These include the ruins of O’Brien Castle, two rings forts, a lime kiln and the sites of Cahermacrea Castle and Kilakee Church.

If you’re a fan of easy, flat trails with some lovely views along the way then Dromore Wood should be just up your alley. The trails are dog friendly and there are plenty of options to suit families and buggies. 

Parking & Visitor Centre

Dromore Wood is under the care of National Park & Wildlife Service and there is a visitor centre on site. The Information centre is only open for the summer months (June to September). However, there are information boards in the parking area with details of the various walking trails in the woods. Toilets are also located beside the visitor centre.

Just a 20 minute drive from Ennis, Co. Clare, the woods are accessible all year round and there is plenty of parking available. Paring is either at the entrance to the wood or the inner car park where the trailhead and visitor centre are located.

Walking Trails in Dromore Wood

Clearly Dromore Wood is a popular spot for walkers. Even on a cold January day, we passed many people out the trails as we drove through the woods towards the inner car park. 

There are plenty of walks to choose from too, with 6 trails within the wood. The trails range from 20 mins to 1hr 20 mins. So whether it’s a short visit or you have all day, you’ll find plenty of options to choose from and can mix and match depending on what suits or takes your fancy! The ground can be uneven in parts so proper walking shoes are recommended.

White walk – distance 2km, 30 mins, moderate

Green Walk – distance 3.5km, 1hr, moderate

Red Walk – distance 4.3km, 1hr 20mins, moderate

Navy Blue Walk – distance 2.3km, 40mins, moderate

Castle Walk – distance 2.7km, 45mins, moderate

Rabbit Island Walk – distance 1.5km, 20mins, easy

Dromore Wood Loop

In addition to the trails above there is the Dromore Wood Loop. This is a National Looped Walk, way-marked with purple arrows. National Looped Walks are a network of circular trails, which have been developed by Failte Ireland with the National Waymarked Way Advisory Committee. They can be found throughout Ireland.

The Dromore Wood Loop links parts of the above listed trails and is 6km long. Estimated walking time is between 1.5 to 2hrs. So if you fancy a longer walk, this might be the one for you. Much of the walk takes you along the border of the nature reserve, at times following the route of the River Fergus. It will also lead you along the shores of Dromore Lough and past the ruins of O’Brien Castle.

A signpost in the Dromore Wood Car park shows the route and details of the Dromore Loop Walk.

The Castle Walk

We completed the Castle Walk, which as the name suggests, also passes by the castle. O’Brien castle is actually located very close to the start of the walk. The trail is well marked and begins on the same side of the inner car park, where the visitor centre is located. So whichever walk you decide on, you can easily take the short walk over to see the castle too. 

The start of the trail leads you along a wooden boardwalk, crossing over Dromore Lough. You’ll already be able to see the ruins of the castle peeking above the trees on the far side of the bridge. Beyond the Castle, you can follow the trail to the left along the shores of lake. The trail is easy going with some nice views out over the water and back towards the castle. There are also some seats along the way if you fancy a rest or want to stop awhile. 

Keep following the trail and you’ll eventually loop back on the opposite side of the small peninsula. You’ll pass by another smaller lake on this side, Lough Garr.  The trail took us about 35 – 40 mins including photo stops, so it’s not very long. However, you can always add on another trail, allowing plenty of flexibility. 

We had planned to do the Rabbit Trail too but just about managed to complete the Castle Trail before the heavens opened. We waited a while in the car but ultimately called it a day as the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Plenty to check out next time we visit Dromore Wood I guess!

A man rests on a bench by the shores of the lake as his two dogs splash in the water.

Dromore Castle – O’Brien Castle

Dromore Castle, or O’Brien Castle, is said to have been built in the early 16th century. Both the castle and lands had been granted to Connor O’Brien (the Third Earl of Thomond) in 1579. In the 17th century it was expanded by his son Teige O’Brien. The last member of the O’Brien clan to live at the castle was Conor O’Brien, who left in 1689. 

While the castle is no longer inhabitable, having fallen into ruin by the 18th century, it was in its day an impressive tower house. Situated on the lakeshore the castle was surrounded by water on three sides, creating an ideal defensive position. 

An inscription above the door of the castle reads “This castle was built by Teige, second sone to Connor, third Earle of Thomond and by Slany Brien wife to said Teige Anno D”.

An inscription is visible above the doorway to O'Brien Castle

The rear of O'Brien Castle visible through the bare trees branches on the shores of Dromore Lough

Biodiversity in Dromore Wood

The landscape of Dromore Wood and surroundings is very diverse. It includes limestone pavement, prevalent in the Burren region, as well as scrub, mixed woodland, grasslands, bog, lakes and river. The area is very important from a conservation perspective due to the wide diversity of habitats and the plants and animals that it supports. 

The Nature Reserve is a sanctuary for Pine Martin, once on the brink of extinction in Ireland. It is also home to a colony of Lesser Horseshoe Bats, which is a rare and threatened species. As both species are largely nocturnal, you’re unlikely to spot them during the day though. However there are plenty more  inhabitants to look out for, including badgers, otters, foxes, stoats, red squirrels and hares. 

Birdwatchers will be kept busy too. Dromore Lough is home to species such as Little Grebe, Whooper Swans, Teal, Curlew, Coot and Lapwing. While birds of prey recorded here include Sparrowhawk, Hen Harrier and Kestrel. The site also supports rare lichen and invertebrate fauna. 

Fish found in Dromore Lough are pike, perch, rudd and European eel, a critically endangered species.

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