Brackloon Wood – native oak forest near Westport

At 74 Hectares (183 acres) the relatively unknown gem that is Brackloon Wood is one of the largest surviving remnants in the west of the original wooded landscape that covered much of Ireland in ancient times. Formerly part of Lord Sligo’s Westport House estate, this area was acquired by the Irish Land Commission in the 1940s. It lies along the Owenwee River, beside the Westport to Leenane Road (N59), with its southerly entrance around 6km (3.7 miles) south of Westport. The gentle 4km (2.5 miles) Brackloon Wood Walk begins there.

Native oak trees, 150-200 years old, descendants of the oaks that the O’Malleys would have seen hundreds of years ago, tower above a landscape under restoration. Coillte, the state-owned company that manages Ireland’s forests, felled the coniferous trees planted under the oak canopy in the sixties, as part of the restoration process. In place of the non-native conifers, Coillte planted oaks and other native trees raised from local seedstock. Brackloon wood is now classified as a semi-natural Atlantic oak woodland.

Apart from the woodland trees, other notable plant-life includes an extremely rare white orchid, the narrow-leaved or sword-leaved helleborine. If you see it, please don’t pick it – it is an extremely threatened species and is protected by law. Brackloon wood is also home to wood sorrel, hard fern and bilberry.

Animals common to the area include badgers, foxes and pine martens.