Donadea Forest Park, Kildare

With an impressive castle and serene lake to admire, Donadea Forest Park is definitely a place worth taking a wander, writes Caitríona O’MalleyDonadea Forest Park is one of the many splendours of Kildare. Situated thirty kilometres from the capital, it attained forest park status in 1981. The park is made up of 640 sprawling acres and has been designated a National Heritage Area.Donadea’s primary walking routes are the Aylmer Walk, the Nature Trail and the Lake Walk. However, several other paths snake through the thickets. Aylmer Walk, Otwo’s preference, is the longest at five kilometres. An important focal point on this jaunt is the ornate 9/11 monument. This replica of the Twin Towers is a memorial to a New York fire fighter with Donadea connections, and is a remarkable piece of work. Designed by Brian Swan, it was formally revealed to the public by the Donadea 9/11 Committee in September 2003. The monuments bear the names of lost NYPD, FDNY and Port Authority workers. Poignantly, flowers are frequently laid before the statues.Striking an imposing silhouette, the castle is a worthy feat of architecture. From 1550 to 1935, the Aylmer family called this place home. The pet cemetery is, understandably, one of Donadea’s more melancholic spots, but there are plenty of places to relax and take in the park’s picturesque landscapes.The lake is the velvet cushion on the park’s throne. Occupying a central area, it is dotted with ducks and large water lilies. A place of tranquillity and peace, its beauty may stir some poetic inclinations in you that you didn’t know you had.Christmas is a particularly special time in Donadea. Lights caress the trees, food stalls tempt you beside the rocky roads and children can visit Santa in the pretty log cabin next to the cafe. Snow’s embrace only enhances the forest’s allure.Parking in Donadea is four euro, and the forest closes at 9.30. That is, if you can tear yourself away from it by then.