Located in a dramatic setting of mountains and sea, this is one of the most outstanding tree and shrub collections in Europe. The beauty, vigour and perfect shape of the trees in the National Arboretum attract tree enthusiasts from around the world. However, Castlewellan has numerous features that draw wider attention.
The garden is a mixture of informal and formal design with terraces, fountains, ornamental gates and flower borders. To walk around the forest park’s mile-long lake, encountering some intriguing modern sculptures on the way, is to enjoy a great experience of eighteenth-century landscaping.
The planting of the walled Annesley garden, the focus of the arboretum, was begun in the 1850s and rare conifers and maples were later imported directly from Japan. Then came the addition of more rich varieties, including Chilean eucryphias, Australian athrotaxis and pittosporum and Chinese rhododendrons. The arboretum holds many trees with record heights in the British Isles.
One of the Forest Park’s key attractions, the Peace Maze, is one of the world’s largest permanent hedge mazes, representing the path to a peaceful future for Northern Ireland. Planted in 2000 with community involvement, it is maturing quickly and visitors attempt to solve their way to the peace bell in the centre of the maze.
Access available for people with limited mobility on scooter. Manual wheelchairs – the total distance including the Peace Maze and Gardens is around 6 miles and would recommend a challenge to any pushers at any one visit. The Ulster History Circle has erected a Blue Plaque at the Park, dedicated to Artist lady Mabel Annesley 1881-1959 who lived on this estate.
Annesley always regarded Castlewellan Castle as her home although she was born in London. She became one of the leading exponents of wood engraving, especially in the field of book illustration.