Rabbit's Bridge at Dún na Rí

Dún na Rí Forest Park – of Heroes, Startled Maidens and the odd Mink (and they are odd!)

Dún na Rí Forest Park (“King’s Fort”), on the outskirts of Kingscourt, Co. Cavan, is fashioned out of the former Pratt estate of which Cabra Castle was the ‘big house’.  It comprises of about 565 acres.

River Cabra running through Dún na Rí Forest Park
River Cabra running through Dún na Rí Forest Park

The Romantic Glen of the River Cabra, stretching the full length of the Park, is an area steeped in history and legend, and one has an evocative walk through lush and romantic greenery and rushing streams and waterfalls.

It is said that Cu Chulainn, one of the most famous Irish mythological heroes,  camped here at night while by day conducting his single handed defence of Ulster against the armies of Queen Maeve, who was seeking the Brown Bull of Cooley. The Normans were here also in the 12th century and history tells us that Hugh de Lacy (of Trim Castle fame) built a castle here.

A popular spot is Rabbit’s Bridge which passes over a waterfall.

Young Ferns

You will also find Cromwell’s Bridge, an old high-arched bridge, which crosses the Cabra river woodland gorge, and is said to have been built by the Normans during their invasion in the 12th century. Across it marched Cromwell’s troops in the 17th, on their way to attack the castle of the O’Reilly’s at nearby Muff. The bridge overlooks the “Wishing Well”, formerly an ancient Holy Well.  Further down is “Sarah’s Bridge”, built in 1801.

Sarah’s Bridge was built in memory of Sarah Mountmorris, who married into the Pratt family.

Rabbit's Bridge at Dún na Rí
Rabbit’s Bridge at Dún na Rí

However a more exciting version related that Sarah used to meet her swain on the bridge every year for 30 years.  Unfortunately this unhappy gentleman, without thinking, suddenly proposed to her on the bridge one day and Sarah fell off the bridge with shock and died. Now there are sides to the bridge in case something similar occurs again!

The forest abounds with an extremely varied plant community and as a result it is rich in a wide range of wild animals – it is home to stoat, hare, pigmy shrews, rabbits and otters, as well as red and grey squirrel.  Mink flourish along the river.  Norwegian spruce and oak are two important species in the park. The oak trees are managed to produce a valuable veneer crop.

Military Barracks at Dún na Rí
Military Barracks at Dún na Rí

Take a romantic walk through deep, leafy glades over old bridges with marvelous views north to Slieve Gullion in County Armagh and the Mountains of Mourne. Some other interesting features in the park include an ice house and the ruins of Fleming’s Castle. There are remains of a military barracks used by the Pratt family at the turn of the 19th century.

There are four walks of approximately 1.5 -2km in length in the park.  For more information visit http://www.dunari.ie.

If you ever go to Ireland
I’m sure you will agree
To take the road from Dublin town
Way down to Dun na Rí

‘Tis there you’ll find a wishing well
Beyond a chestnut tree
In a shady nook, by a winding brook
Will you make this wish for me

Oh to be in Dun na Rí
With the sweetheart I once knew
To stroll in the shade of the leafy glade
Where the rhododendrons grew

To sit with my love on the bridge above
The rippling waterfall
But to go back home never more to roam
Is my dearest wish of all

And if you take the hilly path
To the woods where bluebells grow
Where we as barefoot children played
So many years ago

You’ll find a slumbering castle there
Enshrined in memory
In a shady nook, by a winding brook
Will you make this wish for me

Oh to be in Dun na Rí
With the sweetheart I once knew
To stroll in the shade of the leafy glade
Where the rhododendrons grew

To sit with my love on the bridge above
The rippling waterfall
But to go back home never more to roam
That’s the dearest wish of all.

Eilis Boland

 

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