The Coole Park Nature Reserve is more than 1,000 acres of pristine woodlands on the southern edge of County Galway. Once part of a sprawling Victorian estate, Coole Park is now strictly for walkers, cyclists and lovers of nature – not to mention the birds, deer and other wildlife that make Coole Park their home.
Coole Park is close to the village of Gort and there is a smattering of hotels in the direct vicinity. Further afield, Kinvara to the north has several hotel options including some lovely beachfront hotels while some delightful guesthouses and family-run bed and breakfasts can be found to the south towards Ennis.
Coole Park’s Literary History
Nothing remains of the mansion house at Coole Park, for which the estate was named. It was built in the 18th Century for the family of Robert Gregory, and about 100 years later became a major literary centre for Ireland. Lady Gregory was friends with some of Ireland’s greatest writers, including William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and John Millington Synge. They engraved their initials in the so-called “autograph tree” – a copper beech that stands in the walled garden close to where the house stood.
Yeats lived close by and was inspired to write poetry about Coole Park in 1929. By then the house was in decline – Lady Gregory sold off the property to the new Irish Free State and it fell into ruin, being demolished during World War Two.
The Revival of Coole Park
Coole Park is now under the stewardship of Ireland’s National Parks and Wildlife Service and is open year round to visitors. The park is divided into several woodland areas, known as the Seven Woods, and a three and a half mile trail is maintained that takes visitors through each part of the park.
During the colder, wetter months, several turloughs appear in Coole Park – seasonal lakes that provide a unique habitat for wildlife and birds. Some very rare plants can be found near the turloughs, including starwort, the only place in Ireland this has been spotted.
Wildlife of Coole Park
Otters and pine martens live in Coole Park’s woods, and both protected species can sometimes be seen by eagle-eyed visitors. There are also red squirrels, deer and some rare birds. Whooper swans and Bewick’s swans fly in during winter, and there are also wigeons, mallards, pochards, lapwings and curlews to be found.
A few outbuildings of Coole Park remain, and the modern visitors’ centre is located inside the former stables. The remains of a pigeon loft and dovecot can also be found. The NPWS arranges nature-related walks and other events at Coole Park at various times during the year.
Enjoy a Visit to Coole Park
The beautiful woodland idyll of Coole Park has drawn the eyes of some of Ireland’s most famous artists – so why not take a look for yourself? There are some great hotels to choose from in the surrounding area and Expedia can help you decide which one is the best for you, with plenty of information available to make the right choice. Coole Park should be on the list of every visitor to Galway.