Roscommon People reporter Dan Dooner spoke with Andy Farrell, manager at Lough Key Forest Park ahead of what promises to be another busy tourist season…
When is the best time to visit Lough Key Forest Park?
We’re open all year round, that’s the great thing about it. We’re also lucky that it provides so much local employment and offers us jobs even throughout the winter. We’re very proud of the fact that we operate all year. Obviously, the seasons are a lot different, however, and it’s busy throughout the summer but a bit quieter in the winter.
When does the tourist season begin for you?
Easter is when we really kick off here, that’s the real start of the tourist season for us. Thankfully this Easter we had a very busy two weeks which was great and that rolled into the May Bank Holiday weekend as well.
For the next two months it’ll predominantly be school tours during the week, with our regular visitors at the weekends. July then is when the season really kicks off, when it’s reaching full peak.
Tell us about some of the activities on offer here…
We have a host of activities here including Boda Borg, which is the indoor puzzle house, very like the Crystal Maze. That’s very popular with all primary and secondary schools.
We have the Rockingham Remembered Tour as well – a guided tour which takes visitors through underground tunnels, the viewing tour and the treetop canopy bridge. This is really interesting because not only do you get to see the tunnels and the treetop walk but you also get the historical element.
Then of course we also have the other attractions at the park: Zipit (ziplining) for the adrenalin junkies; P Mac’s Kayaks; the boat tours; bike hire and orienteering, so there really is something for everyone here.
Is the park a popular attraction among international tourists?
Pre-Covid that certainly would have been the case, but in the last two years we’ve had to operate a lot differently and it’s been mostly domestic tourism. But definitely towards the tail end of last year and into this year we’ve seen international visitors arriving again.
For example, today we had a CIE Tour and a lot of those visitors would be coming from America so that’s very big. We also see a lot of visitors coming over from Britain, particularly in July.
Any major events planned this summer?
We’re hugely excited about Night & Day Festival on June 24th and 25th obviously. There’s a lot of planning going into that and a real buzz about the place. It’s certainly going to be something different; it’s a venue that has been crying out for something like a concert for years. We’ve always had people saying how great it would be so the fact that we have it in place now is really, really exciting. You’ll see a different side of the park that weekend, albeit we’ll still be working through it too.