Walk through the woods...
Acres of densely-packed trees fill an area of land in the far eastern side of Galway. Crooked paths meander through the woodlands, carved out from years of use. Squirrels dart up tree trunks and settle into their warm nests. Come explore Merlin Woods in Galway.
The History of the Woods
Centuries-old trees tower over surrounding pastel-colored apartments. The quietness of the forest contrasts starkly to the loud whizzing of cars as they pass by. Merlin Woods is the largest woodland area in Galway and is filled with a vast variety of animal species.
Caroline Stanley, a member of Friends of Merlin Woods, said she comes to the woods often to see the animals and escape the city. She said the group, Friends of Merlin Woods, helps advocate for the conservation of the woodlands and educate people about its history.
A path through Merlin Woods
Merlin Park Castle stands on the west side of the park in an open field surrounded by trees. It's a 16th century castle and is in good condition, according to Stanley. She said it most likely wouldn't have seen battle because it was built during a time of peace.
One of the most famous structures that used to grace the park was the Merlin Park House Estate. It was built in 1812 and owned by the Blakes, an influential family in the area.
“The Blake Family were renowned party people and they used to party a lot,” Stanley said. “They ended up running out of money to run their house, so they had to sell it.”
The house was sold multiple times over the years until 1945, when it was demolished and turned into a tuberculosis hospital. Today, the newer complex is called Merlin Park University Hospital and takes up a large section of the park. Frankie O’Conner, a Galway resident, works at the hospital and said he likes coming to Merlin Woods.
“The woods are nice,” O’Connor said. “(I) go for fresh air, especially after working.”
Stanley said she also enjoys taking strolls through the park and will often bring her dog along.
“To be able to come out of the city and into a woodland in the edge of a city is incredible,” Stanley said. “I don’t think people appreciate how amazing that is.”
Merlin Park University Hospital is on the south side of Merlin Woods.
Many species of wildlife can also be found throughout the park. Stanley said she looks for red squirrels while wandering through the woods, because grey squirrels are trying to take over.
“We have a real problem with grey squirrels taking over red squirrel territory,” Stanley said. “We get to see a lot of great red squirrels in here.”
Part of her role at Friends of Merlin Woods involves taking care of the park. One of the organization’s latest endeavors is coppicing, which involves cutting hazel down to open the ground for other flora. Stanley said this increases the number of butterflies, moths and other species in the area.
“It’s important to preserve heritage, as in our natural environment, because of climate change,” Stanley said.
She also hosts tours to guide visitors through the park and show them the conservation efforts.
“I brought tours myself through and they love it,” Stanley said. “It’s nice for them to see a bit of wildlife, especially if they’re only visiting in the city for a short time.”
Top 3 Must Dos
Drive along R336 and R338 from Eyre Square. Take a right on Castlepark Road. Woods will be on your right. It takes about 20 minutes.
Take the 409 bus from Eyre heading toward Parkmore Industrial Estate and get off at Doughiska Road. It takes about 30 minutes.