Sprinkled with small islands, Lough Key Forest Park has long been popular for its picturesque ruins, including a 12th-century abbey on tiny Trinity Island and a 19th-century castle on Castle Island. It's also a time-honoured favourite with families for its wishing chair, bog gardens, fairy bridge and viewing tower. There are plenty of marked walking trails through the park.
Lough Key is 4km east of Boyle. The Bus Éireann route from Sligo to Dublin has frequent services linking Boyle and Lough Key.
The 350-hectare park was once part of the Rockingham estate, owned by the King family from the 17th century until 1957. Rockingham House, designed by John Nash, was destroyed by a fire in the same year; all that remains are some stables, outbuildings and eerie tunnels leading to the lake – built to hide the servants from view.
There is an informative visitor centre, and the Lough Key Experience (adult/child €7.50/5), incorporating a panoramic, 300m-long treetop canopy walk, which rises 9m above the woodland floor with sweeping lake views. Other attractions include the Boda Borg Challenge (€18), a series of rooms filled with activities and puzzles (great for sudden bursts of rain), and an outdoor adventure playground (day pass €5).
In July and August Lough Key Boats provides hourly boat trips (adult/child €12/6), plus row- and power-boat hire (from €22 per hour).