President Michael D Higgins officially opened the Beyond the Trees Avondale on Thursday, a new visitor destination in Coillte’s Avondale Forest Park, Co Wicklow.
The €19 million project transformed Avondale with the creation of an elevated treetop walk, 12-storey high viewing tower made from locally sourced Douglas fir and larch wood alongside a 90m spiral slide.
Visitors can experience the beauty of Avondale’s tree canopy and enjoy incredible views of the surrounding estate and Wicklow countryside from the 38m high Viewing Tower – the first of its kind in Ireland.
Ireland’s newest visitor experience is a collaboration between Coillte, Fáilte Ireland and EAK Ireland, bringing a truly unique visitor experience to the area.
It is part of Coillte’s strategy to create more world-class visitor destinations and increase recreation spaces nationally, and will encourage international and domestic visitors to stay longer and spend more time in Wicklow.
Beyond the Trees Avondale expects to attract 200,000 to 250,000 visitors within a full year of opening.
Avondale occupies a significant place in Irish history both as the birthplace and home of Sir Charles Stewart Parnell, and also because of the work of Samuel Hayes who inherited the estate in 1770.
In addition to Samuel Hayes being the author of Ireland’s first book about trees, he also played a very important role in Irish forestry – it was he who realised that the ancient forests of Ireland were disappearing and who set about creating a forest park at Avondale, which is often thought of as the birthplace of Irish forestry.
Following his death, Avondale was inherited by his cousin, John Parnell, great-grandfather of Charles Stewart Parnell.
Visitors arriving at Beyond the Trees Avondale will enter through the new seed café into the walled garden, which also houses a Coillte Pavilion, an immersive exhibition that tells the story of Coillte’s work in forestry, recreation, nature conservation and climate action.
At the end of the walled garden, visitors enter the treetop walk and begin the journey on the elevated boardwalk, which is up to 23m above the forest floor at its highest point, making their way out over the Avonmore River valley.
The surrounding forest habitat and the natural gradient of the land means that although the treetop walk does not climb or descend more than a few degrees, you will see all the different levels of trees from the forest floor to the canopy.
Visitors will pass through Avondale’s forest arboretum, a collection of the finest trees in Ireland, featuring 300-year-old trees planted by the estate’s founder, Samuel Hayes, and trees planted during the Great Tree Experiment when Avondale was a forestry experimentation station in the early 1900s.
The treetop walk culminates in the journey to the top of the spectacular viewing tower.
Standing amid a grove of eucalyptus trees on the edge of the historic great ride at Avondale, the viewing tower reaches 38 metres into the sky.
It was constructed using innovative glulam beams, an engineered wood product that equals the structural strength of steel, from Irish grown trees and is among the most modern methods of building with wood.
The spiral, ramped boardwalk of the tower rises slowly through the forest, never exceeding a gradient of six degrees which makes it fully wheelchair and pram accessible with resting points on each level.
New vistas of the surrounding countryside emerge at each level as you journey to the top. For the adventurous visitors, young and old, you can ‘whoosh’ your way quickly back down via a 90m slide, providing an exhilarating end to your unique Beyond the Trees Avondale experience.
The treetop walk and viewing tower have been developed by EAK, a German company and an experienced developer of such facilities in Europe.
All of EAK’s treetop walks, including the facility at Avondale, are designed to be easily accessible and offer 'access for all' to wheelchairs, prams and elderly visitors.