Ireland’s Trees a Hope for the Future

The XIV World Forestry Congress which took place this year in Durban, South Africa, had as its focus Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future. Shortly before the congress convened I had returned from a trip to Ireland. As I browsed through my photos and holiday notes of that very interesting country I noticed how many pictures and references there were to trees. Trees tell a story, a story not only of my holiday in the case of this blog post, but one that stretches from the distant past and, hopefully, into the future.

Let’s begin with the Druids. Druids were Celtish people of the Iron Age who were reputed to have lived in pre-Christian Ireland. Among other activities they held trees sacred and performed various religious ceremonies.


Grianan Ailligh (Donegal),what could be a Druid sacred monument dating back to 3000BC. Its interior reminded me of the setting for the recent film The Maze Runner.


The Connemara Wilderness, where neat piles of peat bog can be seen drying out in the occasional sunshine. Shaped like a saucer, Ireland’s landscape forms a natural collecting point for the copious rainfall, ensuring the longevity of the bog.

After the Druids came the Vikings (think of the enormous Scottish-accented men in the animated feature How to Train Your Dragon). In a museum in Dublin I had examined with fascination a Viking wooden boat carved out of a single tree trunk, found in recent times preserved in Ireland’s famous bog. For the uninitiated like me, a bog is a mixture of tree leaves and mud. As already intimated the bog has excellent preserving qualities and is also used, to this day, as fuel for fire.

Known at one time as the place of trees, Ireland’s forests have greatly diminished, largely due to human influence. Several garden areas we visited, however, showed how a concerted effort has been made over the centuries to repopulate the country with trees.


Trees at Kylemore Abbey: The name “Kylemore” originates from the Irish words “Coill Mor” meaning Big Wood (which is found on the north side of the lake at Kylemore). In 1995 the Benedictine Community at Kylemore Abbey decided to undertake a re-afforestation programme using broad leaf trees – Oak and Ash.



From a Victorian Garden at Kylemore to the pristine beauty of Stormont Gardens – the (can you believe it) present-day seat of parliament.


My last photo is not of a tree but that of a bridge in Derry-Londonderry. Derry was the Catholic name for the town, Londonderry the British name and the town is famous for the dreadful events of Bloody Sunday (popularised in the U2 song by same name) in which several young people were killed in Catholic-Protestant tensions. Derry is translated from the Gaelic as the “Place of the Oaks“. 

peace bridge

The bridge pictured here is known as the Peace Bridge and was built in 2011. The arms don’t quite touch, depicting the improved, yet still still-imperfect relations between Catholics and Protestants in modern-day Ireland. Similarly, the Irish landscape has an increased number of trees, but is still not restored to its former forest glory.

To end on a lighter note, while enjoying a jaunting cart ride near the Ring of Kerry (translated as “ring of trees”), our driver stopped in a clearing and said: “See that red tree over there? That’s a Beech. See that smaller tree next to it? That’s a son of a Beech”!


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