Gosford Forest Park is a fifteen-minute drive from Armagh City. It is home to Gosford Castle, the location for Game of Thrones' Riverrun of House Tully.
The Castle itself is now converted into apartments. Just imagine - you can live in a castle in Armagh! The Castle is set in beautiful parkland that is open to the public and has been since I was a child when we'd go there camping with the Girl Guides. Many a happy time was spent hiking and camping in the forest here.
As an adult and a Girl Guider leader of my own troop in Belfast, along with My Sister and another friend, we took a troop from Belfast on a camping trip. As was the tradition, the kids had a day shopping in the great metropolis of Armagh City to buy gifts to take home. It wasn't long before the girls discovered every Armachians favourite shop of that era (and of my childhood too) - McKenna's Sweet Shop at the top of Thomas Street. This wonderful shop, with its magical rows of giant jars filled with all kinds of scrumptious candies and sweeties, had the kindest, nicest proprietor - Mr McKenna.
He always had so much patience with us kids, as we clutched our precious coins unable to make the most important decision of our lives to date - which delicious treats to buy! We'd "him and haw" and he'd never fuss us until eventually, we'd have him putting one of this sweet and two of that one into a white paper bag until we had a wee sack of delight.
The kids we'd taken to shop in Armagh also found the pet shop. A bunch of them decided they wanted to purchase some pet mice. But how to transport their new rodent buddies? Mr McKenna had just the solution. He gave them some of the giant candy jars, now empty and with holes in the lid for air. I never did quite figure out how he'd become embroiled in the whole plan - I was too busy laughing at My Sister's horrified reaction when we reunited with the girls and they proudly showed us their new pets. My Sister hates mice and rats. She wouldn't let the kids take these little critters in her car even though they were ensconced in giant candy jars.
My worry was what on earth the parents would think when we got them back home to Belfast. I had visions of having to take care of all these mice myself, but the parents accepted their daughter's new pets with good grace and we were not blamed (at least not to our faces!)
Besides possible escapee mice, Gosford Park continues to be a beautiful haven for wildlife - including the magnificent Red Deer that lives on the estate. We had the good fortune to get close to a herd but safely separated by a sturdy chainlink fence. This fellow was gorgeous.
And even on a cold winters day, this spot looks so peaceful. Wrap up warm and sit a while - maybe bring a flask of hot chocolate (with a nip of brandy - why not?)
There's plenty to explore. In terms of walking, there is not much to challenge on the elevation gain side of things but for an invigorating walk on a bracing day, it's hard to beat a gaunt to Gosford Forest Park.
If your New Years resolution is to get more exercise why not start here. You won't regret it.