Brackloon woods is located on the eastern fringe of Croagh Patrick, not too far from the Boheh Stone (an almost 6000-year-old stone carved artifact discovered only in the modern era) (The Reek, 2016). Brackloon woods is approximately 6 km south of Westport on the N59 (which leads to Leenane). There is a portion of the walk through Brackloon woods which corresponds to the route of the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail which is marked by the walking man logo and the yellow arrows (Destination Westport, n.d.). Brackloon woods has 182 acres (74 hectares) and is predominately oak. By the 16th century, massive clearance began, mostly for charcoal production and for timber (Michigan State University, 2009), following the invention of the blast furnace (The Reek, 2016). Most of this wood was shipped to England and the oak docks that are still present in Liverpool were made from wood from Brackloon (Michigan State University, 2009).
The Forest Make-up
Brackloon is one of the last remaining Atlantic oak woods left in the county. Oak is the most common tree in the forest, but it is really a mix of holly, birch, ash and oak, but conifer trees were planted in Brackloon in the 1960’s (Westport Tourism, n.d.). However, these quick- growing conifers were culled in the 1990’s in an attempt to restore the deciduous nature of the wood (The Reek, 2016).
Age old Remnants
There are legends from a Celtic past and legends of caves and even treasures hidden in the wood (Westport Tourism, n.d.). There is a stone circle and even a ringfort. Ringforts were developed in Ireland in the early Christian era and for hundreds of years facilitated human and animal habitation. The ringfort in Brackloon is a cashel which means that it was made of stone. It is 25 meters in diameter and located in the middle of the Brackloon wood. In addition, there are several primitive cooking pits known as fulacta fiadh in the area. These remarkable pits were filled with water and hot stones (plucked from the fire) helped boil the water (The Reek, 2016). In the 19th Century, Brackloon woods were part of the Westport House estate and it was in the hands of the Marquis of Sligo. Tochar Phadraig (or Patrick’s Causeway) runs close to the woods. This road or causeway came to be hundreds of years before Patrick, and it was a significant thoroughfare, capable of carrying chariots and other wheeled vehicles from the seat of the High Kings of Connacht (in Rathcroaghan in Roscommon) to Croagh Patrick (The Reek, 2016). There are significant prehistoric settlements near the forest as shown by the cairns on the wings of Croagh Patrick. These are huge mounds of stone or earth used to mark burial sites (The Reek, 2016)—for example Queen Maeve’s burial cairn near Sligo town (Discover Ireland, n.d.). The first attempt at a measure of woodland clearance was during the Later Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) period which was roughly marked at 5500 B.C. (Michigan State University, 2009).
Destination Westport (Date Unknown). Brackloon Wood Walk. Available at: https://www.destinationwestport.com/directory/brackloon-wood-walk (Accessed 11th of January, 2023).
Discover Ireland. (Date Unknown). Queen Maeve’s Cairn. Available at: https://www.discoverireland.ie/sligo/queen-maeve-s-cairn (Accessed 11th of January, 2023).
Michigan State University, Study Abroad Programme. (2009). Brackloon Woods. Internal Report: Folder 4, Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail—Clogher Environmental Group Ltd. Unpublished.
The Reek. (2016). The Magic of Brackloon. Available at: https://thereek.com/2016/04/03/magic-brackloon-woods/ (Accessed 10th of January, 2023).
Westport Tourism. (Date Unknown). Brackloon Woods. Available at: https://westporttourism.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/brackloon-woods.pdf (Accessed 11th of January, 2023).