Wednesday, 6th July 2022: President Michael D. Higgins Opens ‘Beyond the Trees Avondale’, a
Unique New Visitor Destination in Coillte’s Avondale Forest Park, Co. Wicklow
• Coillte, Fáilte Ireland and EAK Ireland collaborate to create a spectacular new visitor attraction in the heart of Ireland’s garden county
• This €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 – the highest slide in Ireland
• Visitors will 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
• Beyond the Trees Avondale expects to attract 200,000 to 250,000 visitors in its first full year of opening
• Beyond the Trees Avondale has been created with sustainability and accessibility at its core
President Michael D. Higgins today performed the official opening of ‘Beyond the Trees Avondale’, a spectacular new visitor experience
developed in partnership between Coillte, Fáilte Ireland and EAK Ireland in Avondale Forest
Park in Co. Wicklow, combining a stunning 700 metre Treetop Walk with a 12 storey high Viewing Tower.
Visitors to Beyond the Trees Avondale will experience the beauty of
Avondale’s tree canopy on the Treetop Walk and enjoy incredible views of the beautiful
Wicklow countryside from the spectacular Viewing Tower created for the project by EAK
Ireland. The Beyond the Trees Avondale experience will be further enhanced in the Autumn
when restoration work on Avondale House, the home of Charles Stewart Parnell, will be
completed and the house will open to visitors.
Ireland’s newest visitor experience is a collaboration between Coillte, Fáilte Ireland and EAK
Ireland, bringing a truly unique visitor experience to Ireland’s Ancient East which will delight
young and old alike. This €19m project at Avondale 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 in Wicklow and
the wider Ireland’s Ancient East region, driving economic and employment opportunities for
local communities. 60 new full and part-time jobs have been created to staff the site, the
majority of whom are from the locality. 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, Sir John Parnell, great grandfather of Charles Stewart
Treetop Walk and Viewing Tower
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 of 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. Forestry and wildlife facts are displayed in a fun,
interactive way at various points along the Treetop Walk.
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. The Viewing Tower 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 6 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, making Beyond the Trees Avondale a perfect
excursion destination for the widest range of visitors, from young to old and of all abilities.
EAK Ireland is a partnership between EAK and Carlingford Adventure Centre to find the best
locations to create amazing treetop walks in Ireland and UK.
In addition to the Treetop Walk and Viewing Tower, this new destination includes a Walled
Garden, Seed Café, a children’s playground, a sensory garden, a Coillte pavilion area which
showcases the history and relevance of Irish forestry and a series of facilities to ensure the
overall site is as inclusive as possible to those of all abilities. The project was constructed
with sustainability at its core using fully renewable and climate friendly wood products.
Homegrown timber was used to create the innovative timber structures seen at the park.
Locally sourced Douglas fir and larch was used for the Treetop Walk and Viewing Tower,
and the longest spans ever produced from homegrown Sitka spruce are clearly visible in the
new Seed Café.
The Treetop Walk and Viewing Tower visitor experience is 100% accessible and our new
visitor centre has been designed to ensure universal access, featuring entry ramps and an
accessible lift in the building. There are also generously appointed accessible toilets and
baby changing facilities provided, including a fully equipped Changing Place room.
Wheelchairs are available to loan on site. A sensory garden located in the courtyard area is
designed to be a welcoming space to both children and adults especially those who have
sensory processing challenges, including autism, physical disabilities, and dementia.
In his remarks to formally open Avondale House and Forest Park, President Michael
D. Higgins said:
“In terms of lived experience, may I suggest that places like Avondale House and
Forest Park allow us all – people from diverse walks of life, of all ages and
backgrounds – to reconnect with nature, to reaffirm its critical position in our lives,
perhaps even to commit to taking individual and collective actions to protect it, to
tackle declining biodiversity and climate change.
This could be the greatest impact and legacy of this beautiful forest park which I am
so pleased to formally open today.”
Imelda Hurley, CEO, Coillte, said
“Avondale is a very special site for Coillte, both because of its unique forestry heritage and
the historical connection to the Parnell family. We are honoured to welcome President
Higgins here today to officially open Ireland’s latest world class visitor destination, Beyond
the Trees Avondale, a unique collaboration between Coillte, Failte Ireland and EAK Ireland
which offers visitors, young and old, the opportunity to experience the beauty of Avondale
and the surrounding Wicklow countryside in a fascinating new way that brings drama and
excitement to the simple exploration of the forest.
Every consideration has been given to sustainability and accessibility in the development of
this spectacular visitor destination, and we are very proud to join with Failte Ireland and EAK
Ireland to welcome Irish and international visitors to go Beyond the Trees here at Avondale.
Our new forestry vision announced earlier this year aims, among other things, to grow new
forests, manage our existing forests for greater carbon capture, deliver valuable wood
products and enhance biodiversity. In addition, this vision aims to create more incredible
visitor experiences for the enjoyment of our citizens and tourists, with Beyond the Trees
Avondale being an outstanding example of a new world class visitor experience on the
Orla Carroll, Director of Product Development at Fáilte Ireland added “Investing in
standout attractions is a key element of attracting international visitors to Ireland and
encouraging domestic tourists to explore different areas of Ireland. Beyond the Trees
Avondale is a totally unique world-class addition to the tourism offering in Ireland and will
attract thousands of visitors to Wicklow and the wider Ireland’s Ancient East region, driving
regional tourism growth and economic benefits for local communities.”
“Beyond the Trees has been executed with sustainability at its core, delivering on Fáilte
Ireland’s Opening the Outdoors strategic pillar and contributing another exciting focal point in
Ireland’s Ancient East that supports our ambition to develop Ireland as an internationally
recognised Outdoor Activity destination. We are pleased to have developed this significant
project under our strategic partnership with Coillte and our partners in EAK Ireland, and we
look forward to seeing it develop as a must-visit destination for domestic and international
tourists in the years ahead.”
Bernd Bayerköhler, CEO, EAK said
“In 2009, EAK opened the first treetop walk in Germany. Today, we are delighted to be here
for the opening of our twelfth treetop walk in a total of seven European countries. Ireland
has always been on my list of the most attractive locations for an installation like this. But for
such a project in a new country, we needed not just the right place but also the right
partners, and we were delighted to partner with the McArdle Family from Carlingford
Adventure as our joint venture partner in this project. When we were invited by Coillte and
Failte Ireland to visit Avondale Forest Park, for me it was immediately clear that this unique
Arboretum at this historical location was the place we had been looking for to develop a
world class tourist destination in Ireland.
Together we have managed in the last two and half years to complete this project despite all
the challenges we had to face. Many thanks for that and for the opportunity to be a partner
and co-investor in “Beyond the trees Avondale”.
Beyond the Trees Avondale is already welcoming guests to enjoy this spectacular visitor
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destination. Entry to the Seed Café, Walled Garden and Coillte Pavilion is free of charge.
Tickets to access the Treetop Walk and Viewing Tower cost €14 per adult, €11 per child
(under 3s go free), family tickets are priced at €38 for a family of up to five people, and
student and OAP rates are also on offer. Car parking is available on site at a cost of €5