“A magical place hidden away where you can see the fairies, gnomes and trolls live together with the animals of the wood”
~The Enchanted Forest ~ Slieve Aughty Centre , Kylebrack Loughrea, Co.Galway.
Sounds bloody enchanting as all hell? Right , right.
I rang Slieve Aughty to enquire about a good old fashion family day out.
In all my years of ringing venues to find out if they are *Ethan friendly ; this was the most honest place I had ever rang.
“ Hello, I am just wondering if your enchanting forest is wheelchair accessible ?”
“Oh, hello. Am, well, honestly pet, it’s not. I mean we don’t get many wheelchair users out here. Although we did have a wheelchair user only last week, and the father of the child did say it was manageable. Oh I suppose that’s not much help to you pet, is it?”
“Ah it is yeah. Was it a young child in the wheelchair , or teenager or an adult? My little man is 14, but he’s small enough, ya know” I found myself instantly warm to this lady who called me ‘pet’- being called ‘pet’ it reminds me of my childhood and how my neighbour used to call me ‘pet’ just before she’d give me the holy grail- a can of Fanta.
“Oh yes, a child yes. Now, I have to be honest with you, there’s a lot of stones on the trail and well, it’s a forest, we don’t have a pathway cleared so to speak”
“Do you have a wheelchair accessible toilet? Ah yeah, I guessed as much. Do you have a restaurant on site? You’re very honest ! “ I laughed .
“Oh stop, I’d hate for you to waste your time, ya know. We do, we do indeed. Yes we have a cafe and you can pre book dinner, but you can get a snack there anytime, they are pretty accommodating ”
“Sure, we’ll go out and have a look, I appreciate it and we’ll see you in about an hour, thank you”
“Aww, lovely, thank you”
And that was my first dealing with Slieve Aughty ; honest friendly and accommodating staff.
We figured it was worth a visit and since Ethan can walk( somewhat ) , we should be able to walk him around a good part of the Enchanted forest. We packed the car and set off.
Arriving an hour later we were met with that beautiful country smell of..poop..(horses poop to be exact) mixed with that fresh air you can only find out in the countryside! It was refreshing and something I, personally miss.
We made our way to the receptionist who had a huge welcome for us; and some fairy dust, with maps to the Enchanted forest and a little tag for each boy to write a wish to hang on the ‘wishing tree’. She informed us that there were horses behind the center along with goats, sheep, a beautiful old dog and donkeys. J was excited to see the animals while D and I hoped Ethan didn’t kick any. Ethan tends not to like animals that are big and even worse, friendly !
She had asked us for tips on our visit in order to make the center more wheelchair accessible; she asked for an honest opinion and did remind us that they do know it is not wheelchair friendly, but they’d like it to be.( I should state they had no idea I write or was going to write about our day out- they never asked for a written review at all, just a verbal one upon our return)
We thanked her and made our way to the Enchanted forest .
The path there was fine up until you reach the wooded part or the gate to the Enchanted Forest – there’s basically a field with a loose stone path leading to the entrance of the Forest – Ethan could get out of his chair when it became very difficult to push him; a simple flat path would help with this issue, tarmac for example would be ideal.
The Enchanted forest is exactly what they state – A magical place hidden away where you can see the fairies, gnomes and trolls live together with the animals of the wood.
It is enchanting and magical and a perfect place to bring young children with huge imagination — our eleven year old also enjoyed it and so did his 30 odd year old parents!
In order to keep it authentic I can’t really envision a path through the enchanted forest itself ; but laying wood chips might be an idea . Ethan got out a lot because there was a lot to see and do !
We blew fairy dust on the fairy doorways, in the hopes a fairy would appear, but alas it wasn’t to be! We found some trolls and I did wonder is this where the Internet ones hang out too–in a cave in the deep dark corner of the Internet? We placed our wishes on the wishing tree and I found myself drawn to the worry tree, I probably could have done with a few more tags to write my worries away!
Ethan loved the gnomes best and even tried to take one home, eventually he decided it wasn’t going anywhere so he kissed it goodbye before happily getting back into his chair. The toddler was busy with his big brother, J, blowing fairy dust everywhere and trying to see if fairies were real. We did visit the witches house which Ethan loved, he loved it so much we had to bribe him to leave.
We made our way back for a spot of lunch; homemade soup and fantastically fresh bread, you won’t find nicer or cheaper soup anywhere, it was beautiful. Ethan enjoyed a toasted ham sandwich while he roared and shouted at YouTube — no one looked, no one stared — which was nice for Ethan and for us all.
D was the one pushing Ethan and was happy with his workout by the time we got to the cafe- I knew I would have never been able to push Ethan the whole way and was happy D was able to manage the chair and Ethan.
The bathroom wasn’t as accessible as I thought it would be, but we did manage it , a simple ramp would fix this along with a few handrails.
We took a stroll up behind the vegetable garden and visited the donkeys, horses , sheep and little playground. The playground is for toddlers and boy did our toddler love it, while J was petting the extremely friendly horses, Ethan was trying to avoid them.
One horse in particular would not give up, even though Ethan told it to ‘fug off’ and even went as far as to hit its long beautiful face, (we moved Ethans chair slightly, while we apologised to the horse, we named ED- aren’t we original?) it continued to try to get Ethan to interact with it.
Ed put its face down towards Ethan, D slowly moved Ethan’s chair in and just like that Ed and Ethan spoke. Gently Ed nudged him , suddenly Ethan lifted his hand and slowly laid it on the horse’s face — I even managed to get a picture . It was amazing to witness.
We sat and took in the view of the farm and wow, it is a piece of paradise hidden in Loughrea.
I can’t really recommend Slieve Aughty highly enough for families of all ages, as the older kids can go horse riding while the younger ones go into the Enchanted forest – it is an ideal place to bring your kids if like me, you’re a carer and want to make good use of your respite with your other children.
The price is beyond reasonable 5 euro per child for the day – into the Enchanted forest and all around the centre – for as long as you like! Horse riding must be pre-booked ( we didn’t know and would have given J that treat!) for as little as 15 euro.
If your child is a wheelchair user, it is manageable only if like Ethan, your child can get out of the chair for a little walk, if not, then no I would say the Enchanted forest is a no go, but the rest of the farm is.
Before we left D chatted to the owner, who was very interested to hear how we got on with Ethan’s wheelchair — it really warmed our hearts at how genuine these people are and that they are trying their best to be as inclusive as they came be.
A little gem here in Galway and one I’d recommend you should visit .
*Ethan friendly — before Ethan needed a wheelchair he was a four foot whirlwind, jumping screeching and happily going into places that were clearly dangerous –not much has changed really, apart from his ability to move like lightening.
This was originally published on FamilyfriendlyHQ