Ireland's forestry service has announced Ireland's 50 most popular forest parks of 2020, with visitor numbers skyrocketing since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Dublin Mountains - Ireland's most popular park - drew the most visitors in Ireland in 2020, with visitor numbers jumping from just over 30,000 in February 2020 to over 60,000 in December - an increase of 102%. 

Rossmore Forest Park in County Monaghan was the second-most visited park in Ireland last year and experienced a 138% increase in visitor numbers, jumping from just over 10,000 visitors in February to more than 24,000 in December. 

Meanwhile, visitor numbers in Donadea Forest Park in County Kildare jumped from 4,700 in February to 14,300 in December - a staggering increase of more than 200%. 

Curragh Chase Park in County Limerick also experienced a 200% increase in footfall last year, with figures jumping from 2,300 in February to 6,700 in December. 

Roughly 2.2 million people visited Ireland's 50 most popular forest parks between March and December last year - an increase of 38% on the same period in 2019 when 1.6 million people visited Ireland's most popular forests. 

The true figure is likely to be much higher than the 2.2 million visitors recorded by Coillte's infrared sensors at each of its 50 most popular parks. 

Imelda Hurley, CEO of Coillte, said that the organization was "delighted" to see an increase in visitor numbers and said that forest parks played an important part in people's mental health. 

"We’re delighted so many people are using their local forests more during this difficult and prolonged COVID lockdown," she said in a statement. "Healthy forests are not only beautiful to look at but provide a much-needed physical and mental wellness boost.

"This is particularly important right now. We’re glad people’s local forests are a healthy and positive outlet for them. We simply ask that Covid-19 restrictions be adhered to when visiting." 

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