Wild About Autumn at the Octagon


**This post won the Wild About Autumn Blogger Challenge created by AliKats Mountain Holidays and Going Wild authors Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield, to encourage families to reconnect with their wild side and get outside this autumn.**

It was the day before midterm and the acorns’ school was closed for staff training. When I asked Mermaid and Squirrel where they would like to go, the answer was unequivocal – the Octagon.

The mysterious ruins in the middle of the oak woods of the Glen of Downs, near Delgany, Co Wicklow, have been the backdrop to many a family adventure over the years, from a magical Halloween celebration to an outdoor Christmas party inspired by The Night Tree, with countless micro adventures in-between, with friends or without, after school or at the weekend, in any season.

Screened by ancient tree trunks and cloaked by golden autumn leaves, the Octagon looks like a long forgotten fairy tale castle. 

It actually is what remains of the once stately Banquet Room of the 18th-century Bellevue Demesne. But the weathered brickwork seems to have grown out of the ground. The elegant arched windows offer a breathtaking vista over the opposite side of the glen in full autumn glory. To the north, the Great Sugar Loaf dominates the skyline.

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Wicklow’s Great Sugar Loaf, viewed from the Octagon

This time, Jedi was still in school, but my 16-year-old niece P from France was with us – her first time at the Octagon.

Most of our adventures at the Octagon involve lighting a fire – either in a sheltered corner of the ruined building, or in a portable fire pit, or in the Kelly kettle (affiliate link).

This time was no exception. No sooner had Squirrel taken off his backpack, than he kneeled down in the usual corner of the Octagon to start a small fire, using Jedi’s trusty fire steel (affiliate link). Soon, a timid flame rose, fed by twigs Mermaid had gathered from the secret spot in the woods where she always finds them, and by sticks Squirrel had got on the way.


Jedi was still in school but my niece P was with us


Collecting sticks and twigs for the fire along the way


Gathering vines to use as string to make swords

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In true Leave No Trace style, the fire was left to die out and go cold before we left the Octagon.

Related / Similaire  Leave No Trace - one idea, 7 principles / Sans Trace : une idée, 7 principes

By then, the acorns had moved on to more imaginative games, burying a pretend treasure near the Octagon, setting up a blacksmith’s workshop on the low wall to make swords out of sticks and vines, and attempting to build a den. The Octagon has the knack of setting their imagination on fire.

Giddy up!

Burying a pretend treasure

Making swords out of sticks and vines

Beech nuts and shells on the wall of the Octagon

Wild about autumn – playing chase through the woods with their homemade swords

My niece P was amazed to see her younger cousins “play so much with nothing”, as she put it. And she was only too happy to get stuck in with their creative games. Understandably, the Octagon remains one of the highlights of her autumn holiday in Ireland with us.

What autumn outdoor adventures have you been up to?

More Wild About Autumn adventures

Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links. Should you choose to make a purchase after clicking on one of them, I may receive a small commission and your purchase will help support this site.

**Edit – 28/11/2019**
This post won the Wild About Autumn Blogger Challenge created by
AliKats Mountain Holidays and judged by Going Wild authors Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield. Here is what they had to say about my entry:
“We so enjoyed reading all the lovely blogs.  All the posts were great, full of easy, fun ideas to encourage families to get out all year round.  We felt every one really understood the importance of getting children outdoors away from their screens.
For us however, one stood out above the rest.  From the outset we were drawn into a magical adventure. The photos were beautiful and you could really feel the fun the children had; storming around the woods, armed with their stick swords, protecting the fairy castle from fierce dragons….  The adults were not telling the children what to do or how to do it, they were there to keep them safe, teach them respect for the natural world (such as how to keep the fire small, how not to leave a trace, how to notice the special autumn treasures), but most of all they were there to encourage natural curiosity, creativity and giving them space to let their imaginations run wild and free.
We also loved their suggestion to visit the same place but in different seasons for “micro adventures” illustrating that you don’t have to travel miles away from home, or go to expensive parks or events.  Nature is free, and magical, you just have to jump in and fly off to wherever your imagination takes you.
This is the message we have tried to get across in all of our books. Wonderful adventures can be had anywhere, anytime, whatever the season, without spending a fortune.  It’s the wild times, and the freedom to explore nature that children will remember when they grow up, vital if we want the next generation to respect, protect their planet.  
The quote from Niece P sums it up:
“My niece P was amazed to see her younger cousins “play so much with nothing”… but they did have things, they forged swords on the blacksmith’s fire they started themselves without matches, they made princess headdresses out of ivy vines, they found priceless treasure which they buried to keep it safe, and rode their trusty stick steads through the forest. 
Well done Four Acorns, we’re sure you’ll have fun dashing down the snowy slopes with Alikats Mountain Holidays!”

For more inspiration to get outside as a family and reconnect with your wild side, check out Jo and Fiona’s latest book Wild Things.


The Helpful Hiker

Country Kids linky 

4 Responses to “Wild About Autumn at the Octagon

  • What a magical space to have outdoors adventures. So much fun to be had with a few sticks #countrykids

  • What a brilliant day out. And a gorgeous place. No wonder you have had so many adventures there. I just love watching kids imaginations run wild whilst in the great outdoors. Brilliant!

    Thanks for linking up with #AdventureCalling

  • Wow I can see why that place is so good for the imagination! What an amazing setting! I love watching Finn when he plays just using his imagination, it’s definitely when he has the most fun. Great post, thanks so much for sharing #AdventureCalling

  • This really does look like the perfect spot for sparking imagination – what a magical place to explore. Your photos are always so beautiful and I love how they really do capture a fairytale atmosphere. Thank you for sharing your day out with #CountryKids and sorry for being late with my commenting this week x

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