Here’s five walks in the rugged beauty of Connemara National Park from leisurely strolls to more challenging hikes.
If you haven’t got the time, or perhaps the energy or proper footwear, to attempt a huge hike, you can still breathe some of the purest air in the west of Ireland on Connemara’s Ellis Wood Nature Trail. At 0.5km, this is a short trail that begins near the Visitor Centre in the park. Enjoy the wonderful wildflowers and trees along this beautiful woodland walk, but the real star of the show, especially after a rainy week, is the little cascading waterfall you meet along the way.
Looking for something a little more taxing without tackling a mountainous hike? Follow the track from the Visitor’s Centre to The Sruffaunboy Nature Trail where the higher you climb the wide, surfaced path, the more incredible the views.
Diamond Hill stands majestic in front of you, and you also have the perfect vantage point out over Ballinakill Harbour and Tully Mountain. Admire the array of colourful flora with yellow gorse and purple heather along the trail and keep an eye out for the Park’s pure-bred, prized Connemara Ponies too. Meet deer and wild goats, and look out for the old stone circle, a babbling stream and a grassy pond on this family friendly, 1.5km circular route.
Diamond Hill is, despite what the name suggests, a proper mountain, so don’t come expecting a breezy hill walk. It’s a 445m climb that’s neatly signposted along a well-maintained path and is a great option for walkers looking for a more challenging day out.
Divided into two trails, you can stop halfway up on the lower Diamond trail, or keep climbing to the upper trail for gorgeous views of the gothic turrets in Kylemore Valley and the sensational Twelve Bens mountains. On a clear day, you’ll catch a glimpse of Inishturk and Inishbofin Islands and the Atlantic in the distance. The roundtrip takes about three hours to complete, and there’s a reason this is the Park’s most famous walk.
Galway’s highest peak, this is a walk more serious hikers can lace up their boots for. It’s a tough and demanding hike over mixed terrain, so come prepared for boggy grasslands at the beginning and loose, sharp rocks as you head higher.
Keep an eye on the path in front of you, not just for safety but because on a bright day, the mountain’s quartzite rock glistens almost white, and it’s a treat. Expect a four hour round trip on a good day, and if you’re not exhausted coming down the west side, head into the saddle between Ben Baun and Ben Free and you’ll be at the top of Ben Free a quick climb later – two for the price of one!
Some experienced hikers tackle all 12 of the Twelve Pins in one trip, and since four of them are located within Connemara National Park, a stay inside the Park is a perfect, and unique place to bed down for the night. While there are no serviced campsites, you can wild camp in the park, subject to a number of regulations around camping exclusion zones. For a leisurely stroll, set off on the Sruffaunboy Nature Trail on the lower reaches of Diamond Hill.
Walkers looking for a bigger challenge can take the 7km route to the peak of Diamond Hill. With nothing around you but nature for miles, on a clear night don’t forget to drink in the fresh air, natural silence and on a clear night, a sky full of stars.
With so much incredible scenery, Connemara National Park is a must-visit on your short break in Galway. When are you planning your trip?