Walking Routes

Wander off the beaten track to experience a
landscape that is windswept and free

Graded Walking Routes available in Connemara

Below is a selection of various graded self guided walking routes available in Connemara, These include hill walking, mountains, forests, beaches, bogs, back roads and islands. Let us provide you one of our local walking guides to ignite this walking experience.


Easy Routes

Outer Killary Harbour

7km/4.5ml
2.5 to 3 hours
Easy walking – No ascent

Starting where the road descends from the N59 past mussel farms to the green road overlooking the outer Killary. Good dry underfoot conditions amongst great scenery!

The walk descends to Glencraff and follows this side road to the N59. Follow the N59 and take first right which descends past mussel farms to the green road overlooking the outer Killary. Conditions here can be wet, especially after heavy rain.

When path runs out, stay to the left of obvious rock spine and regain green path which curves past cottage to paved road. Here turn right to gain Rosroe pier for pickup.

Omey Strand and Island (low tide only)

7km/4.5ml
2 to 2.5 hours
Easy walking – mostly strand and pasture – No ascent

This walk begins by following the side-road from Claddaghduff church towards the shore. Omey Island and the flat expanse of sand lie stretched out ahead . Where the road reaches the shore, the ruins of an old 19th century quay can be seen among the rocks there. Our way now crosses almost 1km of tidal sands which is impassable for two hours on each side of high tide. The route is marked across the sand to the road on the island. Here our route turns right along the island’s shore. We can see that much of the land of the island is underlain by sand. Sand deposition has been a feature of this island for the past 10,000 years. At the second small beach we climb the dunes to our left and cross the pasture to a hollow in the dunes where lies the ruined church, Teampaill Feichín. Feichín is the patron saint of the island. This mediaeval ruin served long after Feichín was dead. However, on closer examination, one gable is clearly of an older, rougher structure and dates probably from the 10th century. From here, walk to the highest point of the island for spectacular views to both landward and seaward. Descend to the left across the island towards a curved beach and find Feichín’s Holy Well. Cross the beach where we join the island’s only road taking us back to Omey Strand and the finish at Claddaghduff church.

Clifden Beach Walk

5km/3ml
1 hour
Easy – Undulating

Leave Clifden by the Beach Road, descending towards the quay. Directly ahead on the hill opposite is a monument to John D’Arcy, the founder of Clifden and the builder of Clifden Castle.

Just past the ball alley and the helipad you arrive at Clifden Quay. Alexander Nimmo drew up the plans for the quay in 1822 and it was completed in 1831. Clifden Inshore Lifeboat Station is on the quay and is called out on a regular basis. There is a second station at the beach ahead.

The walk continues along the Owenglin estuary and, as we continue, a fine vista opens over Clifden Bay. The mouth of the estuary has many hidden rocks and the navigation channel is marked with stone beacons. After about 2km the road widens into a parking area for Clifden Beach. You can linger here or visit the Boat Club 100m on.

Take the path past the Boat Club and climb over a style which brings you onto the rocky path to Clifden Castle, built by John D’Arcy, Clifden’s founder, early in the 19th C. The Castle avenue winds past several spurious standing stones (no doubt meant to add antiquity to D’Arcy’s new home !) and arrives via the demesne gates onto the Sky Road. From here follow the road back to Clifden.

Aillebrack and Emlagharan

6.5km/4ml
1 to 2 hours
Easy – Undulating

This walk begins about 2 kilometres from Ballyconneely Village, at the road just before the old ruined seaweed factory. Ahead of us rises the mass of Doon Hill, the basalt plug of an ancient volcano, the outer cone of which has now eroded away. Traces of the foundation of a Celtic ring fort, or Dún (from which the hill and the area are named) can be seen on the summit. The landscape which we pass through here is one of rocky outcrops, with many lakes and marshy areas which support a rich and interesting flora.

The geology of this peninsula is very different from the acid rock structure of most of Connemara, and this supports the diversity in plant life. Our route passes the ruin of the seaweed factory on the right and we soon reach the shell of Bunowen Castle on the left. Begun in the latter half of the 18th century, and expanded two generations later, this building remained unfinished when the Geoghegan estate went bankrupt in the 1850s. Further on, we take the right turn at the sign for the golf club. Ahead lies a landscape different from the rocky, marshy area we have just passed through. This short-grass vegetation, called machair, is typical of exposed coastal areas and is underlain by the sands of ancient dune systems which are now protected by younger dunes closer to the modern shore. The flora here is rich and diverse, and especially colourful in May and June; and ground-nesting skylarks and lapwing are common. Our route turns right, following the boundary fence of Connemara Golf Club. Before turning here, looking away to the left, you can see the tower of Slyne Head lighthouse in the distance. Ahead, as you walk, lie the mountains of Connemara, with those of Mayo slightly to the north. The road passes between the golf course and the shore of Sand Lough, into a landscape of small walled fields and abandoned ruined homesteads.

The road becomes a track and an older, traditional farm landscape can be glimpsed beneath the modern veneer for about the next mile. Again, this area has an interesting flora. The route follows the road right at the junction and we again pass through the rocky landscape of heather and gorse back to our starting point. If you begin and end this walk in Ballyconneely village you can add approx. 3 miles / 5 kilometres (about 1 hour) walking.

Lehid and Keerhaun South

6.5km/4ml
1 to 2 hours
Easy – Undulating

This walk begins 2 kilometres from Ballyconneely Village, at the road just before the old ruined seaweed factory. But rather than proceeding towards Doon Hill, we take the turn northwards. Our route passes for about 2km through an area of rocky outcrops, coloured in August with the purple of heathers and the yellow of dwarf gorse. The intervening, low lying places are waterlogged and marshy with colonies of reeds and yellow-flag iris.

At the stone sign for Lehid and Keerhaun our way follows the right fork which soon reaches the machair and sand-dune system on the western reaches of the Slyne Head peninsula. Rich in wildflowers and birdlife, this is an area worth exploring. Keep a careful watch or you may miss our turn left. This track swings back and we enter a beautiful farming landscape which has probably changed little for 150 years.

The track rises onto the side of the hillock, looking back over the sand-dunes, the rocky outcrops and small cliffs ablaze with wildflowers in May and June; the mountains of Connemara and Mayo a magnificent distant backdrop. Our route soon passes a lake on the right and here we can just see a small artificial island or crannóg – a Celtic Iron Age or early Christian fortified lake dwelling. Further evidence of ancient peoples can be found in the middens among the dunes beneath us to the west. Old ruined farmhouses, some now used as barns, show us the style of building here early in the last century. Our way brings us back to the town land marker for Lehid and Keerhaun and from here we re-trace our way back to our starting point. If you begin and end this walk in Ballyconneely village you can add approx. 3 miles / 5 kilometres (about 1 hour) walking.

Ervallagh

7km/4.5ml
1.5 to 2 hours
Easy – Undulating

Leave Roundstone on the Ballyconneely road, with Errisbeg rising above on the right. Away to the left we glimpse the end of Inishnee reaching out towards the mouth of Bertraghboy Bay. After approximately 1 km we take a left turn just beside a small bridge. Heading now towards the shore, our way passes through a mixture of fields, grazed heaths and rock outcrops. Dotted here and there among these small walled fields, ruined cottages remind us of a once greater population. The small lough on the left, Cregduff Lough (Creig Dubh, black crag from the outcrop north of the lough) is of interest botanically, with the Slender Naiad growing in its waters.

Views across the end of Inishnee to the Carna Peninsula (Iorras Aintheach, stormy peninsula) await us, and the beach on Inishlackan becomes visible straight ahead. This once inhabited island lost its last permanent residents in 1985, the population having fallen from a high of more than 200 in the early part of the last century. The road now winds through the picturesque harbour at Ervallagh (Oir Bheallach, East Way), with a mixture of old stone ruins, restored and modern buildings. As we follow the sea wall, Cruach na Caoille (Deer Island) comes into view. The Martin Family, old landlords at Ballynahinch, once kept deer here. Leaving the shore behind, we pass some exotic looking plants – New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax) – often planted for shelter in Connemara. The sands of Gorteen Beach are now visible away on the left. Soon you take a right turn at the main road to bring you back to Roundstone.

Leathanach

6.5km/4ml
1 to 1.5 hours
Easy – Undulating

Begin this walk opposite the Zetland Hotel, passing the community centre and hand-ball alley on your left. The rhododendrons dotted here among the hawthorns, willows and holly are evidence of a nearby ‘big house’. Rhododendrons were widely planted in the gardens of such houses in the last century and now they are self-seeding into the surrounding countryside and becoming a problematic weed. Both of the nearby hotels had their origin as big houses in the last century.

Note the first turn on the left at about 500m! This is where our walk will turn upon returning from the shore. Beyond these hedgerows the road comes onto open grazed rocky heath land typical of many parts of Connemara. Dwarf gorse, which will flower in August, is common on the drier rocky areas. The larger European Gorse, part of the hedgerows and strewn haphazardly about the place, flowers yellow from May onwards. As on other walks, we see here traces of people long gone; the intricate pattern of small field walls and the abandoned ruins tell of a once higher population. As we crest a rise in the road, we see directly down Bertraghboy Bay ahead. The road is now a track, which continues 500m past the farm gate at the end, keeping right on to the shore. From here there are fine views over Leitreach Áird on the far side of the bay.

After absorbing sufficient sea views and air, retrace your steps to the turn mentioned above. Our route turns right here, along the old bog track amid the bogs and boulders and solitude, across to link up with the Carna-Cashel road. Turn left here through this vast spectacular expanse of blanket bog and granite outcrops. After half a mile we turn left once again towards Cashel and our starting point.

Alternative starting points along Cashel Bay will lengthen this walk. If you start from the Post Office the journey will be 7 miles /11 kilometres and will take a little over 2 hours to complete.

Roisín na Maineach

7km/4.5ml
1 to 2 hours
Easy – Undulating

Head east 1km from the village of Cárna and turn right in the direction of Cill Chiaráin. Take the second track on the left, turning up by ACM Teoranta. Soon you leave the industrial estate behind and emerge onto blanket bog; the track bounded by European Gorse with its spectacular display of yellow flowers in early summer. Ahead lie the hills of Dúleitir (meaning ‘black wet hillside) rising as a backdrop to the spread of peat land and granite outcrops – a typical spectacular south Connemara landscape. Along the route, Dwarf Gorse can be seen hugging the drier sites among the heath and boulders; in autumn, a rich golden colour. Old cutaway bogs are seen on each side of the track, a common feature indicating the long history of cutting turf in Connemara.

After reaching the high point on this section of the walk, our way soon bears sharply right. As a small aside our route takes us straight ahead close to two beautiful lakes. 100m on, L. Síodúch is visible on the right. Ancient tree stumps are exposed on the right in a wet, cutaway, boggy hollow. These are the physical remains, about 4,000 years old, of a Scot’s Pine woodland that once covered much of Connemara. Swamped by the growing bog, all that remains of the trees are these stumps preserved in the peat. A wooded island is also visible in the lake from near here. This is probably a crannóg, or artificial fortified island, dating from the Celtic Iron Age or early Christian period. On the left side of the track here, at the base of the large granite outcrop, are the multiple entrances of a main badger sett – come back at dusk to observe the animals. 200m further on, we crest a small rise and see Loch na Scainnimhe (gravel lake), with its magnificent stone-fortified, Iron Age crannóg.

Retrace your steps back to the main track and bear left, continuing towards the main road. As you crest the rise you have a view of the sea ahead; Fínis island with erosion evident on the sand dunes; Maighinis island away to the right. The distant countryside is Lettermullan, with the Aran Islands in the background. Turn right onto the road and it is nearly 4km back to Cárna.


Moderate Routes

Killary Harbour from Leenane

14km/8.5ml
5 to 6hours
Easy to moderate – Including a single ascent to 130m/400ft

This walk begins at the phone mast just west of Leenane village. It ascends gently to the 130m/400ft contour which the path follows around the mountain. Good dry underfoot conditions. Great scenery!

The walk descends to Glencraff and follows this side road to the N59. Follow the N59 and take first right which descends past mussel farms to the green road overlooking the outer Killary. Conditions here can be wet, especially after heavy rain.

When path runs out, stay to the left of obvious rock spine and regain green path which curves past cottage to paved road. Here turn right to gain Rossroe pier for pickup.

Western Way from Leenane to Ilion

14km/8.5ml
6 hours
Easy to moderate walking – Including a single ascent to 130m/400ft

This walk begins at the phone mast just west of Leenane village. It ascends gently to the 130m/400ft contour which the path follows around the mountain. Good dry underfoot conditions. Great scenery!

The walk descends to Glencraff road; it continues straight ahead along a forestry path and emerges onto a bog path at Tooreenacoona. At this point, there is another side road which can be used to exit the walk if desired.

Continue ahead on the (ill-defined) track across open bogland between the Maumturk and Twelve Bens mountain ranges. Parts of this bog trail can be wet so wear good boots.

This walk ends where the bog trail emerges onto paved road at Illion, above Lough Inagh where pickup can be arranged. The option exists to continue along the Western way after over-nighting in a nearby B&B.

Glenagevlagh

7km/4.5ml
1 to 2hrs
Easy to moderate walking – Gentle ascents

Our route leaves Leenane, walking on the Westport road past the Leenane Cultural Centre. On the left is the upper reaches of Killary Harbour and the tidal estuary of the Erriff River. The sandy expanses seen here at low tide are deposited by the river when in spate. Across Killary, Bengorm rises majestically while Letterbrickaun stands on the right. The parallel patterns seen on some of the steepest slopes of Bengorm are faint traces of old cultivation ridges or “lazy beds”, and they tell of a once more populous countryside. It is a long time since these were used, some dating to the time of the Great Famine of the 1840’s. Ahead, away up the Erriff valley, you can sometimes get a glimpse of Maumtrasna Mountain. Our way now descends towards the Glenagevla River and we cross the bridge before turning right. We follow the road into this lovely sheltered valley, dominated on the left by Binn Garbh or the Rough Summit (called the Devil’s Mother on most maps). Unusually for Connemara, trees grow well here because of the shelter. Willows and ash are common and give a special quality to this landscape oasis. The mountain on the right, Leacan, overlooks a neat and well maintained farm landscape that contrasts strongly with the surrounding wild lands. As we reach the turn in the road we see the entire valley is protected by a ridge running unbroken from Binn Garbh around to Letterbrickaun. This feature is typical of a glacial valley, scoured and scrapped and deepened by the moving ice sheet, which had its origin at the head of the valley under the ridge.

The road heads back along the river, through the village of Glanagevla (Gleann na nGeimhleach, or the Valley of the Prisoners: who or what was captive here is unknown). More “lazy beds” are evident away up on the left hand side and we recognise that everywhere are signs of a previous population. Ahead we again see Bengorm with the Sheeffry Hills) behind and to the east. We soon return to the bridge which we crossed earlier and, turning left, begin to retrace our steps towards Leenane. As Leenane Hill comes into view over the village the extent of cultivation in inaccessible places becomes evident – “lazy beds” are everywhere. Also high on the hillside large walled fields are clearly seen, telling of a past when Leenane was a great sheep centre. These huge pens were used to hold stock brought to the village for the great pattern fairs of the past. Away ahead, and to the right, the Western Way winds its route over the shoulder of the hill.

Killary Walk

8km/5ml
2 hours (one way)
Easy to moderate walking – Including a single descent to sea level

The start of this walk is approximately 8km from Leenane village, on the right after crossing the bridge over the Owenmore River. This side of the road dates from early last century when the local landlords, the Thompsons of Salruck, carried out improvements to their Killary estate. On the right, as we descend towards the shore, the wooded area in the valley is the work of these earlier landlords. Trees and rhododendrons were favourite plantings and, especially in sheltered areas, the latter now has the status of as problematic weed. Our route brings us past the new service area on the right for the mussel farms. Rafts and lines of blue or black floats support the ropes o n which these shellfish are cultivated and, free from the bottom currents and predation, they grow faster than if clinging to rocks.

The length of the Outer Killary begins to open out before us and the size of this bay can be fully appreciated. Originally the line of a geological fault, probably shaped somewhat by river erosion, Killary Bay was scoured and widened by glaciers as they poured down the Erriff valley and eventually melted away by the same route. By 10, 000 years ago the ice sheets had gone and the shape of the modern landscape had been set. Across Killary stands the mass of Mweelrea, the highest mountain in Connaught, and the steepness of its slopes can help us judge the depth of water. Further on we pass some isolated cottages from earlier this century, uninhabited now, but not long ago sheltering the families that worked this relatively fertile oasis. As our walk progresses, we keep to the right-hand track.

There is a potential choice within the final three kilometres but, to stay with the Killary as long as possible, keep again to the right. (It is possible to leave the track and gain the little Killary via a rocky gap on the left). The stone foundations of the old road are in disrepair here, but passage can be easily made. Ahead the navigation marks (beacons) for safely entering the Killary are clearly visible rising up from island and rock. Tucked under the lee of the shore ahead you can just glimpse the floating structure of the salmon farm. Bearing around left, our track passes close by cottages in the form of Rosroe and we turn right to finish on the pier 100 meters beyond. The youth hostel here has literary and philosophical connections; as Rosroe Cottage it sheltered Richard Murphy and Wittgenstein and others.

Derryherbert and Derryinver

5km/3ml
1 hour
Easy to moderate walking – Undulating

From Tullycross, take the Letterfrack road descending towards the speed limit sign at the village entrance. Our route turns right just beyond this sign, down the hill to Derryherbert. Ahead we see Tully Mountain (Leitir Hill) and the water tank on the hillock to the right. The line of this road follows the edge of this hillock above the water logged bogs on the left. Ash, Hawthorn and other small trees make up the hedgerows here their success due to the underlying drier soil and the shelter of the hillock.

On the left is an expanse of well developed blanket bog, now cut for fuel. Our route takes the first turn left, out across the blanket bog. Tully Mountain is now on our right; Diamond Hill on the left with some of the Twelve Bens visible behind. From the cutaways, some impression can be gained as to the depth of peat that developed in sheltered low-lying bogs such as this. Ancient pine stumps protrude from the cutaway peat; physical remains of once extensive woodland. Scot’s Pine was the dominant tree here about 4, 000 years ago and the number of stumps and fallen boles here indicate that this was once substantial woodland.

Looking to the left, on the ridge line of the nearby hillock, you can see clearly the stone alignment on the horizon. This is known locally as the “Fairy Fingers”. It is a Bronze Age alignment, a ritual site aligned with the setting sun on December 21st, the winter solstice. It is located in close proximity to other pre-historic features and is typical of the rich heritage of the Renvyle peninsula. The track rises onto drier ground and, once passed the houses, our route turns left down the hill towards the Derryinver estuary. Keeping left at the bottom we follow the estuary back to the bridge, where salmon leap up the falls into the Dawros River to spawn. At the bridge we turn left for Tullycross and our starting point about 2.2kms distant.

Tullycross and Teoreena

5km/3ml
1 hour
Easy to moderate walking – Undulating

Leave Tullycross on the Letterfrack road; Tully Mountain (known locally as Leitir Hill, the wet hillside) is away on the right and on the green hillock closer by is the storage tank for the local water supply. The road descends for about 2.2kms towards the mouth of the Dawros River, a famous salmon and white (sea) trout fishery. In spring and early summer, of the conditions are right, you may see salmon jump the falls below the bridge at Derryinver. Ahead, the peaks of Diamond Hill and Knockbrack are in the foreground with Muckanaught (correctly Macha Nocht) one of the Twelve Bens, looming behind.

Our route follows the track to the left, immediately before Derryinver Bridge, by another water storage tank. Up ahead rises Currywongaun, with the dark mass of Doughruagh behind; Altnagaighera and Lettergesh Mountain behind (Benchoona) are visible away to the northwest. Our route is through an actively harvested blanket bog. Here on the floor of the valley the peat or turf has developed to a considerable depth (up to 3m +) and has been cut for fuel for as long as people have lived here. In the water logged low-lying cutaways, you can find floating mats of the bog moss (Sphagnum), which, as it grows, accumulates increasing the depths of peat. In other cut-away areas you will see ancient pine stumps protruding from the peat. These are remnants of a Scot’s Pine woodland that covered much of this valley approximately 4, 000 years ago.

Our route takes a second turn left and, directly ahead in the distance, rises the summit of Mweelrea, the highest peak in Connaught. The green hillock in the foreground (called Greenmount), contrasting strongly with the surrounding bog land, is a drumlin – a free draining hill of glacial gravel which gives rise to the better farmland. We turn left on the Currywongan road and make our way back to Tullycross. As we reach the village sign, we can see, away on the right, Clare Island in the foreground; Achill Island in the distance beyond and Caher Island framed by the bulk of Achill.

Knockbrack to Sellerna Beach

5km/3ml
1 hour
Easy to moderate walking – Undulating

This walk begins in Cleggan Village, turning right towards the harbour which was begun in 1822 by Alexander Nimmo, and extended in 1908 at the height of the lucrative mackerel and herring fisheries of that period. Our way turns left beyond the Pier Bar and the track rises up on a ridge of sand and gravel deposited here as the glaciers of the last ice age melted 10, 000 years ago. These gravels are free-draining and more fertile than the surrounding lands and they support better farmland.

On your right is Cleggan Bay with Cleggan Head on the opposite (North) shore. Cleggan (correctly Cloigeann, meaning a skull) takes its name from the doomed shape of Cleggan Head. At its summit you can make out the ruined remains of a watchtower, part of the signalling system built along the west coast in the first decade 19th century to warn approaches by the French fleet. As you crest the rise the spectacular seascapes with Inishshark, Inishboffin and many smaller islands, becomes visible. The route then passes some modern house and bears right on the unpaved track at the T-junction. This brings you to Sellerna beach. Exploring along the shore, you will discover a Cillín (ancient children’s burial ground where unbaptised infants were in times past) at the west end and the wedge tomb (Neolithic burial place, circa 4, 000 BC) at the east end.

Retrace your way back along the track passing your original path on the left. Bear left on the paved road towards Cleggan village. 220m on the right, the large black and white buildings were once the old coast guard station. As you approach the village, the bay appears again on your left and, away in the distance, the Twelve Bens, Diamond Hill and Kylemore Valley.

Cleggan and Sheenauns

6.5km/4ml
1.5 hours
Easy to moderate walking – Flat

Begin by leaving Cleggan Village behind you with the bay on your left. Take the first turn left, following the line of the bay which is dominated by Cleggan Head on the opposite shore. Low sand and gravel deposits are also visible on this far shore; behind as the last ice-sheets melted away 10, 000 years ago.

Our route follows the road across the road over the head of the bay and Cleggan beach. This is built on a natural storm beach of cobbles and boulders thrown up during stormy weather. On the right is Lough an Oileain (the lake of the island), which was naturally impounded as the storm beach impeded drainage. The lough is now brackish and supports vegetation and more wildfowl than many other acidic loughs in Connemara. As we leave the bay behind us, the road passes near a field of drumlins on the right. These hills of glacial gravel left behind by the melting ancient ice-sheets, indicating that glaciers retreated away from the bay along the line of the Ballynakill valley. These drumlins are in the town lands of Sheenauns (Sidhan meaning fairy hills) and some older people recall the superstitions associated with the place. As you pass along, try and spot the circular enclosure atop one of these Sidhan. This is an ancient enclosure, possibly Celtic Iron Age or early Christian in date, which was “restored” for use as a sheep pen. As you pass the first drumlin, watch out for the Children’s Burial Ground (Cillín) on the left. It is the oval raft of strewn boulders in the sloping field. Our way takes the next turn right, into the town land heartland of Sheenauns and among the drumlins. The circular stone enclosure becomes very visible away on our right.

As we pass, on the left, an unoccupied two-story house, a Bronze Age stone alignment becomes visible along the ridge. (Please, do not enter private property without permission). This area is rich in prehistoric remains which probably contributed to the origin of the name Sheenauns and the old associated superstitions. As our route bears round to the right, the bay again becomes visible with Inishshark and Inishbofin floating on the sea. We also see, in the pattern of small fields and old ruins, evidence of a larger community on these gravel-based soils in the last century. Such gravels are exposed on the left side of our route in a small quarry. The road descends to the river, and our route takes a right turn immediately after the bridge. Here we see a white quartz standing stone and a Bronze Age ritual stone, in the field on the right.

The route follows under some dry sheltered scarps, where the willow and hazel can thrive. As we regain the shore of the lough, we meet an area of hazel scrub through which a small waterfall cascades spectacularly following rains. We descend towards the beach road again, turn left and retrace our steps along the bay back to Cleggan village.

Clifden – Killymongaun

6.5km/4 ml
2 hours
Easy to moderate – Undulating

This walk heads east from Clifden along the main Galway road. Leaving the town you can see the remains of the old Galway to Clifden railway on your right. All that remains now is part of the embankment on which the track rested. The railway was built in 1895 many years after lobbying began seeking government backing for this enterprise. Unfortunately, economic problems closed the line in 1935.

The road crosses the new bridge over the Owenglin River and you notice the turret on the old ‘Waterloo Bridge’, built in 1818. About 1km beyond the Clifden Glen development our route takes the small road dipping to the right. The base of the old Clifden Galway railway can again be seen in a cutting on the left side of the main road, and heading east across the bogs as we continue our way. Our road bears sharply right and we are looking out over the vast expanse of blanket bog known as the Roundstone Bog, an area of exceptional scientific interest. The road soon turns to a track which makes its way across an exceptionally beautiful landscape of bog, farmland and lakes.

Away to the south, the dark mass of Roundstone Hill rises. About 2km from the turn we overlook The Salt Lake: an almost land-locked arm of the sea that fills and empties at the bridge at Ardbear. The line of floats clearly visible in the water support ropes for mussel cultivation. If you wish, you might explore the little track to the left that brings you down to the stream flowing into Salt Lake. In the last century this stream supported a working mill which is no longer extant. The walk continues another mile or so into Clifden, finally crossing the bridge over the Owenglin River. In spring and early summer, after heavy rainfall, it is not unusual to see salmon leaping up the falls here on their way to their upstream spawning grounds.

Benbrack Horseshoe from Kylemore

6km/3.5ml
4.5 hours
Mostly moderate walking but difficult in the initial ascent is steep and challenging
Total ascent of 620m/2025ft Mweelin and Benbrack

This walk starts at the first track entrance on the right hand side after the exit from Kylemore Abbey. Part of the original Castle (later Abbey) lands the lane leads to a 19thC lime kiln, a ruined megalithic tomb and a children’s burial ground.

A steep ascent continues up the ridge overlooking Kylemore Lough. Although this climb requires reasonable fitness and effort, the rewards are great with spectacular views changing constantly until the summit of Mweelin (smaller of the 2 Benbauns on the map) is gained. Benbrack summit is reached along a gently rising ridge traversed by rocky outcrops.

From the summit of Benbrack follow the NW ridge into the saddle before the rise for Knockbrack. Once over the deer fence style, you gently descend to the north eventually gaining the path near the lime kiln once more.

Inishbofin – West quarter

8km/5ml
2 to 3 hours
Moderate – Undulating

Starting at the new pier, this walk heads west and immediately turns right up the hill of Pound Road. This hill is a great deposit of sand and gravel left behind by the melting glaciers more than 10,000 years ago. Here the crushed rock and freer drainage make this part of the island inherently more fertile than the shallower peaty soils on the acidic rock outcrops elsewhere.

We turn west again at the top of the road and now have fine views over Bofin Harbour. Almost a mile long, this deep anchorage was an important haven for shipping in the age of sail. The imposing ruin at the mouth of the harbour opposite dates from the 1650s when the Cromwellian garrison rebuilt an older structure there. Older fortifications also tell us of the importance of this haven; the flat, vegetation-topped rock at the western mouth of the harbour is called Dún Gráinne, Grainuaile’s fort. This is a Celtic Iron Age or Early Christian promontory fort dating approximately from 2,000 years ago; the name (and a mediaeval window moulding) tells us it was also in use as late as the 16th century.

Our route now lies on the edge of the poorer, thinner soils that make up the island’s commonage, on the right. Turn right, pass some houses, and enter the commonage through a farm gate (close it!). This part of the walk overlooks Lough Bofin, from which the mythical white cow (of the island’s name) arises periodically. The area to the right and ahead is rich in prehistoric remains, mainly the foundations of terracing and house sites, probably from the Bronze Age, 3,700 years ago.

We pass through the gate onto North Beach, a ridge of shingle thrown up by ancient storms, but continually shifting under wind and sea pressure to the present day. Across the beach we again find a track which takes us to the North West end if the island. When you pass the final farm gate here, look out for a track heading right to the double sea arch, Poll Tolladh (the bore-hole). Our route follows an intermittent track heading south, parallel with the shore and rising with the emerging cliffs from Royal Oak Cove to the massive Dún Mór promontory fort. All that remains is the base of the defensive wall across the neck of the isthmus. From here our route back is clearly visible. With the sea to our right, we now follow a green road back through West quarter, passing the Doonmore Hotel, and on to our starting point at the pier.

Roundstone and Letterdyfe

11km/7.5ml
6 hours
Moderate – Undulating

Begin in the village, following the road uphill beside the pub. Take the first turn right and our route lies between the village and Roundstone Hill to the west. We pass initially through an expanse of European Gorse, beautiful in summer yellow, sheltering a group of stone walled fields where Connemara ponies often graze. Ahead on the left we see contrasting healthy slopes of commonage on the Roundstone Hill. The road climbs slightly and we are soon aware of the majestic Twelve Bens and Maumturk Mountains away in the distance. On the right Cashel Hill rises low in contrast.

Our way leaves behind us the better fields and field patterns can be seen on the left under the hill slope; old ruined buildings in a location no longer inhabited. Pass through the gate (closing it after us!) out onto the commonage, a grazed heath which in autumn shows spectacular colours contrasting between Dwarf Gorse and several species of heather. On the left, Roundstone Bay and Inishnee make up the foreground. As the track curves to a slightly higher elevation, we can see the splendid expanse of blanket bog and lough stretching away northward to the mountains of Connemara. The track we are on gives local access to the peat bogs and evidence of past and recent turf cutting is frequent. Away on the right, rhododendrons can be seen in sheltered dips in the rolling bog land; self-seeding from nearby plantings originating in the last century.

As the track begins to descend, the north western section of the Roundstone Bog becomes visible; an area of scientific interest for, among other attributes its rare flora and wintering white fronted geese. Our route takes the track to the right, through a farm gate. (If you have time, the left hand track here leads you to impressive views and adds about 5 km/ 3 ml to the length of the walk). Our route turns right at the paved road, back towards Roundstone. On the left we pass the head of Roundstone Bay and, on the opposite shore, the island of Inishnee. Coming closer to the village, passed Letterdyfe House, those botanically inclined can search out the unusual Babington’s Leak on the sea side of the wall.

Caladh Mhaínse to Cill Chiaráin

10.5kms/6.5ml
2 to 3 hours
Moderate – Undulating

Our walk begins turning first left after Lough. Troscán beside the old stone building with grass growing in the old thatch. (Note the ancient Pine root in the garden). Rising above Lough Troscán, on the left you can see the pump house and storage tanks for the local water scheme. The walk passes both modern and traditional homes and farmsteads as it rises. Lough na Scainnimhe becomes visible on the left, as does the stone crannóg (see walk No. 21). Ahead the hill is called An Ghualainn (the shoulder). We soon leave the private lands behind and emerge onto the open land with granite outcrops interspersed between the grazed heath and boggy hollows. The road bears right and soon overlooks L. an Iarainn, the lake of the Iron. The buildings above the lough are local waterworks, set in a bleak peaty landscape, with granite outcropping frequently.

We soon pass a turn to the right. (Take this if you wish to cut short your walk, back to Leavey’s pub in Árd Mór, giving a total of 3.5ml/5.5km walking). Cresting the hill you now see L. an Óir (lake of the gold) with its outflow stream dammed to ensure water supplies. The hill to the right is Binn Bhuí (the yellow peak), and we soon begin our descent overlooking Cill Chiaráin Bay, with Lettermore and Carraroe away in the background. As we drop beneath the hillside, some tree growth has been possible in the shelter. We reach the main road in the village where, straight ahead past Conroy’s pub, brings you to the harbour beyond the seaweed factory. Our way is to the right, back towards Cárna. The road soon overlooks the salmon farms in the lee of Fínis Island, and we can pick up those who shortened their walk in Leavey’s in Árd Mór.

The last part of the walk passes, on the right, a good example of the traditional pattern of stone-walled fields and houses typical of this part of Connemara.


Difficult Routes

Benlettery Horseshoe

8km/5ml
5 hours
Moderate to difficult – Total ascent 737m/2410ft

Starting on the N59 at the western end of Ballynahinch Lough, this walk follows a gentle ridge leading to the cone of Benlettery. From this summit the walk follows a NE ridge to Bengower in the heart of the southern Bens. Retrace the ridge SW and bear west for the summit of Benglenisky and the final descent towards Barnanoraum.

Central Maamturks

8km/5ml
5 to 6 hours
Moderate to difficult with a tricky scramble early on – Total ascent 766m/2510ft

Starting on the Western Way at Illion West, this walk ascends between some lovely crags up to the ridge of Mám Ochóige. From here the SE ascent of Binn Idir a’ Dá Log (highest of the Maamturks) begins with a tricky scramble. This is followed by a gradual ascent to the summit with views over the 12 Bens, Lough Inagh, South Connemara and Joyce Country. Then follows a spectacular zigzag ridge to the summit of Binn Chaoinigh with an option to bag another summit, Binn Mhairg, on an adjacent spur. The walk then descends to Maumeen, the gap linking Connemara and Joyce Country. This is a pilgrimage site with holy well and chapel dedicated to St. Patrick. The walk finishes by following the pilgrim route down to Maumeen car park.

Cárna – Glinsce – Leitreach Árd circle

19km/12ml
4 to 5 hours
Difficult – Undulating

The Cárna – Glinsce – Leitreach Árd circle. Starting from Cárna, the way is northward through the open blanket bogs and forestry of Cnoc Bhuí turning west at Glynsk House Hotel (this is another good starting point for the circle). Walking west overlooks Bertraghboy Bay and Roundstone Hill before turning south through Leitreach Árd and Maoras returning to Cárna.

West to East Traverse of the 12 Bens

11km/7.5ml
6 hours
Difficult – Total ascent 1055m/3455ft

This is a spectacular traverse of the central ridge of the Twelve Pins, climbing Bencullagh, Muckanaught and Benbaun is the highest of the 12.


Severe Routes

Lios Uachtair

20 km/12.5ml
4 to 5 hours
Difficult to severe – Total ascent 401m/1314ft

Begin this walk by turning left off the main road just west of Caher House. Immediately the way passes through open bog land with the hill Lios Uachtair, which this walk will circumnavigate, on your left. Ahead you have spectacular views of the Maumturk Mountains, with a low pass of Maumeen, the popular Patrician Pilgrimage site, clearly visible. Here, St Patrick is reputed to have viewed Connemara and, declining to enter this barren country, blessed the inhabitants from afar instead. Occasional farmsteads, with their patterns of green fields, stand out clinging against the darker sides of the mountains. These farms are situated on rare outcrops of richer rocks amidst the acid bleakness of the bogs and mountains. Old turf cuttings are seen throughout the flat expanses of bog on both sides of the road, with some recent hand cuttings on the left hand side. Soon you can see the pilgrimage path winding its way up to Maumeen in the distance. Before the first small lake on the right hand side of the road, protruding from the wet cut away bog, you can see the remains of ancient pines. Preserved by the acid peat, these trees grew here probably 4, 000 years ago; now only a testament to the former woodlands that covered Connemara.

Ahead, almost like a grain in the fabric of the mountains, you can discern the original sedimentary strata of these Connemara rocks. Along the sides of the hills, these strata are clearly folded and angled upward in an aspect, very different from the ancient original. The story of the landscape, of upheaval and folding, can be guessed at from these tortured levels.

The way bears left at the forestry, on a paved road, through the straggling settlement of Bun na gCnoc (the bottom of the hills). You quickly reach the car park at the bottom of the pilgrimage route and, if you have the time and the inclination, the climb and the view beyond into the Maam Valley are well worth the effort (add extra time for this). From here on our route follows part of the long-distance walking route, The Western Way. Looking ahead, the Maamturks stretch out on the left, facing the Twelve Bens across the wide valley. Away ahead stands the majestic form of Mweelrea, the highest peak in Connaught. Note, the way keeps Lios Uachtair to the left. Passed the small church traditional field patterns still cling to the side of the mountain, interspersed with the ruins of the original habitations. On the left hand side of the route the lough is called Lough Leathanach. Notice the wooded island in the lough. In the absence of grazing pressure these trees have survived; an indicator perhaps, of what might have been the natural ungrazed vegetation of Connemara? A second lough, Lough Rua, soon comes into view on the left – again a wooded island. These wooded islands are common features of Connemara loughs.

As we leave Lios Uachtair behind us Lough Inagh is visible ahead to the left. This lough gives its name to the magnificent Inagh Valley. As our route bears left towards this valley we pass where the Western Way continues northward across the bog to Leenane. Descending towards Lough Inagh, we begin to realise how common wooded lough islands are. Turning left when we reach the car-park for the Lough Inagh Fishery, we pass the boat sheds and wooden jetties used by the salmon and white trout fishermen. As our way heads southward along the valley we again recognise Lois Uachtair on our left. The Inagh Valley Inn is on the narrows between the two loughs and we soon come to Lough Derryclare beyond. Looking back across the lough to the right we can see, surrounded by conifer plantations, the Derryclare Oakwood Natural National Nature Reserve.

Our route then reaches the main Clifden – Galway road again. Turn left and walk 4km/2.5ml brings us back to the start with Glendollagh Lough on the right.

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Recent Comments

Commented On 06 Jul 2014
The scenery was magnificent!
Commented On 06 Jul 2014
We loved our Connemara holiday!