“Black clouds coming from the north, colouring the land, the lakes, the rivers, that’s the setting of Connemara” sang Michel Sardou in 1981 in his famous song Les Lacs du Connemara. Located in the west of Ireland, the Connemara region has a special, almost mystical atmosphere. The colours intermingle and the curves of the valleys give this area a beauty that is hard to match. The region is popular with tourists and is one of the province’s main economic sources.
Within this geographical area in the west of Ireland is the Connemara National Park, which is one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations. The park is located in County Galway and is a great place to visit if you are looking for breathtaking views and plenty of outdoor activities.
Connemara National Park covers over 3,000 hectares of land and has a wide variety of habitats including mountains, bogs, lakes and forests. The park is a great place for walkers, cyclists and wildlife enthusiasts as there are many trails to walk and wildlife to see.
How do I get to Connemara National Park?
The entrance to the park is on the outskirts of the small town of Letterfrack. If you are travelling to Connemara National Park from Dublin, it will take you approximately three hours to get there. The best way to get there is by car, but there are also buses that run between the two locations.
What to do in Connemara National Park
Once in the park, there is plenty to do. Hiking is a great way to explore the natural beauty of the park, and there are several trails to choose from, depending on your fitness level.
For example, you can tackle Diamond Hill, which stands at over 445 metres above sea level. One of the twelve peaks in the famous Twelve Bens mountain range is climbed every year by a host of tourists, both experienced and inexperienced climbers. Don’t panic, there are paths in the middle of the peat bogs. At the top, a waltz of cliffs surrounds us, enough to make you dizzy. The spectacle is breathtaking. There is also time to marvel at Killary Fjord, Ireland’s only fjord!
It takes an hour and a half to reach this high point, but there are two other shorter walks that offer stunning views of the local countryside and the irregular, mystical coastline. Remains of human presence are still visible in some parts of the park, such as 4,000 year old megalithic tombs and the remains of the old road to Galway.
If you’re not feeling so adventurous, why not take a walk along the shores of Lough Inagh? This peaceful lake offers breathtaking views. As you may have guessed, Lough is Irish for lake!
If you prefer to cycle, the park offers many cycle routes. The routes vary in length and difficulty, so there is something for everyone.
The fauna and flora of the park
In addition to the dozen or so types of birds (robins, wrens, thrushes, starlings, etc.), it is not uncommon to see foxes or ermines and, for the lucky ones, the famous Connemara pony. The result of an unintentional cross between the local wild pony and the horse, the Connemara pony is now domesticated but roams freely in the pastures.
Bogs and heaths, mainly heather, make up the majority of the local flora. Yellow gorse also grows in large quantities (with the help of many rainy days…) but is more of a “weed”, according to the visitor centre manager.
If you feel like staying a few days in this peaceful place, the Old Monastery Inn will add a little romance to your stay: large rooms, warm decoration and a warm welcome from the owner. Other equally beautiful places like Clifden’s sky road will convince you to stay. Peat, flourishing vegetation, amazing wildlife, stunning views and a warm welcome… that’s the Connemara scene.
All in all, Connemara National Park is a beautiful place with plenty to do for visitors of all ages. Whether you are a keen walker or cyclist, or simply want to enjoy the breathtaking views, this park is well worth a visit.