Famed for its oysters, rich medieval heritage and thriving arts and music scene, the harbour city of Galway is a charming Irish destination – and naturally beautiful to boot. With so much astounding scenery on offer, one of the best ways to explore and experience it all is on foot. Set in 350 acres of pristine Irish countryside, the luxurious Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford Castle are the ideal places from which to explore the hiking in Galway. With a plethora of hidden trails and mountain passes the variety would leave even the most enthusiastic hikers spoilt for choice and chomping at the bit, we’ve put together a little list of six of our favourite walks, ranging from family-friendly strolls to routes for seasoned hikers, to point you in the right direction.
Lough Corrib Loop Walk
Length: 3.4km / Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
This relatively easy trail rambles along old forest tracks before coming out at a vantage point that offers unparalleled views of Lough Corrib and its many islands, with the majestic Maamturk Mountains rising up behind it so, whatever you do, don’t forget your camera. Before embarking on the grassy descent, stop for a moment (perhaps to enjoy that picnic you brought with you) and take in the panorama.
Cong Forest Nature Trail
Length: 3km / Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
A woodland walk through the forest roadways of the Cong Woods, the Cong Forest Nature Trail is a gentle hike that can easily be undertaken in an afternoon with children and dogs in tow. One for tree enthusiasts, this walk offers the chance to spot rare native specimens, many of which are now several centuries old, having been planted by the former resident of Ashford Castle, Lord Ardillaun. The trail also passes the natural grotto of Teach Aille Sink, thought to have been a larder for ancient monks, and Pigeon Hole Cave, which has a subterranean river that flows between Lough Mask and Lough Corrib.
The walks around the 16th century stately home Rinville Park are perfect for families who want to enjoy the hiking in Galway at a slightly gentler pace. There are plenty to choose from, too, thanks to the park’s winding, verdant network of woodland and parkland trails. There’s even a playground for kids to enjoy. Nature lovers will appreciate the abundance of wildlife, rare trees and wildflowers in the area, and history buffs will love the ivy-clad remains of Rinville Hall, once the grand centrepiece of the park.
Length: 4km / Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Knockma Wood, or ‘Hill of the Plain’, is an enchanting limestone outcrop steeped in legend. With Neolithic cairns at the hill’s summit marking the supposed burial grounds of Queen Maebh of Connaught and mysterious faery forts nestled in between the trees, not to mention wonderful views and the wood’s resident herd of deer to spot on your walk, hiking in Galway doesn’t get more magical than this.
Diamond Hill Loop Walk
Length: 7km / Time: 2-3 hours
Starting at the Visitor’s Centre of Connemara National Park, an hour from the Lodge, the Diamond Hill Loop Walk takes in some of Galway’s scenery at its most striking – and it’s all signposted. Well worth the drive, this walk is one for seasoned hikers as it offers a chance to explore Galway’s diverse terrain, while enjoying dramatic views of the Maamturks and the Twelve Bens.
Along the Killary
Length: 12km / Time: Day trip
Following the coastline and taking you through Ireland’s only fjord, this walk along the Killary offers stunning views out over the water, plus it’s overlooked by Mweelrea, the highest mountain in Connaught. This one requires a bit of extra effort from hikers as the terrain is rugged, but it’s worth it for the views. If you have a day, try the whole walk or just take an hour to walk along the coastline and enjoy the vista.
Once you’ve explored the beautiful Galway countryside, there’s nowhere better to relax and unwind than back at Ashford Castle or The Lodge. So kick off your walking boots, luxuriate in your beautiful room and then head down to one of the incredible on-site restaurants to replenish. After all that walking, you’re bound to have worked up quite an appetite.
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