Within the Connemara National Park, you can find one of the greatest day hikes in all of Ireland, the stunning Diamond Hill. It is the second most popular trail in all of Ireland, second only to Croagh Patrick, in terms of footfall each year. But don’t let the name fool you, Diamond Hill is more than a hill, it’s a mountain with a summit height of 442m / 1,450ft. It gets its name from its shape; a diamond-like figure poking out of the earth and where the quartzite stone glistens in the sun (much like a diamond) on a sunny day. However the mountain is also known as ‘Binn Ghuaire’ in Irish, meaning ‘Guaire’s peak’, or its also sometimes referred to as ‘Bengooria’, an alternative English name given to it.
Situated near the the picturesque village of Letterfrack, you will find the entrance to the National Park, where you will be greeted with a lovely ground view of Diamond Hill and also a visitor centre which was formerly old farm buildings belonging to Letterfrack Industrial School, built around 1890. Inside the visitor centre, you can view photos, exhibitions or get information about the trails and other things to do in the area. You can also find a cafe serving hot drinks, cakes, sandwiches, soups etc., along with picnic benches, a playground, toilet facilities and more.
In the past, the National Park lands would mainly have been used for agriculture, such as grazing for cattle and sheep. Some vegetables would have been grown on the more fertile lowlands. Several of the bogs in the Park were used extensively as fuel sources, and old turf banks, now disused, are commonly seen. Today, within the Connemara National Park you can find four different hiking trails. These trails are as follows;
Ellis Wood Nature Trail (Green) 0.5 Kms
The Ellis Wood Nature Trail starts and ends at the visitor centre of the National Park and is a lovely half kilometre walk through a small wooded area at the base of Diamond Hill. Its short distance makes it a perfect trail for families with little ones who might tire easily! Along the trail you can find beautiful wildflowers, wildlife and even a picturesque waterfall.
Sruffaunboy Trail (Purple) 1.5 Kms
The Sruffaunboy Trail is a short loop walk with a distance of 1.5kms and which is also ideal for families. It is often combined with the Ellis Wood Nature Trail to make a lovely 2km walk for families. Once again, as with all trails in the National Park, the trail begins and ends at the visitor centre. The trail traverses along fields at the foot of Diamond Hill, and provides opportune encounters for KIDS with wildlife such as horses and donkeys.
Diamond Hill Lower Loop Walk (Yellow) 3 Kms
On the Diamond Hill Lower Loop Walk you will start the incline towards the summit of Diamond Hill. Starting at the visitor centre, the trail is 3kms in length and brings you across mountainous bogland where you can see large boulders / rocks scattered around. These rocks were deposited by retreating glaciers many thousands of years ago. Some walking across boardwalk in parts makes a nice change, while you will be treated to some lovely views across Kylemore Lough, Ballinakill Harbour and Tully Mountain on this lower loop trail. When you reach the centre rock, a monolithic stone which marks the halfway point of the full Diamond Hill trail, you have the option to continue on and join the upper loop walk, or continue to follow the lower walk which loops around and heads down towards the visitor centre where you finish the trail.
Diamond Hill Lower & Upper Loop Walk (Yellow) 6.7 Kms
The Diamond Hill Upper Loop Walk is a continuation of the Lower Loop Walk which brings you right up to the summit of Diamond Hill. The Upper Loop trail begins at the centre rock, a monolithic stone at the halfway point, and where the lower section starts to loop back down. The full trail takes in the Lower & Upper loop walks of Diamond Hill, which measures about 6.7kms – 7kms in distance.
On average, the full walk typically takes about 3 hours in total to complete but this can vary greatly depending on your level of fitness, how much you wish to soak up the incredible scenery, the weather conditions, and even footfall traffic on particular busy days. The trail brings you along gravel paths, boardwalk and stone steps up the slopes of Diamond Hill before reaching the summit. What’s more you will find yourself hiking through 3,000 hectares of beautifully remote and unspoiled woodland, bog, and mountain.
On clear days, the summit of Diamond Hill offers up incredible views of the Connemara region to include the iconic Kylemore Abbey & Lough, the Twelve Bens Mountain Range, Tully Mountain, the Atlantic Coastline, the islands of Inishbofin & Inishturk, and much more. Although the route can be challenging in parts, the views are genuinely worthwhile.
All four walking trails within the National Park are fully waymarked, so it’s impossible to get lost. Beautiful wildflowers, such as marsh orchids and lousewort, line the trail while delightful purple heather can be seen on the mountainsides during season. What’s more, depending on recent rainfall, you may also be greeted with the sound of small streams trickling out of the bog and down the path as you walk – a truly idyllic setting for hiking.
The trails are open to the public all year round, unless closed for maintenance work, while the visitor centre is open from 9am – 5.30pm daily, except on particular public holidays and potentially some seasonal changes too, therefore it’s always best to check the Connemara National Park website and social channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) in advance before visiting. In very bad weather or high winds the summit is best avoided.
Dogs are allowed on the trails, however the Connemara National Park asks that dog owners be responsible for their dogs and keep them under control at all times. This includes cleaning up after them! There is ample parking available at the visitor centre, however, it can be quite limited during the peak season due to large numbers, so we advise to arrive early.
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We strongly recommend that you; stay on the trail at all times during your hike, take care when walking on roads and near cliffs (stay clear of the edge), inform others of your intention to hike, check weather forecast in advance, wear appropriate clothing, and bring a mobile / cell phone with you. If you find yourself requiring emergency services, the numbers to call are 112 or 999. These numbers can be reached on your mobile phone even without phone/cell coverage.
Visit Galway aims to simply provide basic & supplementary information about walking trails throughout Galway and as such the accuracy of the information should not always be relied on. Visit Galway are not responsible for the misuse or misrepresentation of the information and/or data provided, and any reliance you place on such information and/or data is therefore strictly at your own risk.