THE SUCK VALLEY WAY

SUCK VALLEY WAY

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The Suck Valley Way is a 105km long distance hiking trail that traverses along the River Suck on the border of Counties Galway and Roscommon in Ireland. The walking route is a circular / loop trail which starts and finishes in the village of Ballygar in Galway and typically takes 4-5 days to complete. It runs North on the western side of the River Suck until you near the town of Castlerea where the trail then heads back South down the eastern side of the River (with one or two short crossovers along the way). Although the official trail is 105km in length, many opt to stay / visit the town of Castlerea, which adds and an additional 5km to the route.

The trail also forms part of the greater Beara Breifne Way, Ireland’s longest national waymarked trail, which spans from Dursey on the Beara Peninsula in County Cork to Blacklion in County Cavan. This walking trail follows the epic 14-day march of Dónal Cam O’Sullivan Beare. Following the siege of his castle at Dunboy, O’Sullivan Beare, accompanied by 1,000 others (soldiers, men, women and children), fled from the Beara Peninsula to escape the forces of Queen Elizabeth I in January 1603. However by the time they got to the safe haven of O’Rourke’s Castle in County Leitrim, only 35 people remained. Of particular significance to their depleted numbers were the attacks from other clans along the route while also battling against starvation and the freezing cold weather conditions.

Your journey on the Suck Valley Way begins in the village of Ballygar before heading towards the village of Creggs via the woodlands of Aghrane. The Aghrane Forest once formed part of the estate of the notable O’Kelly family, a once powerful clan of the area. Remains of a 14th century O’Kelly Castle are still visible to this day and there are also two ‘raths’ or ringforts located nearby, the first of many located along the Suck Valley Way. As you emerge from the woods you will reach Mount Mary, the highest point of the Suck Valley Way at 163m and where O’Sullivan Beare and his army made camp during their march in 1603. You’ll then start to traverse through local farmlands before reaching the village of Creggs. 

From Creggs, the Suck Valley Way follows local roads and lanes to the townland of Kilbegnet. You will pass Kilbegnet graveyard, where many graves date to the Great Famine of 1846-1848. Leaving the quiet roadways behind, you’ll start to walk across fields and continue onto Rosmoylan Bog. Keep an eye out for the many ringforts which are dotted along this section, in particular, the largest one which is believed to have been home to Tinne Mac Connradh, a husband of the great Queen Medb. More picturesque woodlands, lakes and streams greet you before you reach the spectacular ruins of Glinsk Castle, a 17th century tower house built by the notable Burke family, one of the leading families in the Norman invasion of Ireland. A mixture of pasture and bogland where gorse and bog cotton can be seen await before reaching the village of Ballymoe, the birthplace of Eamonn Ceannt, a signatory of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence for Ireland.

Leaving behind Ballymoe, the trail heads towards Castlerea and Ballintubber through further bogland, which, in the summer months you can see the lines of machine cut peat turf laid out to dry. Once through the bogland, the trail follows lanes to a path along the banks of the River Suck. As you approach closer to Castlerea you will have the option to leave the route and walk into Castlerea town (5km detour) or continue on the path to Ballintubber. Many opt to visit Castlerea town and explore it’s history, which includes; the old Sandford Demense which is now a beautiful parkland, the grave of ‘Cindy the Elephant’ (Cindy was part of a visiting circus in 1958 and became famous for visiting one of the local pubs), and the beautiful Clonalis House, which was once home to the ancient High Kings of Connaught and Ireland.

At Ballintubber, you will discover the Medieval ruins of Ballintubber Castle, a 13th century tower house built by the O’Conor family, who also resided at Clonalis House. From Ballintubber the Suck Valley Way continues through pastures, woodland and paths along the river bank before Donamon Castle comes into view. The Castle is one of the oldest inhabited buildings in Ireland with its history stretching back to 1154 when it was the seat of the O’Finaghtys family. The trail brings you through the grounds of Donamon Castle, into woodland and over streams before reaching the picturesque Castlecoote Village. One of Roscommon’s historic houses Castlecoote House, a magnificent Georgian mansion built on the site of a 16th century castle is located a short distance from here.

Shortly after Castlecoote Village, you will arrive at a townland called Castlestrange, named after Captain Le Strange who owned the lands in the 16th century. Castlestrange is best known for its La Tene Stone which dates to the early Iron Age period and is over 2,000 years old with distinctive decorative spiral patterns carved into it. Further on on the trail you will find yourself walking along the beautiful riverbank to Athleague. Much birdlife such as herons and swans can be spotted here. The walk brings you directly to the Suck Valley Way Visitor Centre in Athleague which has its home in the old Protestant church, so be sure to call in! 

From Athleague, your Suck Valley Way journey then brings you to Mount Talbot. The name comes from the Talbot family who were granted these lands during the Cromwellian invasion. They built a mansion here in the 18th century but the gateway is all that remains today. As you start to reach the end point of the trail, the walk crosses over the River Suck for one last time and back into Aghrane Forest where you will shortly find yourself back in the village of Ballygar where your adventure started out from.

The landscape of the Suck Valley Way is one of a typical river valley; bogs, callows, woods and unspoilt traditional farmland make for wonderful and varied walking. The terrain consists of a pleasant mix of cross-country paths through fields and woods, quiet side roads and there are a number of stretches along the banks of the river itself. The rich heritage and history along the route make it a truly special trail; with remains of monuments, castles, ancient ringforts, churches, and the iron age La Tène Stone all to be seen.

Accommodation along the trail can be scarce in parts, while the town of Castlerea will have numerous options to choose from. The route also can be subject to flooding so please check locally for any recent flooding in the area.

Length:

105 KM / 65 Miles

Waymarking:

Yes

Grade:

Moderate

Trail:

Loop

Ascent:

163m / 535ft

Time:

4-5 Days

Dogs Allowed:

No

Maps:

OSI Discovery Series - 39, 40

TRAIL MAP

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SAFETY NOTICE

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.

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