One Foot in Front of the Other
Connemara’s Walking Trails
Story and photography by Rosaleen Ní Shuilleabháin, Rural Recreation Officer, Co. Galway
My work is about developing and promoting outdoor recreation throughout Galway. It can consist of anything from liaising with landowners on trail development to encouraging people to try snorkelling. I’m employed by FORUM Connemara CLG, based in Clifden, but my outdoor office covers Connemara (Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht), East Galway, and the islands.
My background as a Mountain Leader Award holder and sailing and kayaking instructor gives me the perspective from that of a recreation user. Because of the diversity in the county, the fact that I grew up in Rosmuc and am a fluent Irish speaker are huge advantages, as is my appreciation for small-scale farming.
Farmers have an appreciation for responsible recreational users. It’s only the odd person who can upset things, and that’s generally because of a lack of awareness that all land is individually owned, whether it’s private or commonage.
Dogs are a huge issue for landowners as there are so many sheep grazing here. What many don’t realise is that sheep are easily scared, regardless of whether the dog sees them or not. Respecting signage is vital; if a trail is designated as non-dog, please don’t bring your dog on that trail. We are currently developing dog-friendly trails that will welcome responsible pet owners and their animals.
Leave No Trace is embedded in my work. There is still a need to get the message across to those who are new to the outdoors, and this is more evident on our beaches. We need to encourage that sense of personal responsibility in everybody.
Maintaining a balance is the most challenging part of my job and also the most rewarding; being constantly objective and taking everybody’s perspective into account are very important. Establishing a good working relationship with a landowner can often be more satisfying than opening a new trail. It is crucial to maintaining a balance between developing outdoor recreation facilities and still preserving a sense of untouched wilderness.
Connemara encapsulates that sense of wilderness, and for those of you looking for ways to connect with our beautiful countryside, here are a few trails to get you started. These trails were developed through the cooperation of local community groups and some state agencies and in conjunction with the local landowners.
Lettershanbally and Tullyconor
The Western Way—a long-distance walking trail that starts in Oughterard and finishes in north Mayo on the Sligo border—is the spin that links these two looped trails. These trails are nestled in the Coillte forest with views of the Maumturk Mountains and the Twelve Bens, an area of significant beauty. The new loops include a short circuit (Tullyconor) of 1.3 kilometres starting at Glencroft, approximately five kilometres from Leenane Village. A longer loop (Lettershanbally) of eight kilometres begins in the Inagh Valley with parking in the new parking area off the road near Kylemore.
This is a nine-kilometre loop of easy to moderate grade, running on coastal paths and quiet country roadways. It is located on Gorumna Island in Connemara Gaeltacht. Gorumna Island is situated in Ceantar na nOileán—the Islands Region of South Connemara—and it is connected to Leitir Móir and the mainland via Carraig a’Logáin Bridge. This is one of the many causeways connecting the islands to the mainland. This exceptional and very alluring trail offers stunning views of the Maamturk and Twelve Bens Mountains, the Aran Islands, varying seascapes, and the unique surrounding countryside, such as coral beaches and rocky fields. It is marked with blue arrows on a white background.
A stunning four-kilometre coastal trail in Carna, this trailhead is at the Moyrus beach and cemetery. It is a superb coastal walk which offers spectacular coastal views and enjoyable walking. The trail travels along a mix of quiet roads, beaches, and coastal shoreline. The terrain is moderately rough in places but easily walked. The path is marked with purple arrows.
The Lúibín Garumna and Lúibín Mhaorais locations are renowned for their wild and natural beauty and their rich bond with the Irish language and culture.
Inishnee Loop Walk
This loop is a six-kilometre, low-level trail. It follows quiet, minor tarred roads, a section of grassy lane/roadway, and an old granite stone laneway. The trail is well marked with black posts and purple arrows, and the map board can be found at the bridge. The path offers excellent views of Roundstone, the offshore islands, and the Twelve Bens, making it a very popular trail.
For further information, visit ForumConnemara.ie, and for printable maps and other trails, visit IrishTrails.ie.