August 22, 2013. Galway, Ireland — Over the next two days in Connemara we took two of our best hikes of the entire trip.
The first was up Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park, a steep 4+ mile loop, mostly on a packed gravel trail to the top of the hill and down. From the visitor center, where the trail begins, its about 1200’ to the top. It’s a popular hike so it’s not exactly a wilderness experience, but the steep climb through bog land and up the rocky slope isn’t easy. Add in the mercurial changes in weather – sun one minute, rain the next – and you have a pretty challenging hike.
Most important, the views along the way and especially from the top are stunning. Diamond Hill overlooks the crenulated coastline of northwestern Connemara with its numerous bays, fishing villages, and islands off shore. In the other direction are the rounded peaks of the famed mountain range, the Twelve Bens, plus forests, and rolling bogs, heaths and meadows broken up by shimmering lakes and the occasional glimpses of villages and grand estates.
After the hike we decided to drive to Roundstone on the southern coast of the peninsula for dinner. Connemara is not huge so it’s possible to go from the north side to the south in about 30-45 minutes. We took the legendary Bog Road, a rolling narrow road through what must be the emptiest countryside in Ireland. It’s also some of the most beautiful – rolling bog land, lakes, and mountains in the distance with hardly a sign of human habitation in sight. Many locals think it’s haunted and won’t drive the road at night. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I wouldn’t drive it at night either. But late in the day with the sun casting long shadows and bringing out the greens, reds and blues of the landscape, it was my favorite drive of the trip.
Roundstone is a quaint fishing village that is also a popular summer destination for Irish tourists. Many of them line the street through town leaning on the wall overlooking the harbor holding pints of beer from the pubs across the street. I joined them with a pint of Galway Hooker, my favorite Irish craft beer (a pale ale) of the trip so far. We then crossed the street to O’Dowds for fresh mussels and oysters – at the risk of repeating myself, they were excellent.
We didn’t hang out for too long. I wanted to get back on the Bog Road to the Dolphin Beach House before it got dark. I may not believe in ghosts, but I wasn’t taking any chances.