Last Sunday was reek Sunday at Croagh Patrick. Instead of joining the hundreds of people on this epic climb, myself and two of my very best friends, Steph and James, decided to scale the amazing Diamond Hill in Connemara. From Galway city we took the N59 all the way out to Clifden and then followed this road out towards Letterfrack. Just before you reach the town you will see a sign for Connemara National park to the right. This is where the visitor centre for the park is situated and is the starting point for the Diamond hill walks.
So first of all, this is definitely a mountain- not a hill. Its 445 metres in height. Its not as high as its sisters in the Twelve Bens range or the Maumturks but its still a good push to the top. We set off from the front of the visitor center and checked out the different walks that were on offer. The Scruffaunboy walk is an easy 1.5km looped walk at the base of the mountain. The lower Diamond hill walk is a 3kms looped walk and the Upper Diamond hill walk is nearly 7kms in total. The path itself is very clear and for the first 20 minutes we had a gradual climb up to the halfway rock. Gravel track, flat rocks and boardwalk make this a quite comfortable walk.
From the half way stone the walk becomes a little steeper until you come to the very edge of the mountain. Then it got a bit tough- well tough for me, I definitely wasn’t the fittest person on the mountain that day. The path is still well marked here with stone slabs. I took plenty of opportunities to stop and take in the view in front of me. To the west you have a magnificent view over the Atlantic and all the way over to Inisboffin. Ballynakill harbour is right in front of you here and Tully Mountain is the peak to your right.
Around half way up this steep trail there is a fabulous look out point where myself and James and Steph tried to make out all of the landmarks in front of us. I was completely convinced that we could see all the way over to Croagh Patrick in the North so please someone correct me if I’m wrong. At this stage Steph and James took off in front of me like two mountain goats up to the top. At the same time our beautiful Irish weather took a turn for the worst and a low misty cloud enveloped the mountain. All of the beautiful scenery just disappeared but it was only another 10 minute climb up to the top. There are signs everywhere telling you to not walk up here when there is mist down. We could still see a couple of hundred metres in front of us so it wasn’t too bad.
If you are climbing up to the top like we did in low visibility, you know you are at the top when you come across the good old statue of the Virgin Mary. Its not very big but hard to miss in fairness. We followed the path at the top of the mountain over towards the Cairn and a bunch of stacked stones. This is the official top of Diamond hill and we all gave each other a pat on the back for making it. Just as we did, the cloud lifted! And oh the scenery!! Amazing! You can do a full 360 up here all over Connemara national park. From the Northern side of the mountain you can see all the way down into the gardens of Kylemore Abbey and Kylemore Abbey itself. The Maumturk mountains loom in the distance. To the east is the 12 Bens mountain range in all their glory. Then back to the south and west the park stretches out in front of you all the way over to the Atlantic. We spent a bit of time at the top taking photos and scoffing our ham and cheese sandwiches. We continued our way along the trail at the top of the mountain that would bring us back down the eastern slope of the upper mountain trail. This part is steep for around ten minutes but flattens out to a lovely leisurely trail through bog land, over some more boardwalks until you eventually meet back up with the half way stone.
When we were making our way back down this trail we met a lot of people on the way up. Personally I think taking the trail to the left up to the summit is a much better option. You get the hard climb done and dusted early to let yourself take in the views on the way back. We met one guy on the way back who was sitting on a rock nursing a blistered ankle. A very helpful German walker was telling him the best way to break in new boots was to get into a bath with his boots on (holy jesus!) and then let them dry on his feet. I don’t think I will be trying that any time soon.
The bog road led us back down to the visitor center. After taking a stroll around the visitors center exhibition on the Connemara landscape we headed down to the tea rooms for some well deserved tea and cake. There is a playground here also and all the information you will need on the local area. The only thing missing from here is a little gift shop but you can buy T-Shirts at the information desk.
I have attached a few links below to help you plan your trip- its definitely one for the bucket list! As always- Happy Galavanting xxx