Walk for the Weekend: A gem of a hike with views over lakes and beaches

Diamond Hill rewards the visitor with a true Connemara wilderness of bog and mountain

This mountain may well rank second in Ireland only to Croagh Patrick in terms of footfall. Even on a cold, blustery spring day, I was far from alone on my 6km route over and around its summit. For mountaineering “hards”, that might be a negative, but I’m convinced that even they will be enthralled by a hike on this diamond in the rough hills of Connemara.

Despite the name, this is no hill, it’s a serious mountain, but one made “easy” and accessible to people with minimal hiking experience by a wonderful series of hiking options on well-marked, safe and dry paths and boardwalks.

On the summit option, the visitor can experience a real Connemara wilderness of bog and mountain and be high enough to take in the very best of the country’s mountains, beaches, lakes, coasts and islands. As such, Diamond Hill is a real gem of a hike, and a must do for any reasonably fit visitor to Connemara.

I had started the day in conversation with a fellow traveller over an excellent breakfast in the Buttermilk Lodge Guesthouse in Clifden; in perfect, almost poetic English, she spoke of her deep love of the west and its sights, sounds and silences, and the warm welcome to her everywhere she went. An hour later, stimulated by her words and images, and assisted by a strong west wind, I was at the summit in a fast 40 minutes from the car park of the Connemara National Park Centre.

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It’s well worth a good hangout here, under a sheltering rib of hard quartzite, to admire all that is beautiful in Connemara: the stony heart of the 12 Bens embracing the wilderness of the Polladirk River Glen; stately Kylemore Abbey with its contrasting gardens and picture-postcard lough below you; the long line of my favourite Irish mountain, Mweelrea, and the curve of white breakers on the beautiful beaches on its western fringe; and Clare Island, Inishturk and Inishbofin, the loveliest of our western islands.

The path descends eastward from the summit, and immediately I passed into an immense silence imposed on the noisy west wind by the hard solidity of an ancient mountain. The path curves around the southern flank of the mountain and wanders across bogland and eventually down through holly, ash and gorse-fringed tracks to my start and finish at the National Park Centre. The wind gradually fell away and the sky lightened, granting me a lovely, comfortable descent.

I would strongly recommend a post-hike visit to the centre, a perusal of the beautifully crafted exhibits of the geological and social history of the park, its archaeology, flora and fauna and a viewing of a lovely new audiovisual tour by drone of remote and rarely visited corners of the park. And then for me the second-best part of the day: lovely leek and potato soup in the tea rooms of the Visitor Centre.

DIAMOND HILL

Connemara, Co Galway

Start and finish Connemara National Park Visitor Centre Carpark, Letterfrack
Suitability Moderate fitness; care needed in windy or icy conditions
Effort 6km, about 400m of climbing; about 2hrs (summit option)