A Guide to Connemara National Park (History, Things To Do + Map)

Photo left: AlbertMi. Photo right: greenphotoKK (Shutterstock)

The magical Connemara National Park is one of the most magnificent places to visit in Galway.

This stunning 3000-hectare park includes incredible mountain landscapes interspersed with bogs, grasslands and woodlands.

Connemara National Park was opened to the public in 1980. The stunning almost 3000-hectare park features an array of landscapes and natural beauty from mountains to bogs.  

In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from Connemara National Park walks and scenic drives to where to stay and much more.

Some quick need-to-knows about Connemara National Park in Galway

Connemara national park galway
Photo by Kevin George on Shutterstock

A visit to Connemara National Park in Galway is pretty straightforward, but there’s a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

You’ll find Connemara National Park in Galway, roughly a 1 hour and 25 minute drive from Galway City and a 15-minute drive from Clifden village.

2. Visitor centre

The Visitor Centre is a particularly helpful place to begin your trip to the national park, as it features exhibitions and a range of info on what you can do in the park.

3. Where to enter the park

The main entrance into the park is in Letterfrack, just off the N59. If you scroll down to our Connemara National Park map below you’ll see it clearly marked.

4. Endless things to see and do

There’s tonnes of things to do in Connemara, and many of the regions most popular attractions lie within the park. 

It’s a haven for nature and outdoor lovers, with walking trails, challenging hikes and plenty of wildlife to spot. More on this below.

5. Driving into the park

So, you can’t drive into the park itself (you can drive up to the visitor centre and park there) and you can’t drive through it, either.

However, it’s the drive to the park, particularly from Galway City when you head out past Maam Cross when the scenery will start to hit you.

A speedy history of Connemara National Park

Photo by Andrei Zveaghintev on Shutterstock

Most of the current area of the national park was part of the Kylemore Estate and the Letterfrack Industrial School, while the rest was privately owned.

Now the almost 3,000 hectares is owned by the State as one of the national parks managed by the Parks and Wildlife Service. 

How the park was used in the past

In the past, the land was used for agricultural purposes, especially cattle and sheep grazing. Vegetables were also grown in the lower, more fertile lands.

You can still see today some of the old cultivation ridges and hollows from before it was designated a national park. 

The discover of remains

There have also been remains of past human presence found in the park. The oldest examples are megalithic court tombs which are around 4000 years old.

There are also some later remains, such as an early 19th century graveyard, an old well from 1870 which is still in use today, and stretches of the old Galway road. 

Connemara National Park walks, hikes and what to see while you’re there

diamond hill guide
Photo by Gareth McCormack via Tourism Ireland

There’s a plethora of things to do in Connemara National Park, ranging from relaxed activities to more strenuous hikes.

Below, you’ll find our favourite things to do in Connemara National Park (you’ll also find a handful of places to visit nearby, too!).

1. Soak up the scenery

Photo by Foto Para Ti on Shutterstock

Connemara is known for its incredible scenery and there’s no shortage of ways to take in some monumental views.

At a slower pace, you can explore the walking trails on foot and admire the towering peaks part of the famous Twelve Bens.

If you’re driving, just enter the park and follow your nose. You’ll discover sights and scenery around every (literally) corner that’ll delight.

2. Keep an eye out for wildlife

Photo by T.C. Pototgraphy on Shutterstock

As well as the beautiful landscape, Connemara is also home to an array of wildlife, both rare and common.

As you drive through the park, expect to share the road with plenty of sheep, who’ll casually saunter along the road in front of you.

You can also see Connemara ponies, red deer and birds like skylarks and peregrine falcons, as you explore the trails and routes through the park.

3. Conquer Diamond Hill (one of the best walks in Connemara National Park)

view from the hill
Photo by Gareth McCormack

This is widely considered one of the best walks in Galway and it’s well worth the hard slog. The isolated peak of Diamond Hill is just beside Letterfrack village in the corner of the Twelve Bens mountains. 

The 7km loop trail is a bit of a climb up to the 442m high hilltop, but the incredible panoramic view is totally worth the effort.

You can see across the mountain peaks in the national park, as well as towards the coastline and distant islands offshore. 

4. Other things to do in Connemara region (outside of the park)

kylemore abbey connemara
Photo by The Irish Road Trip

Connemara National Park is just a stone’s throw from many of the best places to visit in Galway, from hikes and walks to historical sites, colourful towns and much more.

Here’s a quick list of some places nearby that are well worth a visit:

Connemara National Park map

The Connemara National Park map above is fairly straightforward, and contains the main places you’ll need to know about if you’re visiting:

  • Purple marker: Connemara National Park visitor centre
  • Red marker: Diamond Hill
  • Orange marker: Connemara National Park hostel/restaurant

Connemara National Park hikes and walks

walk in connemara galway
Photo by Hillwalk Tours

We’re always reluctant to create guides walks or hikes that one of the Irish Road Trip team hasn’t personally done.

This is doubly so when it comes to long-distance rambles, like many of the Connemara National Park hikes.

However, we’ve found an excellent resource created by Mike Laffey that covers many long and short Connemara National Park walks and hikes here.

FAQs about visiting the Park

Photo by AlbertMi on Shutterstock

We’ve had a lot of emails over the years asking questions about everything from things to see in the park to whether or not camping is allowed.

Below, you’ll find the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, let me know in the comments.

How to get from Galway to Connemara National Park

The drive from Galway to Connemara National Park is an incredibly scenic drive, for the most part. The quickest way to get there is via the N59, which is around 82km and takes 1.5 hours. Parking and entrance into the park are free of charge.

If you’re after some public transport options, there are bus services from Galway to Letterfrack.

Bus Eireann has route 419 and CityLink’s route 923 both operate from Galway to Letterfrack and Clifden. The journey time is closer to 2 hours by bus.

Is camping in Connemara National Park allowed?

There are no designated or serviced campsites or caravan sites in Connemara National Park. The car park also doesn’t facilitate overnight parking or camping. 

However, wild camping is permitted inside the park, although you must abide by the strict code of wild camping. This means that you are a certain distance away from buildings, you remove all your rubbish with you and campfires are only allowed with a permit. 

Can you drive through Connemara National Park?

No, you can’t drive through the park itself. You can explore it on foot, however, if you enter via the visitor centre entrance.

How big is Connemara National Park?

The Connemara National Park is almost 3000 hectares in size.

Elisha is a freelance writer, content creator and blogger and her work can be read in Lonely Planet, Remote Lands and Matador Network. You’ll usually find her travelling in offbeat places or hiking wherever there are mountains; always with a camera in hand.

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