When it comes to walks in Galway, you’ve an endless number to choose from.
But, for some strange reason, in many guides to the best things to do in Galway, walks and hikes rarely feature, which is a shame (and a bit bizarre, really!).
In the guide below, you’ll discover our favourite long and short walks in Galway City and across the wider county.
From lengthy rambles, like the one up Diamond Hill, to more gentle forest walks, there’s hikes in Galway to suit every fitness level.
Our favourite walks in Galway
The first section of our Galway walks guide tackles our favourite walks and hikes in Galway. Below, you’ll find some lengthy hikes to some forest walks.
As always, for any longer walk or hike, make sure you plan your route in advance, check the weather and let someone know where you’re going.
1. Diamond Hill Loop Walk (2 – 3.5 hours)
The walk starts at the visitor centre and it is fully signposted, and the track surfaced, taking you along the Sruffaunboy Nature Trail before branching off towards Diamond Hill.
You will take in scattered loughs, mountains and an incredible coastline. Gravel footpaths and wooden boardwalks take you over the bog and towards the mountains.
From this point, there is a steady climb up the western slopes to the summit. The ridge at the top is about half a kilometre long, the summit marked by a cairn at 445-metres high.
The views at the top are breath-taking on a clear day—Tully Mountain behind Ballynakill Harbour, and the islands of Inishturk, Inishbofin and Inishshark out to sea, the Twelve Bens to the north and east, and Kylemore Abbey to the north east.
2. The Inishbofin Westquarter Loop (2 – 2.5 hours)
Next up is one of the many overlooked Galway Walks and it takes place on Inishbofin—island of the white cow—offers full-on escapes from the rat race with its lovely scenery and walks.
The Inishbofin Westquarter loop is your best bet for exploring the stunning wild Atlantic Coast scenery, where you’ll be able to see the island’s blow holes and sea arch and say hello to seals (there’s a well-established seal colony).
Other attractions along the route include the Dún More Cliffs and Iron Age fort ruins and Trá Gheal beach.
The walk is 8km; the estimated time it takes two to two and a half hours. The ascent is fairly minimal (80 metres) so good for beginners as well as more experienced walkers.
3. Barna Woods Walk (1.5 hours)
If you’re in search of forest walks in Galway, point your nose in the direction of Barna Woods and Lough Rusheen.
You’ll find Barna Woods some 7km west of Galway city centre and there’s a lovely forest walk here that you can head off on.
This flat just out of town route is the perfect family friendly walk, suitable for all levels of fitness. There are woods, a holy well and because of its proximity to the Birdwatch Ireland’s reserve, plenty of birdlife to watch out for.
4. The Omey Island Walk (1.5 – 2 hours)
The last of our favourite walks in Galway is another island stroll that takes place on Omey Island. Omey Island is tidal, 600 metres offshore, beneath the Aughrus peninsula.
It’s accessible on foot two hours before low tide up to two hours before high tide (check times beforehand). The walk starts at the car park at the Claddaghduff Church on the island, where you will find a visitors’ car park.
The walk is signposted, and you mainly stick to the beach as this is where you will see the best scenery, though further inland you find the sites of former churches and monasteries dating back to the Middle Ages.
From the tip of the island, you will see dolphins and seabirds (choughs), as well as the magnificence of the rolling Atlantic surf.
5. Killary Harbour Coastal Walk (4 – 5 hours)
Killary Fjord is often referred to as Ireland’s ‘only fjord’, although some would dispute there’s actually 3 (Lough Swilly and Carlingford Lough).
The coastal walk here takes in Mweelrea and Ben Gorm on the north side of Killary Harbour, while to the south you’ll see Devilsmother, Leenane Hill and Binn Mhór.
You can follow the old famine road (famine roads were the result of forced labour in the 19th century where peasants were made to work in exchange for food) on the south side and return via the minor inland road.
The distance is 16km, so the time will be about five hours depending on fitness levels. The gradients aren’t steep, making it a straightforward walk.
Tough Galway walks and hikes in Galway
The second section of our guide to the best walks in Galway tackles the county’s long-distance walks and hikes, many of which you’ll find in our guide to the best hikes in Ireland.
Now, again, please note that many of these hikes in Galway should only be attempted if you’re an experienced hill walker, as strong navigational skills are needed.
1. The Twelve Bens
You won’t be able to do them all on one day, but the famous Twelve Bens of Connemara are the hiker/hill walker’s dream.
They include Ben Lettery, Ben Gleniskey, Ben Gower, and you can expect wild mountain landscape, mind-blowing views and a spectacular blanket bog.
There are several different hikes that you can head off on here (see here for an overview), each of which will immerse you in the areas immense beauty.
Because of its length and ascent, the walks here are for those with decent fitness and proper equipment—sturdy boots with good grip and ankle support, water-proof layers and food to keep the energy levels up.
2. The Mweelin Mountain Hike
The Mweelin Mountain Hike takes in another three of the Twelve Bens—Benbaun (Mweelin), Benbrack and Knockbrack.
As well as the stunning scenery guaranteed to increase your awe of Mother Nature, the area’s archaeology fascinates too—a holy well, a megalith tomb and a children’s burial site to be taken in as you wonder about those long-ago ancestors.
Again, this is a walk for the more experienced. The total distance is about 8.5km, ascending some 700 metres. It will take four to six hours and require the same equipment as outlined above.
Dramatic rocks, the mountains in the foreground and background, coastline below you—the Mweelrea is a five to eight hour trail of about 10km and an ascent of 800 metres.
Another hike for those who’ve got plenty such hikes and climbs under their belt and know what to wear. You’ll be climbing rocky terrain, steep hillsides, traversing wet bogs and long grass.
Due to the views and the ascent, you’ll also need a strong head for heights (!). In terms of difficulty, this one rates close to the top, but completion comes with its own sense of remarkable achievement.
4. The Errisbeg Hill Walk
We’re going to round off section one with one of the most overlooked walks in Galway, in my opinion – the brilliant Errisbeg Hill Walk.
For those who like a challenge, the Errisbeg Hill Walk fits the bill. It is a four to five-hour hike off trail near Roundstone in Connemara. During the walk, you will take in rocky hill tops, wet bogs and amazing coastal scenery.
The distance is about 8km with a total ascent of about 320 metres, and so should be tackled by walkers who have good fitness levels, and the right equipment such as decent walking boots with grip and good ankle support.
Brilliant forest walks in Galway
Forest bathing is one of those terms that has gained traction over the last few years. It sounds fancy, but all it means is immersing yourself in wooded areas as a way of improving your health and wellbeing.
Thankfully, there are plenty of great forest walks in Galway to head off on, ranging from short and handy to long and a little more strenuous.
1. Portumna Forest Park
‘Portumna’ derives from the Irish ‘Port Omna’, and the words mean the landing place of the oak tree. Once owned by the Clanrickarde family, the 600-hectare forest park was acquired in 1948.
There is an old abbey in the park, dating back to the 15th century that is now under the care of the Heritage Council. There is also a nearby castle, built in the 17th century, and which has undergone extensive restoration work.
The park is easily accessible by water and road. The 10km Portumna Forest Park loop consists mostly of single-track narrow trails and covers much of the park.
You will be afforded brilliant views from the lake shore near to the Rinmaher Point. Should the fauna and flora grab your attention, there are plenty of signs providing information, and look out for red squirrels and fallow deer.
It’s a mostly flat walk of about 10km in length. Allow two hours, depending on your base level of fitness.
2. Lackavrea Forest Walk
Want to get right into the heart of a forest and its bog lands? The Lackavrea Forest Walk, 3km north-east of Maarn Cross is a 4km trail that is waymarked and takes visitors into the centre of the forest as they follow the Folore River.
Thanks to its remoteness, you will find plenty of peace and quiet in the surrounds (and great fishing if you’re that way inclined), but those in the know warn of the midges…
3. Monivea woods walk
For those who like a bit of history along with their escape into nature, the Monivea wood walk is a short 1.5km trail through an estate that once belonged to the Ffrenches.
If you know your history, you’ll recall that the Ffrenches were one of the Galway tribes who bought the land from the O’Kelly family in the early 17th century.
The 18th century Robert Ffrench turned the bogs into arable land and set up a linen industry on the estate, providing houses for the weavers. The walk takes in the family mausoleum built in 1900.
This is one of a number of short forest walks in Galway: there’s the mass track trail (1.3 km and the historical trail (1.5 km).
4. Coole Park forest walk
You’ll find Coole Park Nature Reserve in Gort and it has two waymarked trails—one an easy 1.75km and the other 4.5km.
The longer walk—the Seven Woods Trail—connects the different woods eulogised in WB Yeats’ poetry.
You’ll take in a viewpoint for Coole Lake, but also the built heritage of the estate—stable yards, the 18th century stone walls and a limekiln, which once served as an icehouse for the family.
The shorter walk takes in the autograph tree, initialled by Yeats. Both walks are suitable for all levels.
5. Knockma Forest Walk
Next up in our guide to the best Galway walks is the fabulous Knockma Forest Walk in Caherlistrane.
According to some Irish folklore tales, Maeve, the Queen of Connacht is supposed to be buried in the cairns at the hill summit, from where you will be able to see for miles around.
You can walk to the top of the hill. Be warned—it’s not for the faint-hearted and demands a good level of base fitness. It is about 4km from the nearby Castle Hackett.
FAQs about Galway walks
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from the best hikes in Galway to the best forest walks in Galway.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best walks in Galway to try today?
The Diamond Hill Walk, The Barna Woods Walk and The Omey Island Walk are three of my favourite Galway walks.
What are hikes in Galway are worth doing?
The Twelve Bens, The Mweelin Mountain Hike, Mweelrea and The Errisbeg Hill Walk are several mighty hikes in Galway.
What forest walks in Galway are worth rambling along?
Coole Park forest walk, Portumna Forest Park, Lackavrea Forest Walk and Monivea woods walk are some of the more popular forest walks in Galway.
Emma Baird is a lifestyle editor and novelist. She has worked in the communications industry for more than 25 years, and loves animals, the countryside and lingering in a great pub for the food and the craic.