Connemara National Park.
Connemara National Park was first opened to the public in 1980. It was a fairly small at first and was based on land that belonged to the Kylemore Estate and the Letterfrack Industrial School. At this time many National Parks were being developed in Ireland to preserve the plants, animals and landscape in its natural form for the enjoyment and education of the community.
In the intervening years Connemara National Park has expanded and now has over 2000 hectares in its care, as well as rearing unique heritage breeds such as Connemara Ponies.
The park is easily accessed from its own car park or by walking up from Letterfrack village past the church. There is always a free exhibition going on in the visitors centre where you can learn about how the land has changed since the ice age, and conservation going on in the area.
There is also a free 20 minute film about the conservation projects going on in and around the park.
There are free talks and kids activities organised over the summer, They also do Christmas fair, Halloween events & art exhibitions so keep an eye out for information on their website or their Facebook Page
Near the visitors centre there is a playground with a variety of classic playground features, seesaws, slides and playhouses for the kids to enjoy. There is a small wood they can play in and picnic tables too. There is also an indoor picnic area. Learning resources are available on the National Parks Website here
A new addition to the visitors centre is The Hungry Hiker Café which serves up delicious coffees, cakes, soup, sandwiches and other delicacies to recharge the batteries after your walk. Check out their facebook page here
The main feature of the park is the routed walks starting at the visitors centre which are graded so that you can match your walk to the ability of those taking part. There are four walking trails marked out. They are circular and bring you back to the visitors centre.
The easiest is the Ellis Wood nature trail which is about fifteen minutes and great for the kids to let off a bit of steam. The Srufonboy trail is a bit longer at about 1.5 km and take a scenic route over the base of the Diamond Mountain, it is quite an easy walk over gravel trails.
The easiest of the two Diamond Hill Routes is the Lower Diamond Route which will bring you up the side of the mountain and is moderately difficult, but a very pleasant walk.
The last and most strenuous of he walks is the Upper Diamond Walk which will bring you all the way to the top of the Diamond Hill. You will need good footwear and warm clothing to do this route. You should also bring your camera as the views from the upper slopes are spectacular, you can see out over the bay to the Atlantic Islands and there are stunning views of the Twelve Bens in the other direction. Well worth the effort, but choose a fin
The National Park has lots to do and see and all the family will enjoy it, the fitter going up to the top and the more relaxed in the family doing one of the lower walks and opting to meet in the Hungry Hiker Café afterwards!
The Connemara National Park is located in Letterfrack which is a lively village with several pubs and restaurants, a hardware store and a well stocked supermarket. Well worth the visit.