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If you are escaping to Connemara National Park there is one hike you have to do! Diamond Hill stands at a height of 442 meters above sea level and offers some of the best views of Connemara National Park, the Galway coast, and the Twelve Bens. This moderate hike takes between 2 and 3 hours to complete. There are a few lower loops on the mountain that are suitable for kids or young families and some great attractions nearby too.
Starting Point: Letterfrack
Distance: 6.5 km
Connemara National Park is a striking landscape, filled with rocky peaks that tower over multiple peninsulas and freshwater lakes. The area is said to be an Inspiration JRR Tolkein in writing his Lord of the Rings series when he lived there while lecturing in NUIG in the early 1950’s. Standing in Letterfrack at the feet of the Twelve Bens, you definitely feel transported to another world.
Situated on the rugged west coast of Ireland, the weather here can be incredibly changeable. Wind and rain do dominate the Bens, but on a clear day, the draw of the mountains can be undeniable.
While there are many routes to hike in the area, varying in difficulty, there is one trail to rule them all… The Diamond Hill Loop.
While it does not reach the elevation of the neighbouring Bens, this is no walk on a sandy Clifden beach. The 400m of elevation gain will get the heart pumping and offer you some spectacular views over the nearby beaches and surrounding peaks.
Starting at the Connemara National Park visitors centre in Letterfrack, you will follow this well-marked figure of 8 loop route to the top of Diamond Hill. Heading North (left) from the car park, the route eventually loops to join a single path up the shoulder of the mountain.
As you climb the shoulder of the mountain, the climb will become slightly steeper before you turn North (left) to climb the west face of the mountain. There is a one-way system in place as this is the safest route up the mountain.
Once you reach the summit of Diamond Hill, you will be surrounded by views. That is if you are there on a clear day of course. To the Northeast, you will have views of the Mamturks. Look to the East and there will be the Twelve Bens in all their splendour and the rest is the beautiful coastline of Connemara including the vibrant fishing town of Clifden.
On route down, continue across the summit and follow the trail down the back of the mountain looping south back down to the straight path you came up. When you reach the second junction, turn South (left) and walk along the boardwalk back to the starting point.
This route is mostly on a gravel path as you walk up the mountain. As you climb, the trail becomes rockier but is well-maintained and not too technical. Coming back down, take care on the steep rocky ground. At the second junction on the route down, you will walk along a bog road before returning to the car park.
Walking Boots: The trails on Diamond Hill are very well maintained however a good pair of boots are always essential for the rocky terrain near the top.
A Rain Jacket: We would always recommend having a rain jacket regardless of what the weather forecast says
Adequate Layers: Bear in mind that it is likely to be 5 to 10° colder at the summit. Diamond Hill is very exposed so make sure you have appropriate warm layers.
A Map or Mapping App: Make sure you have a navigation solution. We have Hiiker downloaded on our phone, it always serves as an excellent backup if we don’t have a paper map.
Battery Pack: If you are using your phone for navigation it is absolutely essential to have a battery pack as these apps are quite intensive on your battery. Regardless it is always a good idea to have a battery pack when you go hiking.
Food: Always plan to have enough food for a longer hike than you are anticipating.
Water: We generally recommend having at least 500 ml of water per hour when hiking, year-round.
Where to Eat:
Kabo Café in Letterfrack – Lovely coffee and brunch options right at the foot of the mountain.
Sweeney’s of Cladaghduff – An authentic seaside pub with locally caught seafood.
O’Dowds Seafood Roundstone – Family-owned Bar and Restaurant specialising in fresh local seafood. Located overlooking the harbour in the centre of Roundstone village. They have some great vegan options.
Delphi Silver Food Truck – Food with a view! Located in Doolough Valley underneath the mighty Mweelrea. Great coffee, soups and sandwiches!
Twelve Pins – Located in the Old Post Office building in Clifden there is a quaint café. Highly recommend stocking up on tea and coffee while you are here!
What to do:
Sweathouse Sauna Letterfrack – Kickstart your recovery after your hike or just relax in this mobile sauna!
Kylemore Abbey – Can you spot it from the summit of Diamond Hill? This building was a Benedictine Monastery and now is a popular tourist attraction.
Renvyle Beach – A stunning sandy beach for a walk or swim after your climb!
Where to stay:
Clifden Eco Beach Camping – Winners of the Outdoor Escape Of The Year at the Outsider Awards 2022, this family-friendly campsite is a must-stay as far as we are concerned.
There are also some other amazing hiking routes near by such as the Glencoughan Horseshoe loop, the Twelve Bens route and the Multi-day hike – The Western Way.
By Matthew McConnell
Diamond Hill is a beautiful hike. You could do it every day for a month and it would be a different experience depending on the time of day, weather etc. Winter is a great time to do it but a summer evening with the sun going down in the bay is an awesome experience
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