When a Hill Feels Like a Mountain: Hiking in Connemara National Park

If you follow this blog with any regularity, you may have noticed how outdoorsy we seem while on vacation. This in no way reflects our day-to-day life living in Accra, Ghana, where it’s too hot to comfortably be out during the day and you’re too likely to get malaria if you go out at night.

So, when vacationing, we like to spend some time outdoors. But when I say “outdoors,” I don’t mean just any outdoor space. I mean carefully curated and groomed spaces. Like parks and nice beaches and eco lodges. Even city squares.

But, inevitably, at least once a trip, things get a little too outdoorsy for us.

On our first day out of Dublin we went to Connemara National Park. We had read about different hikes, both inside the park and around it, and had decided on the Diamond Hill Walk. Classified as “strenuous,” the entirety of it is paved, which seemed a lot easier than clomping around on an “easy” hike through bogland.

We started on the Lower Diamond Hill Walk, the first quarter of which was flat, paved, and had gorgeous views like the one below. How “strenuous” could this get, we asked ourselves.

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Next, we came across a noticeable incline, but the path was still smooth and the views still gorgeous. We lost our hiking buddies from time to time (Chandler’s mother, Lesia, and our friend, Erica), but they were never far behind.

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Halfway through the Lower Diamond Hill Hike, we found the base of the Upper Diamond Hill Hike. Lesia and Erica, prepared for a hike, but not necessarily a climb, decided to follow the horizontal path back to the visitor center.

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We, however, had made the decision to start our ascent.

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Four additional kilometers long and 400 meters high, perhaps now is a good time to mention we had 30 km/hour winds on an already chilly day. But, since we knew we wouldn’t be returning anytime soon, it seemed like the thing to do.

The trek up began easy enough, with these stones to follow:

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Soon, however, they began to increase in steepness. At one point I was hoisting myself up with my hands. We shared the “hill” with one other hiking couple, and we were glad we weren’t alone as the mist started to descend and we began to lose sight of the world around us.

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Freezing and exhausted, I made it to the top just shy of an hour later. With a not so chipper husband in tow. In my defense, my toes were still dry, a luxury I wouldn’t have had in a marsh.

The fog was so thick we could barely make out the Kylemore Abbey below, not to mention the Twelve Bens mountains all around us. But, despite the howling wind, the peak was still serene.

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Not wishing to be blown off and tumble our way back down, we didn’t spend much time in the mist. The park was closing in 30 minutes and given the three kilometers we had to go, we knew it would be a close call.

A few minutes after we started our descent, the air cleared up and we got beautiful views of the abbey. The only photos I have contain a very blurry and red-faced me in the foreground.

It was a lovely return hike, the ease of which was significantly aided by the wind at our backs.

We returned to our car rental to find the ladies still bundled and chatting up a storm, not noticing how much later we were from our planned return time.

Our last activity of the day: an 11 kilometer bike ride around the Sky Road. It was unanimously vetoed in favor of a nice, warm drive around it instead.

All the same views, a fraction of the effort : )

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