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Ireland: Connemara National Park

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Connemara National Park | Ireland | Europe

[Visited: June 2017]

When I leave Galway, the rain is coming down so heavily that driving the streets feels like going through a carwash. The road towards the northwest is busier than I expect, and I just drive and listen to music, to liven up the drive. When I see my the first lake, I stop to take pictures, with clouds still lying so low in the sky, that I cannot see how high the mountains are. I turn right after Recess, and come across lake after lake, one more beautiful than the other. It might be wishful thinking, it might be reality, but I really believe that the layer of clouds is getting thinner. Indeed, there are moments when sunlight sets part of the landscape in the spotlight, and I stop ever more often for pictures. To the west, I know to be the Twelve Bens, the mountains of Connemara, but they remain hidden from view.

Picture of Connemara National Park (Ireland): Trail on the west side of Diamond Hill with Ballinakill Harbour in the background

After parking at the visitor centre near Letterfrack, I pass by the visitor centre, where friendly staff explain the various routes to be hiked. They have no clue about the weather; the rain is closing in again, and the top of nearby Diamond Hill is completely hidden in thick clouds. I have a look at the well-done information centre, which explains the formation of the bogs here, and then have a look at satellite images which suggest the rain should stop. I decide to take my chances, close my raincoat, hide my camera from the moisture, and hike up. It is chilly, especially when I reach the higher, open landscapes where a wooden boardwalk facilitates walking on an otherwise swampy ground. I see a few yellow dots indicating people higher up the mountain, but it seems that most have given up hiking for the day. The last stretch up Diamond Hill gets a little wilder, with muddy parts and rocks. When I turn around, I see the brown and green slopes of the mountains towards Ballinakill Harbour towards the northwest - a great view. I am already rewarded for ignoring the rain and hiking up.

Picture of Connemara National Park (Ireland): Lake at the visitor centre with Diamond Hill in the background

The rewards get even better once I reach the top of Diamond Hill. It is dry, and the sun is making a serious effort to burn itself through the clouds now. I am only at 400m here, but especially the wind makes it feel cold, so I wear all I have on me, and take the time to absorb the views on all sides. I see the coastline to the north and northwest, I see Kylemore Lough which I have driven along only an hour or so ago, and the green slopes of the Bens which remain covered by clouds. When I finally make my way down the mountain, the sun is shining on my head, and clouds sail through the sky. More people come out now, and I am happy I have already been to the top when I arrive back at the visitor centre. Diamond Hill is now clearly visible above a small lake, and although the clouds seem to stick to its summit again, the views are still there to enjoy. I hope to be back one day with clear weather, and will then climb a couple of the Bens to even better enjoy the Connemara National Park, and see Diamond Hill from above.

Picture of Connemara National Park (Ireland): Bens hidden in the clouds seen from Diamond Hill
Picture of Connemara National Park (Ireland): Panoramic view from the top of Diamond Hill with Ballinakill Harbour in the background
Picture of Connemara National Park (Ireland): Trail at the base of Diamond Hill
Picture of Connemara National Park (Ireland): The slopes of Diamond Hill covered in clouds and rain
Picture of Connemara National Park (Ireland): Mountains with Kylemore Lough in the foreground
Picture of Connemara National Park (Ireland): View from the top of Diamond Hill with Kylemore Lough in the background
Picture of Connemara National Park (Ireland): Looking west with Ballinakill Harbour in the background
Picture of Connemara National Park (Ireland): Clouds hovering over Diamond Hill
Picture of Connemara National Park (Ireland): Looking west from Diamond Hill
Picture of Connemara National Park (Ireland): Lower parts of Connemara National Park
Picture of Connemara National Park (Ireland): Sun shining on Diamond Hill, seen from the visitor centre
Picture of Connemara National Park (Ireland): Boardwalk running through the landscape of Connemara National Park
Picture of Connemara National Park (Ireland): Clouds over Diamond Hill

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