Weekend Adventure: Diamond Hill, Connemara National Park

Intro

Alright guys, its time for our long overdue first Weekend Adventure of the year!

I got the most wonderful gift from my wife on my birthday. She and her family bought me a trip to Ireland, which is the country of my heart and homeland of my soul. I studied in Ireland on my year abroad in Uni. and we have visited the wee green island many a time, but it had been too long since the last time.

When the cat was out of the bag and we started planning our trip, two things were clear to us from the beginning. Firstly, this time we would head over to the west coast (where I had never been previously!) and secondly, we would have to get outdoors and hike as much as we can. Some cross-checking between the Airbnb places and hiking opportunities, we found a nice place called the Kylemore Lodge near the Connemara National Park. Myself, the wife and brother-in-law packed our bags, and so the setting for  our adventure was staged! Oh and this one is going to have a lot of pictures, so stay with me!

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View of the Lough Kylemore (far right) and the Kylemore Abbey (the white buildings in the middle)

Early bird catches the worm

The Kylemore Lodge is an old Irish farmhouse turned partly into a beautiful bed and breakfast place. It sits on the shores of the Lough’s Pollacapall and Kylemore, which are edged between two tall hills. I could have stayed there for days just sitting by the window and watching the sheep grazing the hillsides with a warm cuppa of Barry’s in my hand. On our last morning the opposite hillside from the house were covered in snow!

N&B Connemara hill Snow Ireland
Not the hill in question, but to show any one with doubts, there really was snow up there!

But on the morning we were determined to go to the National Park it was going to rain. We woke up early and had a healthy, almost full, Irish breakfast that our hostess had prepared us. A little on the heavy side considering the hike ahead, but you cannot really say no to rashers now, can you? The old lovely lady warned us of the rain and was positively concerned for our well being. Bless her soul.

From the lodge there was only a short drive to the Connemara National Park’s parking lot. The parking lot was near empty and there was no real threat of rain in the air, to our surprise. We stepped out, put packs on backs and we were ready to go. Around 9 am we were almost the only ones hitting the trail. We felt we had the whole National Park just to ourselves.

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The Ascent

The trail starts from the visitor center, but it was closed because of the off season time of our trip. We still stopped for a bit, caught our bearings and tried to guess which of the trail heads was the one we were meant to follow. At first we passed some bog trees and flora, but soon the path started to ascend.

The gradient started to build slowly at first, and soon we were over the tree “tree line”. The path rises in sort of intervals, which at first weren’t too steep. But soon we were opening the zippers of our jackets despite the wind. Even at the start the view was great. The sun washed over the hillsides and the bay behind us was partly glimmering and partly veiled in soft clouds.

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The trail was gravel based and quite easy to walk. Soon at a cross roads we realised we had taken the wrong start for the trail, but we did not let that bother us. After a brief glance at the map we picked the correct path and started up again. On a plateau of boggish ground there was a boardwalk that led to a huge stone, that was the mark of the start of the proper climb.

Now the wind started to really pick up, so we zipped our tops, had a gulp of water and marvelled at the low sun, that together with the clouds made the valley in front of us bloom and look ethereal. My wife took one of my favourite pictures of the whole trip on that very moment.

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Here path turned into gravel again, up until the proper base of the Diamond Hill. From there the path was made of stone. The path was still quite easy to follow on the climb, worn visible by the countless feet that have trot on it. There were signs warning not to g further if it was raining, but the winds had dried most of the slabs, so our climbing was easy and safe.

But the evidence of hail and rain of past days was all around us. As our hostess had told us, the forecast had prophesied rain and some of the clouds around the bay area were dark indeed. We were a little bit anxious because of that, but Ireland only offered its best for us.

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A thought occurred to me, that maybe our hostess had prayed for our safe travel and good weather. Maybe all good things life are blessed upon us because of the prayers of old pious women. Funny the things you think while deep in your mind on a hike.

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The path snaked up the hillside and a few plateau and viewpoints gave welcome pauses to our ascent. At one point there was a sheep poking its head up over a ledge on a viewpoint. Those little buggers are everywhere there.

Nearer to the top the wind started to pick up really and it was starting to get cold because of that. But while the missus and brother-in-law were putting on extra layers I fished out my TAD Junkies flag that I had brought for one purpose and one purpose only. To get a cool-ass picture with it on a windy hill. And I think we nailed that one pretty good.

N&B TAD Junkies Flag Diamond Hill

The higher we got the scenery of the near by Barnaderg bay, the Kylemore lakes and nearest hill tops were even more breathtaking. The summit started to loom ahead now. I have never before experienced the false tops before, because we don’t have proper hills in Finland. But now there were three, next one higher than the one before.

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When the proper summit revealed itself I raced to the real top for a photo op. And after others caught up, we took out our thermos and had a few celebratory cups of tea with some Hobnobs biscuits. Those things are crazy good! A few photos and a short breather later we were ready for the descent.

The Descent and reflection

The descent first bit was quite steep with some easily rolling stones underfoot.  The path serpentined  down and on this side the slabs were more treacherous because the wind had not tried them as well. But carefully we went and soon the path turned back into the the solid and level gravel passage.

After the ascent, the rest of the only trail was quite easy and uneventful. The weather started to get worse, but we still saw a considerable increase in people on the trail. At first we saw just a few old Irish-men who had barely sports clothes on. They climbed the hill in their jogging clothes and a stick in hand for support. They must have laughed to us in their minds with our backpacks and shell-jackets!

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A good few tourists were coming up too and a few groups on a nice easy Saturday walk. That is the kind of life I respect. On the weekend you put aside some time for family and you take them outside to enjoy nature and some healthy exercise! Well… of course you go afterwards to the pub for some grub and Guinness (like we did and I am quite sure so did every one else there too), but that is besides the point!

We talked about it afterwards that this is the kind of vacations we want to do from now on. Sure visiting some interesting cities is fun and joyful, I mean we visited Dublin, an old favourite of ours, and Galway too, which won my heart easily over. But the main event on any of our coming trips should be a hike in a local National Park, or similar. You do not get to really know the country without seeing its true face, the face of its nature.

-Noble

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Gear

I had my Triple Aught Design FAST Pack EDC with me, alongside with some essential gear. But I am not going to go through it here, because there is a Field Report of my trip too in the Pack Config website! You can find it here! There I give you the full list of my kit and along with a summary of the above and some further notes on the EDC. So go give our friends over at Pack Config a visit and read their other amazing articles as well!

N&B Triple Aught Design EDC Stealth Jacket Connemara

But as seen in the pictures, on me I had the following apparel:

Some of these are already reviewed in our blog, and others will be! Just hit the links above for further reading.

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