Are you looking for a walk in Roscommon ? We sampled three great walks here and below I share a description of what we found. They are all very different walks so read on and choose the right walk to suit you and your compadres.
Suck Valley Way
On our first day in Roscommon we decided to try part of the Suck Valley Way( official website here). The Suck Valley Way is a 105km. walking trail in the lowlands region surrounding the River Suck in Counties Galway and Roscommon. Completing the full route would probably take about 5-9 days. The suck valley way also links with the Beara to Breifne way; Ireland’s largest hiking trail that traverses the entire length of the country and a variety of landscapes including coastal areas, hills, riverbanks, bogs and farmland. More info on this here.
We completed the section running from Castlecoote to Athleague, about half of one of the five stages of the hike (Castlecoote to Ballygar). The walk talk about three hours starting in the village of Castlecoote and finishing near the Suck Valley information centre in Athleague. The walk traversed farmland along the edge of the river suck and featured the ruins of Strange Castle and the la Teine Stone.
The terrain was heavy going in places. Long grasses and marshy land meant that it was difficult to stay dry and proper hiking boots and waterproof pants are a necessity. Even still, we had wet feet within twenty minutes as we clambered over streams near the start of the hike at Castlecoote. Livestock are also present along the route and we came across a few signs to beware of the bull. Towards the end of the trail we had to divert a little from the route to go around a herd of cattle with a bull also. The diversion brought us through fairly marshy fields. It is normal to have livestock on hiking trails in Britain and Ireland. Access is usually granted by landowners. If you are hiking in proximity to cattle the following advice applies.
- It is best not to have dogs with you ( 94% of attacks involve hikers with dogs). Cattle get intimidated by dogs and often chase them. If you do have dog then let the dog off the leash if approached or threatened. On the suck valley way dogs are strictly forbidden.
- Be particularly vigilant around cows with calfs. Maternal aggression seems to account for most attacks.
- Don’t disturb a herd. See if you can find an alternative route around them.
- Don’t make sudden movements. Cows are very inquisitive creatures and may approach you more out of curiosity than aggression. If you react to their approach you may startle them. If approached, making yourself tall and calmly waving your arms is advised.
- Take a hiking stick with you.
For more on hiking in proximity to cattle see here
However, it is important to keep the relative risks in mind. There are billions of interactions between cows and hikers every year and only a handful of instances. A few sensible precautions and a little knowledge should enable us all to continue to enjoy the countryside.
Despite the wet feet, the long grass and the livestock, we had a very pleasant walk. It was lovely to be in the lowlands for an extended period. It’s a different world. The river lends a calm beauty to the landscape that I am not familiar with.
We came across the ruins of a 16th century castle built by the Norman L’estrange family in the 16th century. There was n orchard nearby that was full of delicious apples. I don’t know if the orchard is being tended or not. A nice place to sit down and have some lunch. It is bordered by Castlestrange estate which was built in the 1830’s. Although still inhabited, It too has seen better days and much of the estate is in ruins.
Nearby we also came across the La Tene Stone, an important piece of architectural heritage dating from the iron age (100-400BCE). We know little about what the inscriptions mean but they offer a chance for the imagination to take flight. There is a nice piece on the la Tene Stone here
We arrived into Athleague after about three hours walking from Castlecoote. It was a good walk, the terrain a little tougher than we expected. This is a real country amble with marshy ground, longish grass (up to your knees) and livestock on the trail. There are also plenty of turnstiles to traverse. Nevertheless, I did enjoy it and would like to explore more of the Suck Valley Way in the future. It is worth noting also that parts of the route are prone to flooding at certain times during the year.
On the next day, we went for a hike on Sliabh Bawn. Here is the official website. This is a wind-farm that is managed by Coillte( Irish forestry company). It consists mostly of Spruce plantations, which are pretty unexciting but the views up here were fantastic and the mountain air was invigorating. I also loved the great outdoor gym equipment. There are a variety of trails ranging from an hour to two hours duration. All the trails are pretty steep and we choose the monastery trail (blue) which takes about an hour. The weather was pretty wild on the day we were there and we did get a heavy downpour just as we reached the end of the trail.
The steep terrain and the variety of trails means you could do a really fantastic work out up here and kids would get a kick out of the outdoor gym equipment. Considering how much I dislike Spruce plantations, I really enjoyed it here. The walk was about an hour; not very long but quite steep.
Loch Key Forest park.
For a beautiful variety of native broadleaf trees Loch Key forest park excels and exceeds expectations. It consists of 350 hectares (860 acres) of mostly forested grounds on an old country estate that was taken into the states management in the 1950’s. There is a huge variety of activities here including zip-lining, boating, kids adventure games ( boda borg) as well as Moylurg tower. You can also camp here. For now, I am just going to focus on the walks but for more info on the other activities and camping facilities visit here
There are a variety of walks to do in Loch Key and many of them loop up with longer trails also. We did about an hour and a half walk on the red trail (island walk). It was a gorgeous walk with good paths the whole way around and while signage wasn’t perfect, it was relatively easy to navigate. Of the three walks, this was easily the most picturesque. For more information on the specific walks in Loch Key see here
So those were the three walks we did in Roscommon. I was very impressed with the variety of walks available here. The river Shannon is also in the hinterland and there are plenty of options for boating and swimming in the river. Roscommon town is a nice town with a nice park the remains of an historic castle in its grounds also dating from the 13th century. I may well come back to Roscommon Castle and the lovely park in another post in the future. But for now, I’d heartily recommend taking some time to explore Roscommon. It must surely be one of our most underrated regions !