The Connemara National Park is probably one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland. Any time of the year is ideal to take a break here and to take in the fascinating countryside. So plan your trip to the Connemara National Park now – we will provide you with 5 (hopefully) interesting facts:
1. Location: The Connemara National Park is situated in the West of Ireland in County Galway. It covers some 2,957 hectares of scenic mountains, expanses of bogs, heaths, grasslands and woodlands. Some of the Park’s mountains (Benbaun, Bencullagh, Benbrack and Muckanaght) are part of the famous Twelve Bens or Beanna Beola range.
2. What to see and do in the Park: There truly is a wide selection of activities offered at Connemara National Park. Make sure to go walking on one of the national park’s nature trails. There are 4 walking trails in total. All of which can be accessed from the visitor centre. For the little ones there is an amazing playground at the Connemara National Park which features a variety of wooden equipment including see-saws, slides, chin-up bars, tunnel & playhouses. There are also picnic tables with views of Diamond Hill and small woodlands are alongside the playground. Other facilities & things to explore include: Exhibition on the Connemara Landscape (multi-lingual), Audio Visual Show (multi-lingual), Information Desk, Connemara Ponies, Picnic Areas (indoor and outdoor) and a Tea Room. and the best of all: Admission into the park and all events are free!
3. Wildlife: Western blanket bog and heathland are the predominant vegetation types to be found in the Park. The boglands, situated in the lowlying areas, are normally very wet, while higher up the mountains, a drier community of mountain blanket bog develops. Heather covers the mountain sides. Probably the most common and most abundant plant in the Park is purple moor grass, responsible for the colour of much of the landscape throughout the year. Insectivorous plants form an integral part of the bog community. Sundews and butterworts trap and digest insects with their leaves to gain nutrients. Rare plant species from the colder areas of Europe and the Arctic may be found high up in the mountains, such as roseroot, saxifrages, lesser twayblade, and mountain sorrel. Conversely, plants from Spain and Portugal are also found in the Park.
The birdlife of the Park is varied. Meadow pipits, skylarks, stonechats, chaffinches, robins and wrens are just some of the common song-birds within the Park. Birds of prey are sometimes seen, usually kestrel and sparrowhawk, with merlin and peregrine falcon making occasional visits. Winter brings an increase in the numbers in the Park of some species native to Ireland such as woodcock, snipe, starling, song thrush and mistle thrush, augmented by visitors from other parts of Ireland and abroad as well as winter migrants from north eastern Europe such as redwing and fieldfare. Rabbits, foxes, stoats, shrews, and bats are often observed at night. In recent years both pine marten and non-native mink have been seen, the latter is a threat to native wildlife species.
The largest mammal in the Park is the Connemara Pony. Although a domestic animal this pony is very much part of the Connemara countryside. A herd of pure-bred Connemara Ponies was presented to the State by the late President Childers and the herd is currently managed under agreement with the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society.
4. History: Much of the present Park lands formed part of the Kylemore Abbey Estate and the Letterfrack Industrial School, the remainder having been owned by private individuals. The southern part of the Park was at one time owned by Richard (Humanity Dick) Martin who helped to form the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals during the early 19th century. The Park lands are now wholly owned by the State and managed solely for National Park purposes. The Visitor Centre buildings were formerly the farm buildings belonging to Letterfrack Industrial School, and the Park Office was the school infirmary. These buildings were erected around 1890. The Park’s field laboratory is housed behind the Park Office and is used by research students working on various aspects of wildlife in Connemara.
In the past, the Park lands were used for agriculture, mainly as grazing for cattle and sheep. Vegetables were grown on some of the more fertile lowlands. Today, these areas are easliy recognised by the old cultivation ridges and hollows. Several of the bogs in the Park were used extensively as fuel sources, and old turf banks, now disused, are commonly seen.
Many remains of human presence can be seen in the Park. The oldest are megalithic court tombs some 4,000 years old.There is also an early 19th century graveyard about which little is known. Also of that period is Tobar Mweelin, a well which was tapped to supply water to Kylemore Castle around 1870 and is still in use today. Stretches of the old Galway road, in use over a century ago, may still be seen in the northern sections of the Park, but other stretches are obscured by vegetation. Ruined houses, a disused lime kiln, old sheep pens, an ice house, drainage systems and old walls in various parts of the Park, are all evidence of a greater population and more extensive use of these lands in the past.
5. Geology: The rocks underlying the National Park are typical of the Twelve Bens area and are termed metamorphic rocks. These rocks derive from sediments deposited in a warm shelf sea between 700 and 550 million years ago. Upheavals in the earth’s crust formed the sediments into crystalline schists within the roots of an elongated mountain belt. Regional uplift and erosion have since brought the rocks to the surface. The mountain tops are mostly of more resistant quartzite, while the flanks consist of less resistant schists and grey marbles. The last Ice – Age, which ended about 10,000 years ago, imposed a final shaping to the landscape and left behind localised deposits of sand and gravel, widespread boulder clay and erratic boulders. These features largely determine the pattern of plant communities in the Park.
Interested in visiting Connemara National Park? The visitor centre is open daily from March to October, usually from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm. But don’t worry if you want to visit during the winter months: the park grounds are open all year round! And, as mentioned above, admission and parking are absolutely free! Visit the Connemara National Park Website for more informationo
Where to Stay: Check out great value Self Catering Properties in Connemara
And here are some beautiful images of the Connemara National Park