What you can do East Galway, Ireland
With over 2,000 acres of forest and quiet country roads surrounding the Centre, one can hike or walk all day or go for a short stroll. We have detailed maps available to get you back safely. Have a young child with you? Rent a quiet pony or donkey to carry them so you don’t have to. We are also happy to send you with a picnic lunch and point out the great picnic spots in the forest.
In the heart of Loughrea, the closest town to the Centre, “The Walks” run parallel to Main Street and lead to Carmelite Abbey.
Lough Rea, an impressive lake on the edge of the town of Loughrea, offers an outstanding walking tour around the lake. Known as “The Walkway”, the trail traverses approximately 15 acres of wild wetland and meadow and is home to numerous birds and colourful wildflowers. For the kids, stop at the playground, recreation and picnic area at the adjoining Fair Green. In the summer, the blue flag beach is full of families enjoying the cool water and sun.
Portumna Forest Park is another lovely place to walk, and the pathways are buggy friendly if you’ve got a little one. Accessible from Portumna Castle, native tree species are labeled along the first part of the walk, and further along you can access the shores of Lough Derg for some nice views. Just beside Portumna Forest Park is Portumna Harbour, where you can have a picnic, check out the boats and meet the swans.
If you would like to explore other parts of Ireland on foot, there are several excellent walking tours in the region. Recently, the Galway County Council developed a series of Architectural Walking Tours for Loughrea, Athenry, Tuam, Portumna, Ballinasloe and Gort. These tours are self-guided, accompanied by a brochure, map and audio narrative which can be accessed by CD (available from Slieve Aughty Centre).
If you want to cover some ground, rent a bicycle, put a picnic and map in your rucksack and explore! The roads and trails around the Centre are perfect for cycling and we can direct you to easy surfaced roads or challenging mud and stone forest paths.
Cycling is also an ideal way to see the natural environment and small towns scattered throughout the west of Ireland. With a vast network of quiet, rural roads and easy access to bicycle hire, create your own adventure and spend the day exploring. If you don’t have your own bike, we can arrange bicycle rental for you. Cycling can even be the focus of your holiday.
Some of the land at Slieve Aughty Centre has been designated a Special Protection Area for Hen Harriers, a rare bird that nests on the ground in wet, boggy land. The boggy land in and around the Slieve Aughty Mountains, including some owned by Slieve Aughty Centre, is one of the core breeding areas in Ireland. These birds can be very elusive but outings can be arranged with local biologist Geoff Oliver who is studying them. On these outings, usually in the evening for 1-2 hours, there is also the possibility of seeing the equally elusive Red Grouse, Squirrels and Pine Marten.
There are 2 golf courses close to the Slieve Aughty Centre and many more within reach. About 3 kilometres from the Centre is theCurra West Golf Club, a short 18 hole course. Both Loughrea and Portumna, about 15 minutes away, have an 18 hole parkland course. Loughrea Golf Club is known for its rolling greens and strategic tree placement, while Portumna Golf Club is adjacent to a national park and is frequented by local wildlife.
Why not take your rod, grab a tasty picnic from our kitchen and go off on a fishing trip? Stocked by the Loughrea Angler’s Association, Lough Rea is a fishing paradise for trout, perch and pike. Boats are available for hire and fishing permits can be purchased for a modest fee. Nearby rivers such as Bullaun, Kilcolgan and Duniry offer free fishing. If you would like to cast your net further, the town of Portumna, located on the Shannon River, is famous for excellent fishing. Mike Murray rents boats and offers a fishing guide services to make sure your fishing day is full of action. For more information see Shannon Fishery Board. Bring your fish home and we’ll make a savory meal of your catch!
The area just around Slieve Aughty Centre is full of hidden gems to discover. Marble Hill is a local ruin of a mansion house with a long history. We’ve written its story up for you to download now.
The Hill Bar is our local pub. On Saturday nights there is live music, so meet the locals and try a pint of Guiness on tap!
Ruins in Abbey Village represent the site of Ireland’s only Carthusian foundation. The Carthusians were an enclosed order, living solitary, austere, contemplative lives and they derived sustenance from the lands. This was Ireland’s only Carthusian priory and was occupied until 1321 when it was taken over by the Knight Hospitallers, a semi-military monastic order begun during the crusades for the protection and religious care of pilgrims to the Holy Land. The Franciscans took their place and remained until the end of the eighteenth century.
In Loughrea, about 10 km away, visit Carmelite Abbey, a large monastery surrounded by the only surviving functional moat in Ireland. St, Brendan’s Cathedral, built about 100 years ago, is a gothic revival church full of 20th century Irish art, including magnificent stained glass works by Harry Clarke. Audio tours of the cathedral are available. Other features include Thoor Ballylee and Michael Burke’s castle.
Equipped with changing and shower rooms, picnic areas, and plentiful parking. Lough Rea Lake’s Blue Flag beach is a popular summer destination for swimming, fishing and walking. A lifeguard is on duty during the summer months and trout are stocked.
Turoe Pet Farm is a fun day out for the kids and is just a few miles outside Loughrea in the village of Bullaun. It is also home to The Turoe Stone, one of the most significant monuments in Ireland, dating back to around 100 BC.
Also, just outside Loughrea, horse lovers can visit Dartfield Horse Museum.
Portumna, just 20 km from the centre, is a lovely town set along the banks of Lough Derg and the Shannon River. Portumna Castle and gardens are definitely worth a look, and the castle is right beside Portumna Forest Park, which is an excellent place to walk or cycle and has access to Lough Derg’s shores. A new attraction in Portumna is the Portumna Workhouse, originally opened right after the famine in 1853 and recently restored. For more information about Portumna, check out the County Galway Guide to Portumna
Woodville Walled Garden in Kilchreest is home to a restored walled kitchen garden along with a museum outlining the fascinating connection to Lady Augusta Gregory. This extensive garden also hosts a covey of doves.
Coole Park outside Gort is an excellent family destination offering 2 nature trails, excellent visitors centre and cafe and 1,000 acres to explore. Coole Park has a rich literary history. Known as the “Seven Woods”, Lady Gregory lived on the property and William B Yeats immortalised it in poetry.
In nearby Athenry, the Athenry Heritage Centre is a fun place for the kids. Enjoy the experience of dressing up in medieval costume and try your hand at have-a-go archery. Athenry Castle, recently restored, is well worth a visit, and the town itself is an interesting maze to wander through. At the Raheen Woods Hotel, you can get a nice lunch and they have a lovely indoor play area for the kids. Suitable for children of all ages. Opening hours 3pm-7pm wednesday, 10am-7pm Thursday to Sunday.
Galway is a busy seaside city known for its shopping, night life and beaches. Spend the day exploring the coast and the bustling Eyre Square and enjoy dining, live music or theatre at night.
If you’ve got kids, check out Family Fun for things to do with children around Ireland.