Walking in Roundstone & surrounding areas:
(These walking trails were compiled by Michael Halliday)
All walks which involve crossing bogland and include excursions up or across the slopes of Errisbeg, Roundstone Hill or Letterdyfe come with a warning of underfoot conditions being difficult during wet periods. Climbing Errisbeg is very rewarding but it is probably best undertaken accompanied by someone who has experience of the mountain and not on your own. Despite being only about 300 metres high it can be challenging in places. Roundstone Hill and Letterdyfe are easier climbs and a walk from the village to the summit of either and the return can be done in about 2 to 2 ½ hours.
Stout walking or hiking boots are necessary for most of those walks. Bring water and pay adequate attention to the weather and clothing. It may be obvious but bring your phone. The degree of difficulty is rated (1 to 5) and is attached at the end of each walk. None are too difficult but I have described Errisbeg and Cashel Hill as the most challenging thus being awarded a 5.
ERRISBEG.. Walk up Fuschia Lane (beside O’Dowd’s opposite the harbour) and continue straight for about 15 minutes. Enter the hillside through the gate at the end of the road. Turn left and then pick your way uphill. You will find what look like paths but are sheep tracks which will assist. Try to avoid the small mountain or bog streams. Head for the highest cairn you can make out. Like so many mountains you will discover that you are not at the top! You will have to descend a bit occasionally, avoiding wet areas, until you can climb to the top cairn for the full view of the coast overlooking Gurteen, Dog’s Bay and the 140 odd lakes of the Roundstone Bog to the west and north. Round trip maybe 3 ½ to 4 hours. (5)
View of Gurteen and Dog’s Bay from Errisbeg
ROUNDSTONE Hill. As with the walk to Errisbeg go up Fuschia Lane and on to the area known as Bolard and go straight on after going through the gate at the end of the road and skirt the hill to the left of the summit. It is an easier and more gradual climb if you approach the top from the back, or western side. 2 to 2 ½ hours. (4)
View from Roundstone Hill
LETTERDYFE – Slightly lower than Roundstone Hill and much lower than Errisbeg. Go up Fuschia Lane from the harbour and after about 100 metres turn right up what is known in Roundstone as Farrell’s Road. (Might be Monastery Road on maps) This was the only road to the area before the coast road was built in the 1820s. After about 15 minutes you go through a gate. Head left, maybe not immediately, in order to avoid boggy ground. As was suggested in the climb up Roundstone Hill, skirt the hill to the left, taking a reasonably wide loop, and approach from the back or western side. En route you should pass the stone remains of an old “Booley” which was a summer milking “home” for wives of shepherds when cattle were brought up the hill for summer pasture rather like the French system of “transhumance” in the Alps. Husbands collected the milk in the evenings, they all had a party and they carried it back down usually with the assistance of donkeys.2 to 2 ½ hours. (4)
THE OLD BRIDLE PATH – This is the path that skirted the lower slopes of Errisbeg before there was a coast road. It started at Ballynahinch and came out on the present road 5k from Roundstone at that left hand bend in the road above Dog’s Bay where it says “NO DOGS” painted on a rock to the right. The only part of it that hasn’t disappeared is the last part accessed through the gate at “NO DOGS”. Park your car and go through the gate. Don’t bring your dog. Turn right and stick to the wall on your right hand side. A gradual climb for about ½ hour will reward you with a great view of the coast. The old path/track can be made out in places and there were stepping stones put in over boggy areas or streams. It sticks close to the wall except in a few spots. Not as dramatic as the view from the top of Errisbeg but pretty good. When that path gets to its highest point turn around and go back down. About 1 hour. It is possible to continue for about 3K and negotiate a route to the gate at Bolard and walk back to the village. It is boggy in places and it is not really possible to ascertain where the old Bridle Path was. If you decide to continue to the Bolard gate you will probably have the problem of having left your car at “NO DOGS” unless you have been dropped there. (3)
ROUNDSTONE BOG – This walk does not involve picking your way through the bog.Walk up Fuschia Lane and after 100 metres turn right onto Farrell’s road. This is the same route as the approach to the Letterdyfe climb.After 20 minutes go through the gate and continue on the track.As explained before this was once the only road into what became Roundstone in the 1820s.Continue walking, surrounded by the bog, for about 45 minutes. Do not take the gated exit to the right.The track stops at Loc Caimin which has an ancient man made defensive crannóg at its southern end. The walk is over common area with sheep, ponies, cattle and birds, especially larks, in attendance.It is not a loop so come back the same way. The road into Roundstone is accessible through the aforementioned gated exit but it is a narrow, twisty road, potentially dangerous for pedestrians, especially in Summer. (3)
Bog track end of Farrell’s road
ERVALLAGH – Take the road down towards the monastery and at the old entrance turn right through a gate. In 10 minutes this path will take you across a cattle grid pasta couple of houses on your right and a slipway on your left. Continue on a smaller path which is now on the shore just above high tide mark. Cross a small bridge, a stony beach, a small stile and you will eventually come to the beautiful small harbour of Ervallagh about 30 minutes after leaving Roundstone. You can turn right onto the road and head up to the main road and home. This part of the coast road is less dangerous than on the northern side of the village but walk on the right in single file. You can of course avoid the road and go back the way you came. You can do an historical detour to make this a longer stroll. After going through the gate at the start, walk beside the monastery wall and leave the path when it swings to the right and continue straight on keeping to the monastery wall. There is a gate which is usually open for ponies and sheep to use. You will find yourself in a large open field. Look for 3 things.
The Round Stone
The Round Stone, which is a large barrel shaped prominent rock on the south easterly point of the shore which was used as a beacon as the entry point to Roundstone Bay as early as the 17th century. Secondly, an old well, and thirdly see if you can make out pre famine potato lazy beds in strips near the well. Don’t go back to the gate but look for an exit from this field through a broken wall to the right (the west). Follow a grassy path meandering past gorse for about 150 metres until you come to another wider pathway. Turn left and about 50 metres towards the sea you should come across the ruins of an ancient limekiln on your left above a short drop down to a rocky shore. Simply go back up this path and you will soon be back on the main path to Ervallagh. With this diversion this walk should take about 1 ½ hours. (2)
Crompan on Ervallah walk
GURTEEN, GURTEEN POINT & DOG’S BAY – The two beaches are Lonely Planet’s choice as the number one beaches in Ireland, 2021. Drive to Gurteen. This walk can take as long as you wish. You can walk the length of the beach then turn around and come back. About 40 minutes. Or you can continue at the end of the beach and loop around the end of the peninsula going clockwise past Gurteen Point. There can be some boggy ground but it is easily avoided. You should be able to find the remains of pre famine stone cabins and potato lazy beds on the east side, near rocky beaches. Then go back along the beach. About 1 hour 30 minutes. Or, best of all, include Dog’s Bay by walking across the common northwards, having done the loop around the peninsula. There is an easy route back to the car park from the northern end of Dog’s Bay by turning right and walking across the common eastwards and exiting through the gate beside the graveyard. It all depends how far you want to walk and for how long. It could be walk Gurteen beach, turn right, cross the common, walk Dog’s Bay, turn right and cross the common again. About an hour. (2)
INISNEE LOOP – Drive or cycle to Inisnee. You can park at the side of the road after the second junction left. Walk up that road to the left past a harbour and then onto a path up the hill on the east of the island. The path continues in a gradual loop past a ruined church and graveyard on your left. You rejoin the road which runs straight along the western side of island where you will see Roundstone across the bay and the long wall of the monastery. Turn right and walk back to the car along the road. About an hour but you can make it longer by parking nearer to the bridge, perhaps at the first junction left. Do not attempt the walk on some maps by taking the first left after the bridge. It becomes too difficult and unpleasant due to boggy ground. (2)
AILLENACALLY ( Aill na Caillí ) – Is a deserted village at the end of a 2 kilometre straight rough road. It is now (2021) about 40 years since the last inhabitants left. Drive for about 4K towards the N59 and take the small road to the right before you get to the T junction where you can turn left for Clifden. There is a parking place about 300 metres down that road at the right turn towards Aillenacally. At the end of the road you can view the ruined village which is situated above cliffs and a harbour looking eastwards. (There were about 15 families living there at the time of the famine (1845). There was an attempt in the 1990s to revive the village by promoting it as the oldest village in Ireland, which never got off the ground.) Instead of simply returning you could walk across a bog path which was created by the villagers as a route for their children to walk to the national school or even earlier to the hedge school in Toombeola. It was called Scholar’s Road. It is passable and interesting due to its history in periods of dry weather and you can see their stepping stones in the boggier bits. However it is not recommended if the weather has been wet beforehand. This path starts about 400 metres short of the village heading northwards towards the Twelve Pins, close to a field wall. The first stepping stones can be seen close to the main track. If you go that way you get back onto the main Roundstone road west of Toombeola Bridge. Turn left and take the next left turn. Your car is about 800 metres away. If you take the Scholar’s Road on the return journey it might take 2 ½ hours. Aillenacally was considered over 200 years ago to be the possible suitable position for a good harbour for the area before Roundstone was preferred. (3) if you choose Scholar’s Road. (2) if just going to Aillenacally.
DOMINICAN MONESTARY TOOMBEOLA – This is the ruins of a 17th century monastery and a graveyard which is still used. Park your car on the Roundstone side of Toombeola Bridge and walk down the lane to the south. This is a short walk along the side of the Abhainn Mór or Ballynahinch river estuary. After about a kilometre on the main track there is a narrow path along the seashore to get to a gate of the cemetery and the ruins of the monastic buildings. There is also an entrance through a field a little further along the track. About 1 hour depending how long you spend surveying the site. This monastery is on the same peninsula as Aillenacally but trying to get from that point to the other along the coastline or across the bog is not viable. (1)
DERRYGIMLAGH – This is the site of the Alcock and Brown landing in 1919 and also the Marconi radio station, which was the first trans-Atlantic telegraphy station. Founded in 1907 it lasted until it was destroyed by irregulars during the Irish Civil War in 1922. The walk has been well constructed as a loop and includes many notes on the history. A must visit even if it is about 17k from Roundstone on the coast road to Clifden. It takes about 2 hours as there are many stops en route. (2)
INISHLACKEN – If you can find a boatman to take you to Inishlacken, the island at the mouth of Roundstone Bay you can walk a loop of an island that once had maybe close to 200 inhabitants. Only a few holiday homes now as all families moved to the mainland. About one hour. (3)
CASHEL HILL – Higher than Errisbeg this walk/climb is approached by turning left after the church in Cashel and walking up that road past the graveyard, through a gate and then turning left. There is space on the main road to park cars or bikes. This is not a climb for the casual walker and could be dangerous if too steep a route is chosen, especially coming back down. Walking in a loop to approach the top from the south/west side is advised. Like Errisbeg there are two summits. It is better to have a companion with you who knows the hill. (5)
BALLINAHINCH – The new Greenway which will eventually follow the old railway line to Clifden is an excellent walk and/or cycle. Inside the hotel grounds the Lakeside/River or Railway walks are well laid out and a must for gentle walks. Parking is available off the road leading to the back gate, but the area outside the front door is for residents. The hotel is a fine spot for after exercise refreshment.(1)