The Burren in County Clare boasts many magnificent walks, of which one of my favourites is the wonderful Fanore to Ballyvaughan hike.
On the R477, about 1km north of the turn down to Fanore beach, there is a widening on the right (heading north), where some houses and small laneways meet the main road. You may see cars parked along the stone walls. Start walking here.
After a short stretch on a very quiet, tarred laneway, the trail quickly transforms into a beautiful ‘green road’.
For several km, we head N / NE, with splendid views of the sea, the Aran Islands and Connemara beyond. On a nice sunny day, this is a superb stretch and you’ll see as far as the Twelve Bens, Errisbeg above Roundstone and much more.
Having reached a point above Black Head, the trail turns SE, where Galway Bay takes over from the open ocean on your left hand side.
Watch out for the abundant wildflowers that are the trademark of The Burren during summer and this part of the track is particularly good for seeing O’Kelly’s Spotted Orchid in all its brilliant white glory.
(Read here about another beaut of The Burren, the gorgeous, but elusive Spring Gentian).
We will eventually begin to climb a bit and there is a dodgy enough 2km stretch, where you’ll need to pay attention, as you make your way through a narrow section with dry stone wall immediately on your left and thick vegetation immediately on your right. With loose rocks underfoot and occasional holes in the ground, this is a fine place to twist your ankle.
We reach the top immediately north of the head of Gleninagh Valley and say goodbye to the sea, until we reach Ballyvaughan later.
Having reached the bottom of the valley, we unfortunately find ourselves with about 5km of tarmaced surface to negotiate, though cars are virtually nil.
It’s a real pity that we couldn’t simply contour around Cappanwalla hill to our left and drop down much closer to Ballyvaughan on the other side.
[As an aside, I should mention that The Burren Way, a long-distance walking trail, is far too much on road for my liking, which is such a shame in this magnificent region.]
Having completed the 5km on road and shortly after passing the wonderful round towerhouse on the right (Newtown Castle), we turn right and soon can leave the road once more.
We are now following part of the Ballyvaughan Wood Loop into town. It’s very pleasant, through hazel-dominated woods and open fields, before emerging by Ballyvaughan GAA pitch.
Once you reach town, I’d highly recommend turning left and enjoying coffee and cakes in the fabulous Tea & Garden Rooms opposite the quay.
A brilliant hike, despite the road section.
Fanore to Ballyvaughan Hike
20km; 7 hrs; climb 670m (net altitude gain 0m)