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Oughterard Heritage Walk

Historical sites. Local history. Flora and fauna. Along a 1mile (1.6km) award winning walk.
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.2 miles
Duration: Less than 1 hour
Family Friendly

Overview :  This walk on the edge of Oughterard is both scenic and informative, illustrating flora fauna and local history

Tips:  Oughterard is 17 miles north west of Galway city, on the main Galway to Clifden road. It's at the edge of beautiful Connemara. This... more »

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Points of Interest

1. The Convent

1843-1846 “The Faithful Companions of Jesus”, a French order of nuns came to Oughterard by invitation from Dr Joseph Kirwan. Their stay in Oughterard was short lived, because of the abject poverty of the people. They deemed it an unsuitable place for the order. The Sisters of Mercy replaced them in 1858. Funds were scarce at first and classes were... More

2. Stone Bridge and Leisler Bats

In 1820 the triple arch stone bridge was built as part of Alexander Nimmo's road improvements between Galway and Clifden. This strengthened the link between Galway and Clifden. Observe the erosion of the limestone rock that is taking place up stream along the left bank of the river.
The bridge is also home to Leisler Bats.

Leisler Bats
Like most ... More

3. Church of the Immaculate Conception [Roman Catholic]

On Christmas Day 1830 the church was opened temporarily for Divine Worship. Rev. Dr Kirwan the parish priest responsible for the erection of the church was a remarkable man - a brilliant orator. He later became the first President of Galway University, but was obliged to resign after the Synod of Cashel refused to sanction the establishment of the... More

4. St. Michael's Well

St Michael's Well is situated to the far left of the rugby grounds. In the Celtic world wells were sacred places. They were seen as thresholds between the deeper, dark, unknown subterranean world and the outer world of light and form. Wells were revered as special apertures through which divinity flowed forth. Manannan Mac Lir said, “No one will... More

5. Wellpark House

Well Park is a large house in the Georgian style, built by the Willis family. Dr Robert Willis' second child, Eliza, married Dr Charles Hynes (Nottingham) in 1885. He died in 1942. His daughter Birdie lived there until her death in the 1980s. Miss Brooke Leggatt rented this house at the beginning of the last century. She was very interested in the... More

6. The Tower

Opposite the well on the left hand side of the main road at the end of the church car park are the ruins of an old tower. It is reputed locally that this structure was once part of an old fort. There was a toll bridge in operation at this point and monies were collected on carts of turf, potatoes, wool and grain going to the Oughterard market. In ... More

7. Sandymount House

Oughterard House (now Sweeney’s hotel) And Sandymount House

Title Deeds only became common in the 1860’s and the first mention on the deeds of a building is 1839. It appears that the original house dates from about that time when a small Georgian house was built. The current building façade is twice the size of the original. This was extended in ... More

8. The Shrubbery

Mrs. Kathleen Maloney, Glann (nee Morton Jack), gave the Shrubbery grounds to the people of Oughterard at a “Peppercorn” rent in 1960. The late Kathleen was the daughter of Hugh Morton Jack, son of Dora O Fflahertie of Lemonfield. Children enjoy picking conkers, fishing in the shallows of the river for pond skaters and 'pinkeens' and crossing the ... More

9. The Hatchery

The Oughterard Hatchery commenced operations in 1852 and was the first trout and salmon hatchery in Ireland. The first authoritative paper on hatchery management for Atlantic or Pacific salmon was published in 1853 and was based on the operation of this hatchery. Oughterard is therefore the birthplace of salmon farming as it is practiced worldwide... More

10. Salmon Leap cottage

Opposite the hatchery is a traditional vernacular cottage, “Salmon Leap”. The cottage was originally thatched. Further along the old Connemara road there was also a row of thatched cottages where all the families died from cholera during the famine {1845-1851}. Mr Mc Donagh, owner of “Salmon Leap”, was boarding up his cottage door when Fr.Kavanagh... More

11. Clareville House

This was the home of Humanity Dick Martin (1714-1794) founder of “The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.”  He used to boast that he had an avenue 30 miles long stretching from Oughterard to his other residence at Ballynahinch Castle Connemara. George Bernard Shaw’s grandmother, Margaret Gurly lived for a time in the house. G. B.... More

12. The Golden Mile

The "Golden Mile" sign indicates the path to continue along the award winning walk

13. Stop No.1

Beech Tree (fáibhile – fagus sylvatica)
Several large mature trees with their dense canopy and massive roots grow along the path. The first tree is beech. The leaf is oval with a wavy margin: bright green in spring but golden in autumn: nuts are borne in spiky fruits. Beech is not a native species. Native beech woods are found as close as southern... More

14. Stop No.2

Lime Tree (crann teile – tilia vulgaris)
Count how many trunks you can see. This tree is not native to Ireland but was a popular choice for planting on estates in the 18th and 19th centuries. The lime trees here are very crowded but in a more open space the crown would have been much wider. The old trunk you see is part of an old lime tree that... More

15. Stop No.3

Rhododendron (rhododendron ponticum)
You can see this shrub to the left of the walk in the neighbouring garden. This exotic shrub was brought to Ireland at the end of the 18th century as an ornamental plant from Turkey. It was planted widely in demesnes and later as cover for game. It spread rapidly, ousting native yew and holly and even oak in... More

16. Mill House

Looking over the wall behind the stone seat you will see a little stone house. This was once a mill, owned by the Tierney family. Here they ground corn. Water from the river was redirected into a large tank. At the bottom of the tank there was a propeller which it rotated with the power of the water and turned the grinding stone inside the house.
... More

17. Stop No.5. The Bridge

The Galway County Council built the present bridge and railings. In 1953 the rights to the bridge and the right of way approaches were handed over to trustees. The late Pat Gibbons was one of the trustees and he petitioned the County Council to restore the bridge.
Tom Dixon, Steve Mc Donagh, and Mr Donnellan, three employees of Colonel Doig of... More

18. The Tower

The Tower once marked the eastern limit of the vast estates of the Martins of Ballynahinch. The landlords employed bailiffs when the salmon were running to keep a watchful eye on poachers. There was a lookout post on the top of the tower that gave the bailiff full view of a long stretch of the river on both sides of the waterfall. Mike Farrell,... More

19. The Chalybeate Well

The well is inside the small black gate. This is private property but the owner has carefully restored the well. It is believed that the water of the well contains a cure for warts. It is horseshoe-shaped on the outside and like a house on the inside. It has red brick on the outside and is white washed on the inside. The well is covered with grass... More

20. Stop No.6 Linen Factory

On the opposite side of the road, a little further on, you come to the ruins of a Thornton’s Cotton Factory. The factory was surrounded by a number of small thatched houses where the factory workers lived. This ruin was originally one long building stretching as far as the modern house you see here today. In the first one roomed cottage lived Joe ... More

21. Stop No.7. Ash (fuinseog – fraxinus excelsior)

The ash tree to your right is one of a type noted for its strong and flexible timber, the delicacy of its leaves and new growth. The ash has associations with fertility and healing through its symbolic link with water. Indeed the impressive site of a tall mature ash tree is a symbol of the well-being of the land itself. The flexibility and... More

22. Stop No.8 Headgerows

Retrace your footsteps back towards the waterfall stile. You will find low hedges bordering both sides of the road along the rest of the trail. Here we find hedges dominated by brambles, gorse, fuchsia, hawthorn, rowan, ash, sally/willow, broom and heather. Many of the plants have seeded naturally in the shelter of stonewalls. The seeds of the... More

23. Stop No.9. Stone Walls

The old stone walls are called 'dry stone walls'; there is no concrete or cement holding them together - just the weight of stone upon stone. The beauty of the walls is that they are more or less maintenance free; once you build them you don’t have to do anything else with them. The farmer can make an opening wherever he likes when he wants the... More

24. Stop No.10. Mammals of the hedgerows

Most of our mammals are nocturnal so they are seldom seen except as casualties on our roads. If you are observant you will see plenty of signs of their presence. Look for small runs and burrows in the ground vegetation, for tracks in mud or snow and for the remains of food such as empty nuts and droppings.

Wood mouse

Despite its name the wood... More

25. Stop No11. Farmsteads

The owner of the farmstead on the right breeds Connemara ponies and has won several awards at Agricultural Shows around the country. “Bridge Boy”, his most famous pony, was adjudged Champion Connemara Stallion at Clifden Show on three occasions. His name is written over the stable door.
The family has preserved an old fire crane with its... More

26. Stop No.12. Ruins of an Old House

Looking over the iron-gate, to your right, is the ruin of the ancestral home of Mayor James Michael Curley’s parents. He was born on November 20th 1874 in Boston. He was elected Mayor of Boston on three occasions 1914-1918, 1922-1926, 1930 -1934. He was also Governor of Massachusetts (1935-1937). He was convicted of Mail Fraud in 1947, but... More

27. Stop No.13. Oak Tree (dair - quercus petraea)

Oak produces timber for furniture making, shipbuilding, barrels, flooring and interior joinery. The bark of the oak was used for tanning leather and for making dye. Of all our native trees the oak supports the widest variety of insect life, which, in turn, feeds a wide variety of birds, bats and other insect-eating animals. It is a stately tree... More

28. Stop No.14. Railway Bridge

This magnificent limestone bridge is one of 28 bridges built to carry the trains travelling between Galway and Clifden. On New Year’s Day 1895 the first train left Galway. The construction of the railway in less than four years was a great engineering achievement. 7 stations, 28 bridges and 14 gate keepers’ cottages were built at level crossings, ... More

29. Stop No.15. Workhouse [Poor Law Union] Burial Ground

This burial ground is known locally as “Teampaillín” - this place was not blessed and therefore it was not called a cemetery. In 1996 Canon Tully, the local parish priest blessed the ground and the graves. This graveyard was attached to the local Workhouse, as the local graveyard was unable to cope with the vast numbers of inmates who died in the ... More

30. Back to Oughterard

When you reach the main road, take care crossing the road. Turn left and head back towards the town.

Stop at the road sign for Oughterard. You are now standing on the old Railway line. Look to your right - you can see the huge water tank; It supplied water to the steam trains.

31. Old Railway Line

32. Stop No.16. Gatekeepers Cottage

This delightful cut limestone cottage is one of 14 built by the Midland Great Western Railway. The cottage has the original windows. Observe; there are no windows on the right gable of the cottage. The caretaker’s duties were opening the gates to allow the trains pass as well as inspecting the condition of the tracks. The first train passed here... More

33. Oughterard Railway Station

There were only12 passengers on the first train journey as it was a strict Church Holiday. On arrival the officials “repaired to the Railway Hotel - (Corrib Hotel) where they were liberally entertained”. The next train left for Oughterard at 10.45a.m and was joined by a considerable number of people from Galway.
Fish caught in Lough Corrib, were ... More

34. Stop No.17. Oughterard Workhouse [Poor Law union]1852

Oughterard Poor Law Union was the second wave of Irish unions created between 1848 and1850. It formally came into existence on 8th October 1849. The Oughterard workhouse was built by the Union and opened in 1852. George Wilkinson designed it on a 12acre site for 600 inmates. The building cost £5950 to construct plus a further £1055 for fixtures... More

35. Stop No18. End of the Golden Mile [míle órga ]

The 'Golden Mile' ends at the end of the stonewall surrounding Cregg na Coille housing estate. The 'Heritage Walk' continues towards the main road. On your right you may see Connemara ponies grazing in the fields. In the distance to your right is the church tower of Kilcummin (Church of Ireland church). If you want to visit Kilcummin Church turn... More

36. Kilcummin Church [Church of Ireland]

The Church was built in 1810 by means of a gift of £600 from the Board of First Fruits. Rev. John Wilson 1806-1844 was appointed as Perpetual Curate to the parish of Kilcummin 1806. One acre of land was acquired from Arthur St. George from Tyrone, Galway for the nominal sum of 10 shillings. The two wardens were Thomas Henry O Fflahertie and Thomas... More