The Suck Valley way is an inland long distance walking trail which follows the River Suck which drains from Lough O’Flynn, 7km west of the town of Castlerea in County Roscommon, and flows through sweeping meanders and past many little islands to reach the River Shannon a kilometre below Shannonbridge. The trail is 105km in length and passes through the counties of Galway & Roscommon.
The trail is a circular route that runs up the west side of the River Suck to the town of Castlerea and returns down the east side of the River. Walkers will pass through ‘The Nine Friendly Villages’ of Ballygar, Creggs, Glinsk, Ballymoe, Ballintubber, Dunamon, Castlecoote, Athleague and Mount Talbot. The route takes walkers through areas with a rich heritage and remains of monuments and buildings of the past to include ringforts, castles and ancient churches. One historical feature not to be missed is that of the unique La Tène Stone close to the route at Castlestrange. It is an ovoid boulder of granite which is richly carved and dates from the Iron Age.
You will start the Suck Valley Way in the town of Ballygar, one of the more modern villages built by the O’Kellys and the birthplace of Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore, a well-known bandmaster and composer of the 19th century, who composed the music for such well-known songs as “John Brown’s Body” and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”. As you leave Ballygar town towards Creggs you will enter the woods which were part of the demesne of Aughand Castle. If you are lucky, you may see fallow deer and red squirrels along the woodland trail. A little further on are two “raths”, old ring forts, the first of many you will find along the Way. Emerging from the woods, you will soon pass Abbey Grey where a 12th century monastery of the Norbertines, the Grey monks, once stood before being destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s army in the 1650’s. Further on the route you will reach the highest point of the Suck Valley Way at 164m. You continue down a boggy field to a small stream whose bend you follow to the village of Creggs.
The village of Creggs was once a popular center, with a monthly fair, dancing, football and feisheanna (music competitions). Its seven pubs bear witness to its popularity! It was the scene of the last public speech of Charles Stuart Parnell, the great Irish Parliamentary leader of the 1880’s, only two weeks before his death in 1891. Opposite the ruined Presbyterian Church is a monument to him erected in 1946, the centenary of his birth. There is also a small Heritage Centre in the village. You follow the trail by-roads and lanes to Kilbegnet before taking to the fields which drops down to the lakes and to Rosmoylan Bog beside the Suck River. You pass many ringforts, the largest of which is associated with Queen Meadbh of Connacht, a leading character in the classic epic, the cattle raid of Cooley. One of her husbands, Tinne Mac Connrach is said to have lived there. A little further on, to the right you will see Peters Lough, whose shores are a natural garden with a variety of bogland flowers, while to the left is Lough Anargid, the haunt of swans, ducks and other water birds. You will continue along the Suck Valley Way before arriving at a lane which leads you into Glinsk village.
On arriving into Glinsk, you will pass Glinsk Castle, a 17th century castle built by the Burke family. The Way goes through the village and turns right through fields down to boglands near the Suck. From here walkers can witness machine-worn turf (peat) laid out to dry in snake-like rows, as the trail continues towards Ballymoe. Ballymoe has a long history going back to The Cattle Raid of Cooley, for Queen Meadbh had a fort there. More recently it was the birthplace of Father Flanagan who founded “Boystown” in USA for deprived boys and on Eamonn Ceannt, a signatory of the 1916 Proclamation. Passing through the village you will head towards the biggest town along the trail, Castlerea. You will find yourself hiking across the great Cooliskea bog by the old tracks built by the farmers to access the turf (peat). Further on, you will once again meet the banks of the River Suck, cross the stone-arched Kilkeevan Bridge, and eventually arrive at Castlerea town, which was the birthplace of Sir William Wilde, husband of “Seperanza” and father of Oscar Wilde.
From Castlerea, you will retrace your steps heading in a southern direction this time, in order to hike the east side of the River Suck. The trail brings you to a fantastic viewpoint of the ruins of the 13th century Ballintober Castle, built originally by the O’Conor clan and Ballintober village (once known as Ballintober Bridge) where St. Brigid’s Well can be found in the centre of the village. The Way leaves Ballintober by the main road, with good views across open countryside and soon leaves and drops down to a pleasant path through a grassland beside a stream. You will pass the stone wall around Corrastoona spring well before later crossing a section of Corbally Bog, where again you can see both traditional and modern way of cutting turf.
After Corbally, the route zig-zags pleasantly through fields and lanes before descending to the river again. You will pass Dunamon Castle, which has a recorded history going back to 1154, when it was the seat of the O’Finahtys. The Way crosses to the west bank and turns right into woodland. You emerge to cross a high footbridge over the strangely named Derryhippo River with a good view over Lough Linbaun which has a crannog (site of an ancient village on an artificial island, one of many in Irish lakes). Soon you reach Castlecoote which was named for the Coote family. Very little remains of the castle, which was a source of building stone for the Castlecoote 18th century house.
After Castlecoote the Suck Valley Way continues through fields to Castlestrange, named for a Captain Le Strange who acquired these lands in the 16th century. The castle has almost disappeared, and the mansion, which followed it, is a ruin, so the main point of interest is the La Tene stone, an ovoid granite stone with intricate spiral patterns carved into it. It dates from the early Iron Age La Tene period (hence its name) and it is more than two thousand years old. The Way crosses the many-arched bridge across the Suck and then follows the river bank through meadows to Athleague. Athleague, “the Stony Ford of St. Meanacain” has had a long and chequered history with the lands owned by the Ormsby family in Elizabethan times, who ruthlessly pursued priests and Irish ‘rebels’. Athleague is one of the main angling centres on the Suck.
From Athleague the Way goes easily through fields and along minor roads, following generally the big U-bend of the river, which it meets at Rookwood Bridge. The Way then continues past the interesting Araghty bog to Mount Talbot, the name which comes from the Talbot family who were granted this part of the O’Kelly lands in the Cromwellian settlement. They flourished and built a fine house in the 18th century, of which only a gate lane remain. This in turn leads to a stretch of raised bog, where turf is still being cut by hand, before eventually arriving back at Ballygar, your final destination and the end of the Suck Valley Way.
The Suck Valley Way is a circular route with the landscape of a typical river valley consisting of bogs, callows, woods and unspoilt traditional farmland. The terrain consists of varied low-land walking with a pleasant mix of cross-country paths through fields and woods, quiet side roads and a number of stretches along the banks of the river itself.
The river is a designated European site for protection of habitats resulting in the surrounding landscapes being rich in biodiversity, so much so that rare species of birds and wildlife such as deer and red squirrels can be spotted en-route.
There is on average about 65% off road walking and 35% asphalt walking, with the trail itself being waymarked. After heavy rainfall, the route can be subject to flooding so please check locally before setting out.
|Hiking Trail:||The Suck Valley Way|
|Estimated time:||5 days|
65% Off Road
Galway City - Ballygar:
The Suck Valley Way Gallery
Leave No Trace
Please respect the countryside code when out walking. Visit Galway encourage walkers to follow the ‘Leave No Trace’ principles when walking. Please take a look at the Leave No Trace brochure below.