Galway Wind Park is Ireland’s largest and best-performing wind farm. It is located in Southwest Oughterard, in the Cloosh Valley and you can find plenty of walking trails here as part of Galway Wind Way.
I’ve been and had such a good time there. The perfect place for a Sunday day out. The trails pass through quiet, peaceful woodland and also give views of Connemara hills and valleys formed by the ice age 14,000 years ago. If you want to learn more about this family-friendly activity, keep reading!
Galway Wind Way – Oughterard Wind Farm Walk
Galway Wind Way Map – Map of Galway Wind Farm
The Trails of Galway Wind Way – Oughterard Walks
Galway Wind Way has 6 trails expanding over 48 km of hills shaped by the last ice age. The valleys and hills here were formed by the retreating glaciers which dropped off the large rocks you’ll see dotted across the park. This is interesting to geology nerds like me!
The trails range from a very short mere 5-minute stroll to 4-hour long trail.
Split Rock trail – Very short- 5 minutes (Red) – Buggy Friendly Walks in Galway
The Split Rock Trail is short and very easy. We tried it out first. It has its own (very) small car park (car park 4) and takes you along a short path by some windmill up to a mast. There is a viewpoint with a bench to sit and relax, looking out at the park before following the same path back to the car again.
This path is really easy and only takes a few minutes. However, it is pushchair and wheelchair accessible. I would say it’s nice for a little stroll with young children or for those with mobility issues.
Time: 5 minutes
Distance: 200 m
2. Peak Ridge Path – 1 hour 15 minutes (Purple)
The Peak Ridge Path is the main one Eoghan and I did on our recent jaunt and we had a great time doing it. The path starts in car park 2 and takes you through woodland. It was really peaceful and you could hear the calming whirring of the windmills in the distance. While following the path along, you regularly catch glimpses of the spinning turbines through gaps in the trees.
The path winds its way through the forest with inclines along the route. As you come out of the trees into an open area, you will be amazed by the views in front of you. The hills expand out all the way to the horizon, with lakes, winding paths and enormous windmills jumping out at you.
There is a bench perfectly placed on the hill to sit down and enjoy your surroundings. Me and Eoghan sat there in the sun and I have to say, it was absolute bliss! The sun shining down warming any exposed skin, blue cloudless sky, and looking down on the valley with trees as far as the eyes could see.
Just further up the path, there is a viewing platform which gives you a proper panoramic view of the landscape. See for yourself:
From here back to the park, you’re on a wide path/road used to access the windmills. Loads of the trails join up here along this path and you will pass by some windmills which are right alongside the path.
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes – a lot longer if you stop to take pictures every 5 minutes like we did!
Distance: 5.5 km
What does moderate difficulty mean? By moderate, it has some inclines with rougher underfoot conditions. There may be some roots and natural features on or near the paths.
3. Connemara View Loop Trail – 1 hour 10 minutes (Orange)
The Connemara loop trail is an uphill trail over 4.5 Km. The path starts and finishes at car park 2 and takes you up to a viewing platform near one of the turbines. And yes you’ve guessed it, you will take in beautiful views across Connemara including Lough Corrib and Lough Mask. Once you’ve satisfied your appetite for scenery, you can continue the loop back to the car park.
Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Distance: 5 Km
4. The Turbine Trail – 1 hour 20 minutes (Black)
The turbine trail is a loop that brings you up close and personal to 5 wind turbines and a viewing platform at turbine 15. You’ll have views of Uggol Valley before merging with the green path back to the car park.
Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Distance: 5 Km
5. Seecon Lough Path – 2 hours 20 minutes (Green)
This loop is quite a bit longer and takes approximately 2 hours 20 minutes over 10 km. This path passes through old forest paths, with a downhill walk by a lake. It also passes a viewpoint which – on a good day – you may see all the way to the Aaron islands in the distance.
Time: 2 hour 20 minutes
Distance: 10 Km
6. The Forest Cycleway – 4 hours 30 minutes (Blue)
The Forest Cycleway is by far the longest trail on the Galway Wind Way stretching across 21 km. It takes around 4 and a half hours on foot and is the only path for cycling. It’s a much wider path and takes you around the opposite side of the woods than the other 5 trails.
This section has patches of Eucalyptus trees, planted there in the 1950s as an experiment.
Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Distance: 21 Km
Other things to note about the trails at Galway Wind Way
- There are free car parks
- Dogs are allowed – on leads
- Bikes allowed on certain paths
- No toilets
- No Quad/Horses/Smoking
Is the Galway Wind Way a Family Friendly Activity in Galway, Oughterard?
Simple answer, yes! This is a great family activity in the Oughterard area. There is a pushchair trail for bringing younger children and it is also wheelchair accessible.
Dogs are allowed on the trails as long as you are responsible for them, meaning they can come along and be part of the family fun. I had great enjoyment watching a tiny little girl on the red trail trying to walk her ginormous dog and would not walk with her parents unless she had one hand on her dog at all times, it was the cutest thing!
On our way back to the car park on the purple trail, there was a group of children grouped around the foot of a windmill and were so happy and excited to get up so close and have their picture taken in front of it.
There were also groups of families cycling around. It was so nice to see kids out enjoying the outdoors.
For other family-friendly activities in Galway, I will have a post coming up soon.
More about Galway Wind Park – Wind Farm Walk
The park itself is made up of 4 wind farms and does better than any other wind farm in the country. It’s 58 windmills that generate enough power for over 140,000 homes across the county.
Each year, Galway Wind Park creates enough green energy to offset 220,000 tonnes of C02 – which is so great to hear, especially in the middle of this Climate Crisis.
The Park is co-owned by SSE Renewables & Greencoat Renewables and was developed by SSE Renewables and Coillte.
Who are SSE Renewables?
The company owns SSE Airtricity – the second largest energy provider in Ireland.
Who is Coillte?
Coillte is a commercial forestry company. They currently manage about 7% of the countries land. They contribute to Ireland’s renewable energy production by completing wind farms.
Why Place the Galway Wind Park in Oughterard? Cloosh Valley Wind Farm
The west of Ireland lies along and is completely exposed to the Atlantic ocean. The weather and strong winds are one of the main reasons behind the name wild Atlantic way and as you can imagine, has made the west an ideal place for wind farms. In fact, in 2019, Ireland took the spot for having the windiest place in Europe after a study done on the average wind speed and days where the wind went above 4 bft.
The topography and wind of this area in Oughterard made it the perfect location. It also has close connections to the national electricity transmission grid. This area allowed the avoidance of sensitive habitats and cultural heritage sits. The site was carefully planned based on the general direction of the wind while avoiding wind turbulence.
Where is Galway Wind Park? How to get there
I always advise using google maps to give directions because I am the worst at this and it really depends where you are coming from. However, if heading to Oughterard from Galway on the N59, continue through the village until you come to a left turn just after a cafe. Take this turn and drive out ~10 km and you will find yourself right in the park. You can’t miss the main car park, it will appear on your left eventually!
How to Dress for a day at Galway Wind Way
I feel I could just copy and paste the same weather warnings for all attractions in Ireland at this stage! The west of Ireland can be very wet and windy. Although the woods you are more sheltered, once out of the cover of the trees, you are high up and exposed to the elements.
Always make sure to have:
- A waterproof and windproof jacket
- A hat to cover your ears
- Walking shoes
However, on a good summers day, it is absolutely amazing.
Benefits of wind farms
A lot of people oppose wind farms, which has always been a mystery to me. There are so many amazing benefits including:
- Providing Green Energy – It is a clean fuel source without polluting the air
- Sustainable energy – as long as the sun shines, there will always be wind to generate electricity. This is why there are so many windmills in Galway. It’s in a prime location with the strong Atlantic winds.
- A Cost-effective way of producing energy
- These projects create jobs – During the build of the Galway Wind Park, numerous local businesses were employed as part of the project, from plant hire to steel companies.
Reasons Why people oppose wind farms – Windmill Walk Oughterard
There are a few reasons people tend to dislike the thoughts of wind farms nearby. However, personally, I do not agree with most of them. The main reasons are:
- Visual Pollution: People think they are an eyesore and ruin the landscape. I don’t agree with this one at all. I think they actually add to the landscape. While sitting on a bench overlooking Galway Wind Park, there were lovely views of the forest. However, I think the enormous windmills stand impressively across the landscape and really ad a “wow-factor”, for me anyway.
- Noise Pollution: I guess everyone has their own opinion on this. For me, I love the sound the windmills make. I find the faint hum very calming and peaceful. While walking around Galway Wind Way, you get up very close to the windmills, but the sound is always a faint hum it is never loud by any means. Once you are a short distance away, you can’t hear the sounds at all.
- Habitat destruction and impact on wildlife: This would be the main one I would have concern over as well. The building of these parks does mean the habitat is affected however while planning these sites environmental assessments are carried out to access potential impacts. Permission is only granted once the assessments conclude that no significant effects will occur.
- Researchers also believe that these wind turbines pose no more threat than other man-made structures and possibly a lot less threat. Phone and signal towers are much more harmful and yet people tend to be happy when a new signal tower goes up in an area. It seems a better phone signal distracts from any harmful impact on wildlife.
Overall, it would seem to me that the benefits outweigh the challenges of wind farms. As an added bonus, these parks also create recreational parks such as Galway Wind Way. This allows the public to go out and enjoy nature, which they may not have done otherwise.
I really really enjoyed visiting Galway Wind Way. We were lucky to have the sun shining and blue skies. It was great to be out in the fresh air with the sounds of birds in the trees and the faint hum of windmills in the air. A great day out I highly recommend.
This is great for a Social Distancing day out: In this current state of worry, uncertainty and fear, being stuck indoors can really add to anxieties. Although we have to stay pretty cooped up, it can really negatively affect your mental health. While I do not recommend leaving your home for unnecessary reasons, getting out and walking in nature I would say is pretty much a need right now (if within your 5km limit).
Instead of flocking to busy places like salt hill prom and other busy places, I would suggest places like the Galway Wind Way as they are a lot quieter and spread out. It is a great Oughterard walk. On arriving, the busy car parks worried us. However thankfully there were so many trails to choose from, we were able to pick a quiet one and only passed a couple of people on our walk. Everyone stayed distant and it was great to see everyone following social distancing recommendations.
Stay safe everyone.
Resources for more information on Galway Wind Park & Galway Wind Way: