Knockma Hill walking trail is a looped trail just outside Galway city. At the summit, you will see panoramic views across the surrounding area. In addition, while getting there, you will traipse through gorgeous native Irish woodland. All the while surrounded by legend. Interested in trying out Knockma Hill Walking Trail? Keep reading!
Where is Knockma Hill? Woods and Walking Trail in Galway
Knockma Hill and walking Trail is just 30 Km from Galway city and takes about 40 minutes by car. Tuam is just 13 minutes away, so from that area, it is just 13 minutes drive.
History of Knockma Hill – Knockma Hill Walking Trail Galway
Knockma Hill has a pretty mysterious and interesting history.
Firstly, you may have heard of Queen Maeve. If not, she was the queen of Connaught. So, Maeve is supposedly buried at the top of Knocknarea Hill in Sligo. BUT don’t say that to a Galwegian. Because some claim that Maeve is buried at the summit of Knockma Hill.
Although more interestingly (to me anyway!) this hill is also believed to be where the king of fairies – “Finvarra” held court. Yep, that’s right! Legend tells that this hill is steeped in magic and mystery. The hill is said to hide an entrance to the “underworld” and connects the faires with it – through the cracks and crevices in the ground. You will see lots of hints of fairies in the woods, for example, the multiple fairy doors.
In addition, a scene from a movie I have never seen – “Alfred The Great”, was filmed at this location in 1968.
Finally, when visiting, you will notice a memorial for Colonel Patrick Kelly. Patrick was an American Civil War Officer and Commander of “The Irish Brigade” and was killed in Virginia in 1964. His family home is located nearby although he emigrated to the US and the memorial has been erected for this reason.
Knockma Hill Walking Trail – All you need to know about the trails
This trail is a looped trail but is actually made up of 4 separate trails:
Forest Loop (3.6 km)
The forest loop starts in the carpark and is the longest trail of the loop. It brings you up through a tree-covered road and right into Knockma woods. This was one of my favourite parts of the trail. Although you don’t have the same expansive views, you are emersed in the green canopy. There are hints of fairies all around with fairy doors to be found at the base of some trees.
What species of trees will you see?
The woods is lovely and is made up of Hazel, Oak and Ash trees which is great to see. As most Coillte woods is made up of non-native like Sitka Spruce
Avenue Loop (2Km)
This trail is not actually part of the loop but is a straight trail that leads away from the hill and back again.
Finvara’s Trail (1KM)
Now, this is the part of the trail with gateways to the otherworld. For reals though, the area is very much like the Burren. You emerge from tree cover to the top of the hill and exposed limestone. It is through these clints and grikes in the rock that is said to be the entrance to the underworld.
It is this part of the walk where you will have amazing panoramic views over Galway. While luckily, there are benches perfectly placed on the trail to sit back and take it all in.
Queen Maeve Trail (300m)
This short 300m trail veers off Finvara Trail for a bit to go up around the “burial” place of Queen Maeve. This takes only a couple of minutes before you join back up with the blue trail again.
When doing the trail, I did the full loop – half of the forest trail, joining Finvara’s trail and then Maeve’s trail, finally coming back by the loop.
Map of Knockma Hill – How to get there
Knockma Hill Facts
How High is Knockma Hill? 170m High
How Long is the Knockma Hill Walking Trail? The trail is a 4km looped trail. Although I know what is the next question that comes to mind 😉
How Long does it take to walk the Knockma Hill Walking Trail? It takes ~1 hour although this really depends on your fitness, and how often you stop to take pictures and appreciate the views (every two minutes if you’re like me!).
Is Knockma Hill Walking Trail suitable for Children?
Yes it certainly is! Although not suitable for buggies/pushchairs or those with mobility issues, it is definitely a great spot to take the kids. There are lots of features to interest and excite the little ones along the way.
DEFINITELY keep an eye out for fairies. In fact, might spot fairy doors throughout the woods. So keep your eyes peeled for the fluttering of wings through the trees. There is even a fairy school – yep fairies gotta go to school too!
Other information about Knockma Galway – FAQ
As mentioned, there are some benches placed along each of the routes and beautiful scenic places. Be sure to make the most of that. Sit down and take some slow deep breaths and just enjoy where you are.
Is the hill wheelchair accessible?
The hill goes through the woods and up steep graveled paths
Is the trail difficult?
Although I would not describe this trail as difficult, there are some steep inclines
Facilities – Are there toilets, parking?
There is free parking, no toilets
Can you visit Casle Hackett House?
Yes. Castle Hackett house was built by John Kirwan – LordC Mayor of Galway – in 1703. It was partially destroyed and burned down during the civil war in 1923 but was rebuilt again by the Kirwan family. The family occupied the property for almost 300 years. It is now accommodation available for booking.
Views Along the route:
- The Castle Hackett Tower House at the start of the route
- Woodland scenery
- Views over Galway
- Castle hackett house – a 19th-century building that was occupied until the mid-1980s. Now accommodation.
Due to COVID, the route is currently a 1-way anticlockwise route only. This is great as it means you are not constantly meeting people coming the opposite way. There are signs along the way to show you where to go.
In summary, this route is a great walk! I hope this post was helpful to you. If you visit, comment below to tell me how you get on!
Image of me taken by Eoghan Bell
Stuff to do near Knockma Hill including walking trails Galway:
Family Activities nearby: