Trail: Rinmaher Walking Trail, Co. Galway
Terrain: Woodland trail
Duration: 2/3 hours
Trailhead: Carpark, Portumna Forest Park, St. Joseph’s Road.
Recommended Gear: Hiking boots, rain jacket, water, snacks, phone
Portumna Forest Park in County Galway is the perfect place to discover the tranquillity and beauty that the centre of Ireland has to offer.
Portumna’s name is derived from the Irish Port Omna, meaning ‘landing place of the oak tree’.
One of the most exciting and interesting forest parks in Ireland, Portumna Forest Park covers almost 450 hectares, featuring occasional patches of semi-natural woodland, with silver birch trees, Yew and Juniper along the lakeshore.
At Portumna Forest Park there are forest and lakeside walks, car park, toilet facilities and observation points. Not only is it notable for its majestic setting along Lough Derg but it’s also a haven for wildlife most noticeably the red squirrel which is frequently encountered in woodland areas. There is also a large population of Fallow deer in the Park and other animal species include fox and badger, while a recent visitor is the white-tailed sea eagle that has nested and raised chicks on an Island close in the Lough.
We chose to embark on the Rinmaher Walking Trail, a loop of mainly narrow trails which sits on the Northern shore of Lough Derg. It will take most people around two hours to complete, so it’s perfect if you’re looking to get active while also experiencing what Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands has to offer.
The park is about an hour's drive from Galway City, from which you can take the M6 until you reach Kiltullagh then follow the N65 until you end up in the town of Portumna. The park is about 45 minutes from areas in and around Athlone. Take the M6 Southbound until you reach Ballinasloe. Then, take the R355 all the way to Portumna. If you're coming from Limerick, it will probably take you about an hour if you take the M7 northbound until you reach the N52. Continue down the N52 until Borrisokane, then take the N65 the rest of the way. There's a car park at the start of the trail so it’s easily accessible for groups travelling by car.
The trail itself
When you arrive at the car park you’ll find a wooden cabin along with toilets where you can stop off before your journey begins.
There’s also a large open green space complete with picnic tables if you fancy bringing along a packed lunch for before or after the walk, or a ball for a quick game of keepy-uppy or five-a-side.
While there is a large map on display in the carpark, the route itself is not clearly marked – so
We found Google Maps to be helpful, but if you don’t have access to this, the good news is that both trails that depart from the carpark towards Rinmaher Point meet eventually so you can’t go too far wrong.
We set off on the trail nearest to the cabin if you’re facing in the direction of Rinmaher Point (with the cabin on your right), and it’s a straight walk through towering forestry towards the Viewing Platform from here.
While walking this route, there’s a chance you’ll come across wild deer roaming freely around the park – we were lucky enough to spot a Pine Marten among the trees on our early-morning walk, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled!
The Viewing Platform is a great place to take a quick break and look out over the lake. The views across Lough Derg to Terryglass are breathtaking, most of the lake and shoreline are official sanctuaries, so this is a great place to do some wildlife spotting.
As you continue on along the track following the small black arrows, you’ll come to a large gate which you go through to continue walking through Forest track. The forest has a large population of red squirrels, fallow deer, foxes and badgers, so make sure you have your camera ready to snap.
Whether you’re simply wandering under the trees or getting a close up snap of a squirrel, this walk is thoroughly therapeutic.
For those who love adventure, it’s a good idea to venture off the track when you reach Rinmaher Point to get the best view across Lough Derg. You may have to battle through some branches once you’ve left the trail, but trust us, it is well worth it for the views. There are plenty of small clearings close to the shore where you can get a great view of Lough Derg, looking South towards Terryglass. You’re likely to see some cruisers bopping along as they navigate the waters of the River Shannon.
Once you’ve taken in the views, re-join the track to continue on North towards Portumna Castle. After about 1km you’ll come to a T-junction. You can turn left back in the direction of the Trailhead, or turn right for a quick visit to Portumna Castle – which we would highly recommend.
Portumna Castle & Gardens is adjacent to Portumna Forest Park and one of the most popular attractions in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. The castle was built about 1616 and is said to have cost £10,000 – a huge amount of money at the time. You can take a tour of the castle and see the interior, gardens and kitchen for yourself and also the ruins of a Dominican Friary. There are some interesting exhibitions too which tell the story of the De Burgo family and the castle itself which was the main seat of this powerful family for over 200 years.
Return the way you came until you arrive back at the T-junction and turn right towards the carpark.
While you’re in Portumna, why not try some glamping in a charming and comfy little pod in the Podumna Village. Conveniently located in the heart of the town, it's still close to all of the exciting and beautiful nature.
Podumna Village offers visitors three different accommodation options: charming pods set in a treelined landscape, the two-person shepherd's hut and B&B rooms in their main building.
Portumna House Bed and Breakfast on St Brendan’s Road offers a range of different rooms from single and twin rooms to double and family rooms. Portumna House Bed and Breakfast prides itself in being warm and welcoming and going the extra mile to make sure their visitors feel at home.
Meanwhile, in Oak Lodge Bed & Breakfast on St Brendan's Street, Portumna guests can enjoy a garden, shared lounge and terrace as well as continental and full Irish breakfast options.
Portumna: This is, of course, the home of the trail so it's probably the most ideal spot to stay for a few days. While Rinmaher Walking Trail is easily accessible from Portumna, the town also has other fun and interesting things to check out as well as fabulous restaurants and pubs.
Terryglass: This village in the north of Tipperary is only a 12-minute drive from Portumna Forest Park. This charming little spot sits on the shores of Lough Derg and is definitely worth a visit during your trip.
In the surrounding area, there are orienteering courses, mountain biking trails, birdwatching opportunities and plenty of other fun activities to discover, so you could easily spend several days here.
Visitors to the area can take a tour of the spectacular Portumna Castle. The ground floor of the castle is open to the public and visitors can check out the exhibition on the history of the building, its restorations and the De Burgo family that built it.
While the inside is spectacular, the same can be said for the gardens surrounding the castle, in which you can stroll and really take in the pure beauty of this manor.
It's definitely one of the gems of Ireland's Hidden Heartlands.
For anyone interested in history, the Irish Workhouse Centre is definitely worth checking out. Described as “the most feared and hated place ever established in Ireland”, visiting the Irish Workhouse Centre can be a chilling experience, but it’s also a fascinating way to learn about the local history.
Irish workhouses housed families that couldn't afford accommodation or food from the 1840s to the 1920s. In exchange for these things, residents had to undertake gruelling labour in dire and often cruel conditions.
The Irish Workhouse Centre has an exhibition where you can learn about this dark part of Irish History.
There's no shortage of fab spots for eating in and around Portumna. The Derg Inn in the picturesque village of Terryglass has a fabulous menu including Irish classics like roast beef, roast chicken and bacon and cabbage as well as burgers, curries and stir-fries. This is just the type of grub you want to sit down to after each day's explorations. Proper hearty stuff.
La Bouche Restaurant has coined itself as Portumna's finest restaurant, and in fairness, the food does look mighty fine.
Most of their ingredients are organic or homegrown and they serve delicious dishes such as gourmet beef burgers, cod, pasta and soups.
We stopped in at Modena Restaurant in the Square, Portumna and had some of the tastiest Indian food we’ve tried. While they serve up a whole range of cuisines, Indian food is really their strength so we would highly recommend a curry and some naan bread!
Listen, if you're going to be out and about walking all day, you're bound to be seriously parched. Lucky for you, Portumna features a few quality old school Irish pubs. Curley's Bar should be your first port of call and serves a mean pint of the black stuff.
For spectacular sights, invigorating sensations and unforgettable experiences, make your next short break a walking break in Ireland's Hidden Heartlands. Before you go, make sure you check out our 10 Genuinely Useful Tips For Going Hiking In Ireland to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable walk.
It’s always important to be respectful of the wildlife and surrounding environment, so make sure to leave the trail as you found it. Visit leavenotraceireland.org for more information.