I'm surprised Slievecarran hasn't been commented on already, seeing as its so prominent, interesting and accessible, so I'll give a quick rundown of some of its many charms. It may not be very tall or dramatic, but it catches the eye from lots of places around Galway city and Salthill, rising across the bay with its flat summit, prominent cairn and grey limestone sides. It also holds your attention when driving along the Galway to Gort road, being particularly enticing when the winter sun shines on its grey flanks.
Its easy to climb Slievecarran from the nature reserve southwest of Kinvarra, just park beside the gate and information board around Sl'Carn (M3304 0329)
. From here, head through the gate and along the track across the limestone pavement, where the typical Burren flora is present in abundance, especially in late April/May. Among many others, you cant miss the cushions of Dryas octapetala, the mountain avens, with its white flowers, prominent yellow stamens and lobed leaves. You soon pass through another gate in a wall, from where you can head off the track up the hill to the left.
However, a trip to the ruined church and holy well is not to be missed, so follow the path onwards, under the cliffs of Slievecarran, where eagles apparently once nested. The ruins of the church and its attendant holy well (at D (M3286 0425)
) are located in a delightful area of hazel woodland, there's also a small cave just up the hill.
Once you've explored the church, head back towards the second gate and veer off to the obvious shoulder, left of the cliffs. Follow this up over steep, broken limestone ground, the trickiest part is early on, where you have to cross a large wall, amongst thick hazel scrub, on top of a 3m rock step. From here, veer right above the cliffs, until you reach the large, flat summit plateau, which is surprisingly grassy and agricultural. Head in a northerly direction, aiming for a prominent concrete cattle enclosure, over heavily poached ground. Once through the enclosure the huge summit cairn is in sight. In the last couple of hundred metres before the summit the rare, beautiful Arctic-Alpine Spring gentian, Gentiana verna, with its blue trumpet-like flowers, is very abundant. From the cairn, on a clear day, there should be nice views of Galway Bay and city, as well as up to Connemara. From here I retracted my steps, but you could continue down to the north and back around to the church, but I have a feeling you might have a lot of difficult hazel scrub to push through. Linkback: mountainviews.ie/summit/927/comment/4596/