Menlo Castle from across the water in Galway, Ireland
© Mel Mannion
Running

Best running trails in Galway: Check out these spectacular routes!

Whether it's for training or for fun, soak up the beauty of Galway with one of these spectacular running routes.
Written by Joe Ellison
8 min readPublished on
There are few more scenic spots on Ireland's West coast than Galway - no, scrap that - the face of the planet, what with spectacular bay views, delectable food spots, colourful streets and a history so rich you can almost touch it.
To coincide with Wings for Life World Run on 8 May 2022, we've sought out some of the finest city runs in Ireland.
And who better to suggest the finest running spots in the City of the Tribes than one of the coolest running tribes out there? Founded in 2018 by Mel Mannion and Joanna Brophy, Galway Bay Brewery Running Club (GBBRC) has become a real institution in a short space of time.
"We run monthly on the second Sunday from the Salt House, and last Monday from the Oslo Bar," says Mel Mannion, who co-founded GBBRC with her friend Joanna Brophy. "We have a great core group of regulars and we're seeing a lot of new faces at each run now since we've been able to get back to it post-pandemic which is really wonderful to see!
As chosen by three members of GBBRC, here are some of the best running spots in Galway...
01

Marvellous Menlo: A country escape inside the city (10k+)

City centre to Menlo running route, Galway
City centre to Menlo running route, Galway
Recommended by: Mel Mannion, co-captain of GBBRC
“I grew up around Menlo and have always appreciated how it’s both a total escape to the countryside without truly leaving the city. It’s a nice change from the busy vibe of running through town or along the Prom [promenade] even if you have to keep your wits about you on the roads.
“If you head up Monument Road away from the village, you get incredible views of the lake and mountains as you loop back around. I find it quite soothing. The village itself has some wonderful old thatched cottages, stone walls and offers routes to the pier with more lovely lake views and Menlo Castle. It’s quite a hilly route with mixed terrain, so it offers a bit of variety and a good workout too.
A view from the Salmon Weir Bridge
Crossing the Salmon Weir Bridge (during the Galway Arts Festival)
“If you park up at the Cathedral, or even the campus of NUIG [National University of Ireland Galway] you can cross over the Salmon Weir Bridge before running along the river around the courthouse and onto Dyke Road. Follow that road up the river - there's a semi-raised trail slightly away from the footpath that you can take that brings you closer to the riverside - until you hit the bridge. Carry on under the bridge and up the hill past Eamonn Deacy Park, home of Galway Utd and Galway WFC. Next, follow the road until you reach a sharp left bend, which you can either follow or choose to run straight up a little boithrín instead.
"The boithrín is the smarter option with fewer traffic risks and nicer surroundings. If you want a longer run which would finish at closer to 10 miles, turn right out of the bothrín and carry on until you reach a junction where you can take a left to loop you back around with nice views of the lake and bring you past the jetty and quarry.
If you go left out of the bothrín and head down the hill, you can visit Menlo Castle. You will need to climb a fence and cross a field, but it’s worth it. You can also reach Menlo Pier, which has ducks, nice views, and loop back around the village. I'd suggest crossing the bridge on the Dyke Road on the return and once again following the river back to the Cathedral."
A waterside shot at Menlo, Galway
A waterside shot close to the end of the Menlo loop
"I should caveat that a lot of it doesn't have streetlights or footpaths, so I’d also advise caution and high visibility. There are also no amenities or anything around here, so it’s a bit of an expedition. Bring some water on a hot day."
02

Temple Run: A magical trail around ancient ruins in Merlin Woods (7k+)

Merlin Woods running route, Galway, Ireland
Merlin Woods running route
Recommended by: Nikki Donohoe, GBBRC regular and co-founder of Trails & Blood
“I've been a keen runner ever since joining the second-ever GBBRC outing. The club helped me do a race every month in 2019 and I’ve been at it ever since. More recently, alongside Mark Grealish, I’ve helped to start a trail break-off group, Trails & Blood.
“At Merlin Woods in Doughiska, you can find a brilliant running trail around an old castle. I honestly didn’t even notice these woods until the pandemic - it was on a whim post-work one afternoon when I decided to follow the path past a playground and found this trail. The fact you get to run around Merlin castle tops it off. The route isn't lit but there are paths and it’s generally safe.
"To access the route, park beside the local primary school and run past the pitches, keeping right to access the castle trail. At the opening to the estate turn right to run past the castle on your left. Exit through the gate and follow the path until you pass the bridge and stone house. Here you can turn right to do off-path forest running and explore the wall ruins. You will come to a large tree back on the main path; follow this to the right to reach the hospital and at the gates turn left and head towards the main road. Turn left on the main road and follow it back to the carpark.
"Merlin Castle is a highlight but there’s also the remains of an old wall, a house and lots of little winding paths to explore that all lead back to the large tree filled with bird feeders. You can also run to the hospital by passing the community garden. It’s quiet, too, so you won't have to dodge many people or much traffic. You'll forget you are in a city.
“Once you’re done and you want to refuel, you are pretty close to a few neighbourhood cafes. There’s no bad time to run it, although I especially love it in the autumn, crunching through the leaves and seeing the flowers."
03

Chasing rainbows: Riverside running from NUIG up to Dangan (5k+)

Menlo Castle, Galway
Views across the water towards Menlo Castle
Recommended by: Joanna Brophy, co-captain of GBBRC
"This is a pretty special way to get a sweat on. You’re alongside the river for most of this run so you get nice views along with a well-marked pathway. It's also more sheltered than the Prom on windy days and there are no roads to cross. There’s the official 5km route that you can follow but you can also add on bits to make it longer including some small uphill trails for a bit of elevation and more time in the trees. You'll encounter plenty of pitches to run around boasting different surfaces to give the joints a break, while views across to Menlo Castle really do provide the icing on the cake.
"The route itself is little over 5K and starts at the green area in front of the Alice Perry Engineering Building - people can either choose to park in the Pay and Display spaces at the main campus close to town or they can start up the other end and park for free at the Dangan Sports Grounds.
"Hugging the river and well-marked, the trail is fairly simple to follow. If you start from down at the University end you just keep the river on your right all the way up and then on your left on the way back. You can see little side routes along the way which allow you to lengthen your run or stop to take a photo. Some people do get in the water at the pier opposite Menlo Castle to swim. However, the water current can be quite strong in the river so caution is advised and only seasoned swimmers should give it a go.
Galway running route, central to Dangan
Riverside running in Galway
"What I really like about this route is that it's nice and quiet and even underfoot so you’re not looking out for cars, or potholes or puddles or people. It’s less distracting than the road and you can keep a nice steady pace and drift off with your thoughts. One thing to ensure, as always, is that you feel safe wherever you run. As a woman I don’t run here at night, for instance, as it has poor to near no lighting and is isolated in spots.
"Sometimes I just go for a run to take photos given it's such a photogenic route and it’s right in Galway. You never know when you might see a rainbow... I’m very lucky to have it so close to home. I also get to meet some lovely swans sometimes, and then there’s the Dangan Donkeys. The historical spots you can see on the route include The Tea House Folly and Terryland Castle.
"Once you're done, get a bite to eat at Matt’s Sandwiches, Mr Waffle or Ward’s Sandwich Bar, while the student bar on NUIG campus has a great outdoor terrace beside the water for all the craic."
04

Bonus run: Across the Prom (10k)

A coastal running route in Galway, Ireland
A run across the Prom in Galway
Mel also recommends the GBBRC Second Sunday route along the Prom (Strava link here) which starts and finishes in the Salt House pub and has views of the Claddagh, Galway Bay & Blackrock Diving Tower. It's as simple as just hitting the coastline and following your nose.
Galway Diving Tower
Galway's Blackrock Diving Tower
"You also pass the Oslo Pub which does excellent food if you decided to finish there instead of heading back to town. Notoriously windy, incredibly fun."
Galway Brewery Running Club can be found at galwaybeerrun on Insta, Twitter, Strava and Facebook.