Connemara National Park
Situated in the village of Letterfrack in Connemara, the park comprises part of the Twelve Ben mountain range and lands formerly part of of the Kylemore Estate and the Industrial School. The habitats in the park include blanket bog, heath, woodland and grassland. There is a visitor centre, playground and looped walks.
National Nature Reserves
There are a number of state owned nature reserves in County Galway. Some of these are more accessible than others. A full list can be found here Galway Nature Reserves. Sites that are well worth a visit include:
Coole Park and Garryland Woods
This wonderful site comprises of the Frmer Gregory estate with its walled garden and famous autograph tree. Old oak and hazel woodland abound with massive mature yew trees scattered throughout. The river and turloughs attract a variety of over-winterng water birds. Coolepark.ie
Derryclare Nature Reserve
Derryclare Nature Reserve is a 19 hectare protected area on the shores of Derryclare Lough in the Inagh Valley. It is best known for its old oak woodland. In 2005, 19 red squirrels were introduced to the wood as part of a translocation project, and they have been doing well ever since. Entrance is via the R344, which joins the N59 at Recess to the N59 near Kylemore Abbey.
Derrycrag, Rosturra and Pollnaknockaun Woods Nature Reserves
Located around Woodford in South-East Co Galway are remnants of ancient oak woodlands that once dominated this region.
Richmond Esker Nature Reserve
Located near Moylough, this hidden gem is on of just a handful of Eskers remaining that still support native esker woodland habitat.
NPWS owned site in Caherlistrane near the entrance to Castlehackett Estate. There is a steep 4km walk through native woodland of oak ash and hazel. A limestone cairn at the top of the hill is said to be the burial place of Queen Maebh of Connacht and of Finnbhearra, King of the Connacht fairies.
Rinville Park is situated on the coast on the outskirts of Oranmore, is a public park owned jointly between Galway County and City Councils. The park has a variety of interesting habitats including woodland, pond, wet woodlands and meadows and parkland. It has an old castle and buildings from the original estate house and a playground occupies the walled garden.
One of the best ways to get to explore the countryside is to get out and walk! There are a number of walking trails around the county ranging from long national way marked ways to shorter Sli na Slaintes, forest walks and local trails. In County Galway there are walking trails on the Aran Islands, and Inishbofin off the west coast, the Western Way is in Connemara and the Hymany Way and Suck Valley way explore the hidden gem of East County Galway.
The Irish Trails website has information on all of these walks and more. Irish Trails Galway Walks
Coillte, the state forestry company own sites across the county, many of them in scenic areas and with a range of habitats to explore. Many of the forests have walking trails and some also have cycling trails such a Portumna Forest Park, Mountbellew or Derroura Mountain.
A list of sites in Galway can be found here Coillte Galway Sites
Coillte also has sites which it is restoring for nature conservation which includes raised and blanket bog sites such as Emlaghdauroe, in The Twelve Bens which is accessible via a board walk. Other restoration sites have rare woodland types such as yew woodland in Clonbur and limestone woodland at Castletaylor.