Cong is a great place to be based for an adventure holiday. It is a small village surrounded by water so it is actually an island!
Beyond the canal and rivers there is about 3000 acres of forestry which is open for walkers and cyclists to use. Cong has a population of about 150 people and is located on the Galway/Mayo border.
Cong’s own Looped Walks which start at Cong Abbey are clearly marked by coloured arrows and you can choose between a 2km or 4km circuit. These are particularly helpful if you want to walk with a young family or are cautious about losing your way. Maps to go with these short walks can be collected from the tourist office beside the Abbey. It is possible to walk from Cong Abbey through the forest to Clonbur village, west of Cong. Further West again there is a fabulous walk up onto Mount Gable with its hidden lake and disserted village. If you go to the very top ridge there is an ancient Cairn or stone burial mound from which it is possible to see Lough Corrib, Lough Mask and right out to the sea on a good day. The starting point for the Western Way from Maam to Killary Harbour is only a 25 minute drive by car from Cong.
Cycling and Nature
The quiet roads west of Cong make it ideal for road cyclists. A loop from Cong via Finney village and back up the Maam valley includes spectacular mountain scenery (40 miles). For mountain bikers the Cong woods are the perfect place to practice your skills on the steep dirt trails. For families the quiet forest paths are a very safe and healthy way to experience nature close up. We have some ancient wild life such as Red Squirrel’s and Pine Martins that are only found in certain forest environments. Limestone is abundant in the area and this karst landscape means there are many interesting caves dotted around the woods to explore. The Guinness family owned the land in the late 19th century and they planted many unusual trees such as Redwoods and Monterey Pines. These trees are native to California! For anyone interested in bird watching Cong has a beautiful array of Swans, Herons, Ducks, Moorhens and Cormorants.
A description of the environment around Cong cannot be complete without mentioning Lough Corrib. It is the biggest lake in the Republic of Ireland and is said to have an island for everyday of the year. Many of these islands have been planted with trees and one island even has an early Christian church dating to the 5th Century. A leisurely Corrib Cruise or kayak amongst these islands is a spectacular way to experience this beautiful lake surrounded by forest and the distant Connemara Mountains. Lough Corrib has some of the best Salmon and Trout fishing in the world and draws fishermen from all over the world especially in May when it is at its best.
Geographically Cong is the natural gateway to the West so it has a long history of archaeological activity. The Gaelic for Cong is Cunga, meaning narrow strip of land. In the heart of the village is Cong Abbey which originated in the 7th Century. The famous Cross of Cong was used in Cong Abbey in the 12th century and can still be visited in the National Museum in Dublin. The district around Cong is abundant in archaeological remains including stone circles, burial sites and castles. Cong is also known by many people because of the filming of the ‘Quiet Man Movie’ in 1951. Starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara it was an international success and is still loved by many today. A visit to the Museum of Country Life in Castlebar is a great way to get a feel for Irish Country life and culture.
In Cong village there are three hotels and a couple of B&B’s as well as some self-catering apartments. There are several more B&B’s as well as a hostel within walking distance of the village. For those who wish for some extra luxury, Lisloughrey Lodge and the famous Ashford Castle are a short walk from the village.
With regard to eating Cong has a thriving Café scene in the summer months. Pick up a coffee or a light lunch in any of the Café’s or pubs. The Hungry Monk in particular is well established as a cosy eatery for lunch. For some traditional Irish or pub food there are three pubs to choose from; Danagher’s Hotel, Ryan’s Hotel (Crowes Nest bar) and Lydon’s Lodge. Many of these pubs have live music on at the weekend. If you are self-catering Ryan’s Food Emporium has a selection of local meats and delicious home-made ready meals if you do not feel like cooking.