There’s a lot to see and explore in the Connemara region of western Ireland and definitely worth a visit. You could easily spend a week touring by car or even by bike; many bike tour companies offer trips of the area.
Connemara is the name that is given to the area in county Galway which lies in south western Ireland between the Atlantic Ocean and Lough Corrib in the east. It is a beautiful and at times desolate area filled with coves, cliffs, loughs (lakes), peat bogs and quiet moorland. It is home to Connemara National Park and The Twelve Bens, a small mountain range that can be climbed in a day by the very fit. There are numerous pretty, small villages and the gorgeous Kylemore Abbey to visit.
Drive or cycle this area but stay to the backroads if you bike. Irish drivers treat every road as though it were a race track. You can rent a bike in Galway from BikeHireIreland – for a day or a week. They also offer tours if you’re interested.
The Clifden area was a real treat as was Westport. If you make it to the Westport area try a climb of Croagh Patrick. Croagh Patrick is a Christian pilgrimage site. Back in 441 AD Saint Patrick fasted for forty days. The pilgrimage is in honour of him and on the last Sunday in July (Reek Sunday) you can expect to experience the mountain with 15,000 other pilgrims who attempt it, some in bare feet only. It is nonetheless a very worthwhile climb with fabulous views over Clew Bay. The peak rises to 764 metres (2510 feet). After the climb you can enjoy a bite to eat in the cafe at the base and a trip across the street to the National Famine Monument (the monument is interesting though hardly enjoyable)
Other activities to enjoy in the Connemara region include the following.
Visit Connemara National Park
The Park is located just outside the town of Letterfrack. It covers over 2000 hectares of mountain, woodlands, grasslands and bogs. It is open all year though the visitor centre is only open from March to October. There are well signed paths of varying length including a walk to the top of Diamond Hill. The park encloses several of the Twelve Bens which can also be hiked.
Visit one of the offshore islands
Inishbofin Island and Clare Island are two islands that are worthy of a visit if time permits. You will also need the weather to be cooperative as the ferries don’t run if sea conditions are too rough.
Inishbofin is 10 kilometres off the coast near Clifden and is accessed via a 30 minute ferry ride from the small fishing village of Cleggan. There are cliff top walks, white, sandy beaches and interesting flora and fauna.
Clare Island is accessed from Roonah Point, closer to Westport. Spectacular cliffs make for some interesting walking. Bicycling is also possible. It is a short 20 minute ferry ride and it is possible to stay in a B&B or the one hotel.
Head to the Leenane Cultural Centre
The centre overlooks Killary’s beautiful harbour in Leenane. The center began in 1992 with a mandate to display the various stages and techniques used in the woollen industry of the area. You can learn about carding, spinning, weaving and dyeing wool. Then check out over twenty different types of sheep that graze the grounds. You can also enjoy home cooking shopping on the premises.
Check out Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey is the only Irish home of the Benedictine monks. The entrance fee for an adult is 12 Euros. You can wander the grounds, see a few of the rooms in the abbey, check out the basilica and spend time contemplating how it would be to live in an area of such beauty. There is also a six acre Victorian walled garden. The Abbey is located on a lake with mountains as a backdrop but what really gives the place some character are the large trees which one sees so little of in Ireland. You will need at least an hour for the Abbey.
Explore the town of Cong.
The town of Cong is well known for golf and fishing. It is also a lovely town for walking and poking about the many craft shops. Wander by the ruins of the Augustine Abbey, dating from the early 13th century. The movie “Quiet Man” with John Wayne was filmed here in 1952. Tours are available for four Euros at the Quiet Man cottage. Don’t miss wandering the grounds of the elegant Ashford Castle Hotel either.
Other blog posts from this trip you might enjoy:
- What’s the better hike? the Kerry Way or the Dingle Way?
- Climbing Ireland’s Croagh Patrick
- Five Incredible Irish Islands