In Ireland we have a saying that ‘West is Best’, and I might be slightly bias after a weekend in Connemara but there is a reason that saying exists! Connemara is a region in Galway full of lakes, beaches and mountains and is one of the most breathtaking locations in the country.
The weather on the west coast of Ireland is known to see a lot more rain than the Eastern part (almost twice as much, unfortunately!) so a chance to see this part of Ireland while the sun shines is really a must, especially to get the most out of your visit as Connemara has a lot of outdoor adventures to enjoy.
While traveling around Connemara, here are the top things to see and do:
Connemara National Park
There are four main walks that you can do within the park:
Ellis Wood Nature Trail (Green) – 0.5km – duration 15 minutes
Sruffaunboy Trail (Yellow) – 1.5 km – duration 40 minutes
Lower Diamond Trail (Blue) – 3km – duration 1 hour
Upper Diamond Trail (Red) 7km (starts at Big Rock on Lower Diamond Trail) (Blue and Red Trail combined – 2.5 hours)
When I visited I completed the Upper Diamond Hill Trail. The hike is moderate and takes roughly 1.5-2 hours depending on how long you want to spend at the top. There is a wooden walkway/paved stone path the whole way both up and down which means there isn’t a huge need for hiking boots, and as the trail is a loop you get some amazing views of the bay, kylemore abbey and the twelve bens. The path is currently operating on a one-way system due to covid but it doesn’t hamper the experience at all.
You can find out more about the park and plan your visit by heading to their website here.Twelve Pines
Derryclare Lough is located about 20 km east of Clifden, and on that Lough you will find the Twelve Pines which is an iconic island with unique pine trees on top that reflect onto the water. These pines are surrounded by the Twelve Bens mountain range as far as the eye can see and it makes for the perfect place to stop and take a picture. There is a small area for cars to pull in to get out and enjoy the beautiful views.
Built in the late 1800’s by a wealthy business man for his wife, Kylemore Abbey is one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions and for a good reason! When visiting here you will experience walks by the lake, Ireland’s largest walled garden and magnificent buildings such as the Abbey itself and the Gothic church.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to visit here first hand as it closes for Winter until March, but all the more reason to go back! You can find everything you need to know about Kylemore Abbey on their website here.
This road is Galway’s answer to The Ring of Kerry! The circular route takes you from Clifden onto the Kingston Penninsula and on a clear day with good visibility there is nowhere on the island like it. The landscape is truly stunning, and as someone who does not get to that part of the country regularly it was refreshing to see somewhere new, that totally exceeded my expectations.
The drive is only 16km in total with both an upper and lower road. Personally I think I preferred the lower road but the best views and the main viewing platform can be found be taking the upper road with views of the peninsula in front, and the silhouette of the Twelve Bens behind you. If you have the time to do so, you can always drive both!
Connemara has undoubtedly some of the best beaches in Ireland (once you don’t mind the cold water too much!). You will be spoiled for choice when it comes to visiting beaches in this area so I am just going to name some of my favourites from my visit.
– Anchor Beach
– Eyrefort Beach
– Glassilaun Beach
Further south you will find these beaches on a tombolo. If you haven’t heard of Dogs bay or Gurteen I would be surprised as they are two of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland, with the clearest water on the Irish coast!
– Gurteen Beach
– Dogs Bay
If you are making your way back home via Galway another lovely stop is in Spiddal. Here you can take a walk through the Spiddal Craft Village where there are shops that sell handmade jewlerry, pottery and art work among other things, or you can take a walk along their stunning beach front before hitting the road back home.
Where to stay:
Clifden or Letterfrack are two of the best areas to stay in terms of amenities as they are the two biggest towns in the area. If you stay in an air bnb with a kitchen or don’t mind driving for awhile you can stay in a more rural location.
We stayed in a gorgeous little air bnb only fifteen minutes away from Connemara National Park in a small village called Cleggan. The air bnb was dog friendly and sleeps up to eight people so it would be perfect for a group of friends or a family as there is plenty space. You can find the air bnb here.