Ireland Travel Guide: Top 9 Things To See and Do in Beautiful Connemara

One of the best ways to stay inspired and stretch out creative muscles, while living in a fast-paced society, is to head out into the countryside, rain or shine. Being in the wild will push you to the new limits, exploring the diverse world of rurality will broaden your experience, and you’ll be empowered by the ability to see how everything in our lives has a purpose.

We have always been fascinated by the rural roads we get to drive in Ireland as the unknowns that come with each trip provide a visceral sense of completeness.  Because a road trip to Connemara,  a beautiful and at times desolate area,  has been on the cards for way too long, last summer we set the sails towards southwestern Ireland.

Now, many months later, sitting in the front of the screen, I’m still searching for the right words to describe that trip to Connemara. All I know, for now, this trip has been so widely successful, I often talk about it with bright eyes.

And how can I not to! Connemara is a  wild expanse of land dotted with miles of peat bogs, dramatic peaks and beautiful white-sand beaches. It’s home to  The Twelve Bens and Connemara National Park.

In addition to beautiful scenery, we were treated with perfect weather conditions. The sun, the ocean and the warm summer breeze evoked lots of constructive emotions and contributed generously to the perfect summer road trip around one of the most scenic parts of Ireland!

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Picture-perfect Irish countryside.

 

 

Ireland travel guide: Top 9 things to see and do in beautiful Connemara

If you are planning on visiting Ireland in the future, then there is no better place where to see natural wonders and visit beautiful attractions than Connemara region.

In Connemara, you’ll get a chance to talk to the local people about how they spend their days, about the way they live and what they love. You’ll get a chance to rejuvenate and return home a much happier human being.

If your itinerary allows, we would recommend at least two full days to explore Connemara and soak up all the goodness. Below we listed some of the most amazing things to see and do in Connemara.

 

#1. Explore amazing beaches 

Connemara is known for its beautiful and secluded beaches. Dogs Bay, Coral Strand, Eyrephort Beach and Glassilaun Beac are just some of the visually striking ones, but there are many more. On a warm summers day, when the water is crystal clear, and the sun is out, expect to find beaches busy with kids running around and building sandcastles and with people enjoying beautiful surroundings.

After hiking adventures in Connemara National Park, we ended up on one of the most paradisiac beaches we have ever seen! The undulating lines between the infinite spectrum of the dark rocks and the lush green grass made me wanna go barefoot.

Solidarity of sleepy-looking coastal headland really stood out to us, and without much pondering, we quickly made it to the very top of it.

As we sat together in an idyllically blooming meadow, surrounded by wildflowers and with cows wandering just a few feet away, the splashing of the water sparked our curiosity. The day was bright and calm and much to our surprise, we spotted a couple of dolphins in the bay.

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Beautiful Connemara region, Ireland.

 

#2. Drive The Sky Road

The Sky Road is well worth the short drive for incredible views of the beautiful Clifden Town, Atlantic coast and its offshore islands; Inishturk and Turbot. Just like pretty much anywhere else in Ireland’s rural regions, the road is narrow in places, but with only 16 km in length, you have to drive it – it’s considered one of the best drives in all of Ireland.

The road is excellent quality, and along the route, you’ll find a couple of lookout points. And Connemaras largest town Clifden. Clifden is a very picturesque place with lots of cute shops and Irish pubs.

 

#3. Scale inviting mountain peaks

Diamond Hill is a 442m high mountain located in Connemara National Park, Letterfrack. The hike up Diamond Hill starts at the Visitor’s Centre and is one of the most incredible experiences in Ireland.  If you love exploring national parks and going on walks while seeing the beautiful scenery than here, you’ll have several options depending on how much time and energy you’ve got.

You can choose to go for a restorative and relaxing walk on the Lover Diamond Loop walk or test your physical conditions on a steeper yet more rewarding hike on the Upper Loop from where you can see Kylemore Abbey, Mweelrea to the North, Tully Mountain to the West and the Twelve Bens mountain range to the North.

The trails are well marked and easy to follow with a mix of dirt, gravel and boardwalk cover. The Upper trail is moderately difficult and combined with the Lower trail measures around 7 km in length.

  • Opening Times | Visitors centre facilities provide a free car park, toilets, cafe, exhibition and picnic area. The Park Grounds are open all year round, and Visitors Centre is open daily (except Christmas Day & St. Stephen’s Day).
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The summit is always a treat, especially when hiking in Connemara!

 

#4. Discover Connemaras islands

If time and weather permits, take a ferry to Insihbofin Island, located 10 kilometres off the coast near Clifden. The boat departs from Cleggan Pier, and the crossing takes up to 30 minutes, and once on the island, you’ll be greeted by rare flora and fauna, white sand beaches and a wealth of historical sites.

Once home to exile monks and fugitive pirates, today the beautiful island has a population of 200 full-time residents. In the summer month, there are three daily crossings and two during the winter. For ticket prices, updates and timetables, check the Inishbofin Ferry website.

If you don’t have enough time to go on a boat trip, you can stop by Derryclare Lough featuring Pine Island and take in one of the most beautiful views in Connemara.

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Beautiful Derryclare Lough is situated just 20 km east of Clifden, on the N59 Galway Road.

 

#5. Visit Kylemore Abbey 

One of Connemara’s jewels that are not be missed is Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Gardens. The Abbey, once a 19th-century manor house built by a wealthy doctor from Manchester,  is well preserved and beautifully restored and makes for a great day trip from Galway.

The entrance fee to the estate for an adult is Eur 14, and you’ll be able to see only four rooms on the ground floor, but it’s well worth to venture inside to hear the story and history of the place.

A short walk from Kylemore Abbey is a Gothic Church. It looks fairly small from outside, but once inside, you are in a different dimension. This little place is full of peace, love and tragedy.

Victorian Walled gardens are not too far away and having a walk instead of a bus ride gives you the opportunity to take tons of photos of surrounding peaks, old trees, lakes and all that greenness of Ireland.

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Kylemore Abbey is home to Benedictine nuns since 1920.

 

#6. Explore Connemara National Park

With only 20 square kilometres in size, Connemara National Park is one of Irelands six national pars that are covered in scenic boglands, grasslands, forests and heats. The Park first opened its doors to the public in 1980 when the privately owned land was donated to the government.

The parks and its visitor’s centre is free to visit, and you can stop by it to pick up maps and information on various walks and hikes. The Visitor’s Centre also houses several exhibits on natural history and  Tea Room, open every day from 9:30 am to 5 pm, is serving hearty soups and toasted sandwiches.

The entrance to the park and visitors centre is located near Letterfrack, and the most popular walk in the Park is Diamond Hill loop walk. Although the path is well maintained, you still need to bring proper footwear and rain gear. Once on the trail, keep your eyes open for unique flora, fauna and Connemara ponies.

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Early summer morning in Connemara National park, Ireland.

 

#7. See the Killary Fjord

Seeing Ireland’s only fjord that stretches out 16 kilometres from the Atlantic ocean, forming a natural border between County Galway and County Mayo, is a must when exploring Connemara. No matter what the weather, the scenery is lovely, and the views are spectacular.

The Killary Fjord is home to a vast range of marine mammals and at its deepest reaches to 45 metres. It’s also a place for mussel farms where blue shell mussels are grown and harvested.

An excellent way to see the fjord from a different perspective is to go on a Killary Fjord Boat Tour. You’ll get to see how the fjord weaves through the Park complementing the beautiful valley with its natural colours.

The tour departs from Nancy’s Point on the south side of the fjord which is only a short drive from Leenane and if you are lucky there’s a chance to see dolphins too.

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Breakfast time at Killary Fjord, Ireland.

 

#8. Visit Ashleigh Falls

Stumbling upon a beautiful place without expecting it is one of the best feelings. Situated a short drive from beautiful Leenane Village is Ashleigh Falls. To reach the picturesque setting, just head out northwest on R336 toward N59, past St. John Baptist Church and turn left onto R335. 

You can park on a lay-bay near the waterfall, and if you wish to see it up close, from the road, there’s a little pathway winding along the River Erriff that can bring you right to it. The waterfall itself is fairly small but very impressive at about 3.5 metres high.

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Ashleigh Falls on a rainy summers day.

 

#9. Explore Inagh Valley

The R344 road takes you through the beautiful Inagh Valley with the Maum Turk mountain range to the right, and the Twelve Bens to the left. You can bike, drive or even walk through the stunning scenery which is said to be one of the most picturesque in Connemara.

Keep your camera ready because every twist and turn on the road takes you closer to the Irish countryside scattered with turf tracks, glimmering lakes, plenty of sheep and heather-covered mountains.

You can even escape reality for a couple of nights and settle into idyllically located Lough Inagh Lodge that offers beautiful lake and mountain views. It’s where the Hollywood movie Marley and Me starring Jennifer Anniston and Owen Wilson was filmed. 

Driving past Ballynahinch Lough, keep your eyes open and you will see the ruins of the ‘castle on the lake’ which once served as a prison to those who had ill-treated animals.

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Hiking trough the Innagh Valley, reland.

 

How to get to Connemara

Beautiful Connemara, located in the northwest corner of County Galway, is known for its rugged beauty and vast landscape and is easily accessible from Galway and Dublin.

It may look fairly small on the map,  but due to country roads and the sheer amount of things to do, it’s best to plan everything accordingly and be on the road early.

  • Day tours | There are plenty of organized day tours both from Galway and Dublin to Connemara. Depending on the tour you choose you’ll get to see Lough Corrib, Cong, Galway City, Kylemore Abbey and more. Organized day tours from Dublin can depart as early as 6.30 am, so you have to be ready for a long, but memorable day.
  • By Car | The best way to reach Connemara and visit all the must-see sites is to rent a car and get a very early start to maximize your time in the area. Travelling from Dublin to Kylemore Abbey via M6 can take up to 4 hours one way and from Galway  – up to 1 h and 30 minutes.
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Kylemore Abbay is one of the must-see sites in Connemara, Ireland.

 

Where to stay in Connemara

If you wish to explore Connemara National Park than the best place to stay is in Letterfrack Village. You can also use Clifden as your base for exploring Connemara as it offers more accommodation options, guesthouses, B&B’s and the quaint Abbeyglen Castle Hotel.

Some of Ireland best camping and multi-award-winning campsites are located in Connemara. They might be a bit out of the way, but given the scenic locations, are well worth the drive. Clifden Eco Beach campsite is located on a white-sand beach and offers incredible mountain and ocean views.

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The colourful coastal views at Clifden Eco campsite in Connemara.

 

 

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Now, over to you!

Have you been to Connemara? Let us know in the comments below!

Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Connemara and have travel-related questions!

 

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Our Crossings follows the daily adventures of Latvian expats living in Sligo as they surf and explore the world

49 thoughts on “Ireland Travel Guide: Top 9 Things To See and Do in Beautiful Connemara

  1. Wow Aiva! Connemara is a beautiful place! With your description and valuable information I feel I’ve travelled there and I tell you when this madness is all over and I hope soon, I will travel to Ireland and with your articles I will truly enjoy all that wonderful island has to offer! Thank you for your precise and perfect information! Wishing you a wonderful day and a lovely week! May Ireland remain green and sunny and may we be free to roam our world as we used to. With love and well wishes from Mediterranean Spain, I wish you all the best,
    Francisco

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Francisco. Connemara is beautiful, wild and very traditional. A unique cultural heritage infuses everything from the food on your plate to the music beating out of pubs. Connemara is also a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) region, so you should practise a few words before your trip. I hope you get to visit Connemara and explore its beautiful inlets, islands, hiking trails and numerous shimmering lakes. Thanks for stopping by my friend. Wishing you lovely start of the week, may it bring lots of beautiful moments. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi! It looks like you had a wonderful trip:-) I am bookmarking this and putting the Conemara on my list of future destinations for a time when we can travel freely and safely. The nature looks spectacular! Thanks for your tips!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much. We loved our time spent in Connemara and were delighted to see so many beautiful sights in such a short space of time. Kylemore Abbey was a highlight of the trip, and I can only imagine how beautiful it looks in autumn. As remote and empty as Connemara might seem, there are, in fact, plenty of little villages and towns worth exploring. Clifden is the region’s major urban centre and makes for an excellent base to explore Connemara. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much. Connemara is a photographers and travellers dream. I have always been fascinated by The Emerald Isle and living here and seeing everything in person is a dream come true for me. Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day. Greetings from sunny Ireland. Aiva

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  3. Lovely photos just oozing tranquility. Connemara seems like an exceptionally beautiful place filled with a variety of scenic spots. Perfect for a holiday that alternates peaceful, relaxing days with adventure and exploration. All the best from Cambodia.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much. Situated in western Ireland, Connemara is a coastal district with stunning scenery and so much to see that you can easily spend weeks there without getting bored. Going on a hike and exploring its white sand beaches was plenty to makes us happy and content. Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my god, Aiva, these photos were so stunning! I definitely have to add Ireland to my travel list, and take a day or two for Connemara. I’m so busy associating UK and Ireland with architecture, rain, snow and typical cold terrain, that I sometimes forget that they’re also coastal and dotted with lovely beaches that seem to be out of my old Enid Blyton books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Arshia, great to hear from you! We took the day trip to Connemara from Sligo with many pit stops to enjoy the idyllic landscape, have a picnic or simply take in the beauty. There is much more to see than a blog post can cover, so I decided to cover the highlights. We loved hiking through the Inngah Valley and seeing the beautifully vast landscape. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day, my friend. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much. At this point, I would be happy to explore at least Ireland. There’s magic around every corner, and I hope you get to return to Ireland. If you ever need up near Sligo, let us know, I would be delighted to meet up and exchange notes on minimalism and hygge. Thanks for reading, and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love that you can hike and take in all those views along the entire trail! I’m used to hiking mountains in New England where you are mostly in the woods until the top where all the views are. Thanks for sharing your pics and info. This is such a great blog for those who travel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean, Pam. I grew up in a country where the highest peak is 300m, and my childhood was spent on flat ground. It was beautiful and made me happy, but once I saw a proper mountain peaks, I could not go back. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. There are many ways how to manage mental health while living in isolation and mine is writing about beautiful places worth seeing around Ireland and the rest of the world. I suppose it’s much better coping mechanism than eating two euro pizza from Centra and drinking every day. Cheers

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  6. Great post. Connemara is indeed beautiful. We skimmed the surface on our 1977 honeymoon and have never been back. Last year, we just missed it, heading from Maam Cross to Leenaun. I now know where we want to go when we come back. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Did you have a chance to take any photos during your honeymoon to Ireland? It must be amazing to come back after all those years and see the various changes.

      Connemara is riddled with rugged, untouched beauty. Although we were greeted with rainy and cold weather during the first part of our trip we felt blessed to see everything we had on our wish list, beautiful Kylemore Abbey including. Thanks for reading, Allan. It’s raining in Sligo, which was very much needed as the ground is dry, and we are spending the day inside making vegetarian lasagne and experimenting with watercolour. Have a lovely day; take care. Aiva

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    1. Thank you. Connemara is beautiful and inspiring and a pretty wild place too. Shimmering lakes, majestic mountains and tiny country roads are what make this area seem almost like you’re in a painting. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva

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  7. Looks wonderful! We are hoping for England, Scotland and Ireland in 2023! I know it’s a ways out, but we have a couple other places we want to see first, so one goal at a time!! Thanks for sharing! Great reference as always!! Lori

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We had so much fun exploring Connemara and its beautiful coast, and I’m happy we have these memories to look back on. We are hoping to visit many countries in the years to come too, but first, we plan on attending our family in friends in Latvia. It’s been a few months since we’ve seen them. Fingers crossed this pandemic ends soon. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Maggie, how are you today? Although the highest peaks in Ireland are in County Kerry near Killarney National Park, there are some beautiful mountains and hills in Connemara too. Most of the mountains in Connemara have no trails, and that’s where part of the charm is, so you have to have very good orienting skills to find your way around. Diamond Hill is our favourite as it provides some of the best views and workout all in one. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I have never been to Connemara but it looks so beautiful. Didn’t know that Ireland had any fjords! You learn something new everyday. I have been on some beautiful fjords in Norway. Hope you are all well. Our weather has turned very hot and the air conditioning is back on! K x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Killary Fjord and Harbour are near the village of Leenane, and it’s a sight to behold at any time of the year. It is a big inlet, and the scenery is quite lovely but not as you would imagine a fjord in Norway of the South Island of NZ. Seeing it with the fjord cruise boats would be an experience to remember. Thanks for reading, Kerry, and have a lovely day. The weather is still pleasantly warm, and the spring flowers are blooming in Ireland. Take care. Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. There is such a thing as an unimpressive scenery in Ireland and Connemara was no exception. We had a great time exploring it and would love to go back for more. I’ve never been on a Connemara marble tour but I now that Connemara Marble is Internationally Prized. Thanks for stopping by and take care. Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much. Connemara offers beautiful sites, good food and lots of activities, including cycling and hill walking and the beautiful landscape is an image you will have with you for many years to come. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The hiking in fabulous in Connemara and there are many fantastic hiking trails. For anyone seeking the ultimate Connemara walking challenge, the 55-kilometre (34.2-mile) Western Way, traversing through the Maumturk Mountains should stack up nicely. Being prepared for the weather is rule number one when it comes to hiking holidays, We also recommend you always check the forecast the week before you are due to travel so you can adjust your packing accordingly. Thanks for stopping by and take care. Aiva

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    1. I’m glad to hear you’ve seen the beautiful landscapes of Connemara! Connemara is one of our favourite places in Ireland, there are many unspoiled and remote stretches of soft white sands and calm water, there’s a Kylemore Abbey, and there’s also Derrugimlag Bog which is one of the oldest in Ireland. Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day. Aiva

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    1. Thank you very much. Connemara and Connemara National Park is a joy to explore. The purple moor grass which grows abundantly on the Connemaras rolling hills and beautiful white sand beaches make this part of Ireland unforgettable. Fingers crossed we can start exploring the world soon. Thanks for stopping by and stay safe. Aiva

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    1. Thank you very much. It’s so easy to fall in love with the country of endless fields painted in every shade of green. And when you add beautiful mountain views and fairytale worthy abbeys, Ireland starts to feel as magical as it can be. I would love to go back this summer. One more day left until we see where Ireland is heading during the pandemic crisis. Hopefully, the government is going to ease some of the restrictions. Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day. Aiva.

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    1. I would certainly love to go back too, preferably this summer, but who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow let alone in a month or so. Hopefully well see fewer and fewer people getting infected by the virus. The Irish government is to decide on a roadmap for reopening Ireland to “a new normal” tomorrow. So we are awaiting the news. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva

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    1. Thank you, Malin! Arriving in Connemara is like stepping in a dreamy scent, there are wildflowers bursting around every corner and rolling hills scattered with sheep. The food is fantastic, people are friendly, and it’s wild! Not much else is needed for a perfect holiday? Have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve never been to Connemara and I’m somewhat ashamed of that when I think of how many times I’ve been to Ireland and never bothered with it. Next time, with absolute certainty, I shall journey there and hope to see some of the gorgeous scenery you depict in your photographs. I never knew there were so many lakes there (eat your hear tout, Killarney). Thanks for a warming post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A trip to Connemara was one of the first ones I did once I moved to Ireland. Having been brought up in Latvia where the highest peak is mere 300m, I was eager to see mountains and went straight to Connemara and was impressed by everything I had a chance to see. I fell in love with the windswept and misty world dotted with traditional Irish villages and medieval abbeys. Wouldn’t hurt to go back once we are allowed to travel, but it doesn’t look promising. The numbers are still high in Ireland, and everything is on hold. Thanks for stopping by and take care. Aiva

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Daniel. Connemara creation is a picture-perfect place to explore in Ireland. You’ll find plenty of beaches, rolling hills and a wealth of history. Have a good day. Aiva

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