Things to do in Connemara

A true haven in the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way

There is a place in the west of Ireland that unites beautiful beaches, mysterious bogland and quaint towns. It’s also where you’ll find the only fjord in the country, rich biodiversity and some of the most wonderful mountain scenery going. Connemara may be small, but it sure is mighty. Discover Connemara and find out about things to do and visit this stunning area.

Breathtaking scenery awaits at every turn in Connemara
Breathtaking scenery awaits at every turn in Connemara. Photo: Tourism Ireland

Clifden - the capital of Connemara

Situated just a stone’s throw from Galway, Connemara is a haven of peace and quiet. The picturesque town of Clifden is regarded as Connemara’s capital. Its vibrant atmosphere makes it a top destination when visiting Connemara. Located between the Twelve Bens mountains and the Atlantic Ocean it actually makes a great base during your trip to Connemara.

The town is great for shopping and exploring the arts and crafts shops scattered throughout. You will also love the food scene in Clifden. Hosting numerous award-winning restaurants and cafe you can look forward to tasting amazing coffee and being served fresh and local menus for dinner. After that choose one of the many pubs with live music – Clifden is expert at trad sessions. If you are flexible with your dates try to visit Clifden during one of its many festivals. My tip: The Arts Festival in September that gathers musicians, artists and poets to the town as well as street theatre. If you like to be quite active during your holiday definitely try out the Sky Road Route that you can tackle by bike or simply by walking. From the top of the road you will get stunning views across the ocean, the islands and the town and gives you a scenic overview about this part of Connemara.

Connemara National Park

One of 6 national parks in Ireland, Páirc Naisiúnta Chonamara is a true haven for anyone looking to re-connect with the great outdoors. Spanning almost 3,000 hectares, you’ll find everything from sweeping mountain vistas to small islands strewn along the coast. Add to that the rich biodiversity and thriving culture and you’ve got a winner on your hands.

From Clifden, Connemara National Prak is only a very short drive away. The Twelve Bens that you’ve already seen from Clifden are all located within the National Park. It’s an outdoorsy’s person’s dream. The wildlife is stunning and the park hosts types of birds. Follow one of the nature trails to explore the different routes. Start in the visitor centre located close to the town of Letterfrack – there the staff will happily help you to chose the perfect trail for you. At the tea room in the national park, you can take your break and either enjoy your packed lunch on the broad picnic area or treat yourself to the deli menu. If you travel with kids, there is also a playground at the tea room. Admission for the whole park is free!

Kylemore Abbey

Being one of Ireland’s most famous attractions, you might not even have visited it. It truly is an enchanting place. when you make your way through the Connemara roads suddenly this postcard picture appears in front of you and you have this stunning view across Pollacapall Lough to Kylemore Abbey. The building blends in so beautifully into the lush green hills sheltering it from behind. And even though the abbey itself is quite small you can easily spend half a day there. The building dates back to 1868, when it built as a castle. In the early 20th century it was taken over by Benedictine nuns from Belgium who have created this beautiful space not only in the abbey but also have so well looked after its surroundings.

The actual highlight, if you ask me, is Kylemore’s Walled Garden. You can stroll up to it from the abbey and take in the magical atmosphere of this incredible 6-acre garden that the nuns have re-created just a couple of decades ago to open it to the public. Apart from the garden you can also take a longer stroll around the lake or explore the woodland paths around the abbey. Children will love the little fairy garden and there are plenty of freshly-cooked lunch and dinner opportunities with Mitchell’s Café, Express Coffee Shop & Tea House.

The Islands

Only a 30-minute ferry ride brings you to Inishbofin Island. If you love water sports and are interested in the history of the island you won’t be disappointed. Landscapes that date back to the Bronze Age over the 7th century monastery and a chuches that was built in the 13th. Explore the island through one of its Loops: Middlequarter, Westquarter and Cloonamore offer stunning views across the sea, and give you a great impression of the island. Try to visit Inishbofin during the summer months where there will be loads of music and arts festivals on.

Much smaller but definitely not less picturesque, is Omey Island that you can actually walk to on low tide – simply follow the signs in the sand from Claddaghduff … Omey island is surrounded by An Cruach, (Cruach), Ard Oilean (High Island) and Oilean na mBráthar (Friar Island), who shelter the island from the strong Atlantic swells. In the middle of the one square mile broad island you can either walk along the beach or turn inland to find St. Feichin’s Church, a buried medieval church and St Feichin’s Well, holy water that is supposed to have healing powers.

Aerial view of Inishbofin, Co. Galway, Ireland.
Aerial view of Inishbofin, Co. Galway, Ireland.

Leenane & Killary Harbour

A great stop on your Connemara Trip is Leenane, located in the 16km long fjord Killary Harbour. The small village is a popular starting point for hill walks and mountain hikes as the place is surrounded by Ben Gorm, Mweelrea, Maumturk, Sheefry and Twelve Ben mountain ranges. It’s perfect for all levels, whether you want to keep it a relaxed stroll and walk along the water or try out one of the challenging routes up onto the hills and mountains. The Killary Adventure Centre also organises bungee jumping and cliff diving. Of course water sport are also very popular here, so you can see Leenane is your place if you’re an outdoorsy person.

Plan your adventure in Connemara

The breathtaking natural beauty of Connemara makes me want to just keep coming back again and again! With amazing panoramas at every turn, it’s best to take your time and really let the majesty sink in.

What’s more, you can combine a trip to Connemara with a mini city break in buzzing Galway. Or if you want to be in the heart of the action, Clifden is the perfect base from which to explore the region. I’ve always got my eyes peeled for breaks across the Wild Atlantic Way so be sure to keep checking back to stay up-to-date with my most recent deals!

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