- 4 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 4 Dinners
Dubbed a place of "savage beauty" by Oscar Wilde the Connemara lets you experience authentic Ireland. On coastal hills walks take in views of soaring mountains, clear turquoise waters and rare flora and fauna.
Killary Harbour, carved by glaciers, it’s been described as Ireland´s only true fjord. It forms the border between Galway and Mayo counties and features some of the most spectacular scenery on the west coast. This deep-water inlet from the Atlantic was once a hiding place for U-boats in World War Two. The sheltered fjord is also a real treat for birdwatching, with nationally important populations of many species, including ringed plover, mute swan, whooper swan, mallard duck, tufted duck, and barnacle goose. Dolphins are often seen in the fjord, along with otters, a protected species that are known to breed at Killary Harbour.
Breathtaking mountain vistas provide a dramatic backdrop for Leenane, a town nestled beside the water at the head of the fjord. In 1903, Leenane played host to King Edward VIII and Queen Alexandra when they made a tour of Connemara including a visit to nearby Kylemore. Visit the Sheep and Wool Centre in the town centre that includes an excellent museum featuring the history of sheep farming and the woollen industry in Connemara, along with a gift shop and café.
Connemara is Irish landscape at its most dramatic. With soaring mountains, scattered loughs and an intricate coastline, this remote part of Galway offers superb hiking. Stretch out your legs on the Killary Harbour Coastal Walk, also known as the ‘Famine Trail’, where you’ll walk past little cottages that faced extremely gruelling times during the 1840s. In recent times, Killary Harbour has become a centre for aquaculture, with mussels being farmed in the deep, clear waters of the fjord. Fish cages belonging to a salmon farm and mussel rafts are a prominent feature. This spectacular walk offers views of dramatic Mweelrea Mountain towering at your side.
Hiking Connemara National Park
Diamond Hill Loop Walk (7 km / 4.3 mi). Grading: Difficult
Your starting point is the visitor centre at the Connemara National Park. There are gravel footpaths and wooden boardwalks on the approach to the mountains, with a steady climb up the western slopes to the summit ridge. The trail offers blanket bog ecology, extensive heather, stunning views of the mountains, Inishturk, Inishbofin and Inishshark islands and coastline and the possibility of wildlife.
To the north and east, the Twelve Bens are nothing short of sensational. To the northeast, Kylemore Abbey’s gothic turrets stand out from neighbouring Kylemore Lough; and directly north, the summit of Mweelrea, Connaught’s highest mountain, can be seen peeping out. There are some steep sections that require the use of hands. Terrain includes stone steps, trail, and surfaced minor road. It can be quite windy on top so bring appropriate clothing.
For those after an easier and shorter hike, the Lower Diamond Hill trail is an excellent option. It’s a 3 km / 1.9 mi, with a duration of 1.0 -1.5 hours. The walk offers some fantastic views of the surrounding Connemara countryside, coastline and islands. Two other shorter walks starting from the visitor centre are also available if you’re after easier options.
Connemara Islands. Scattered out in the harsh Atlantic, these islands have been shaped by the sheer force of the ocean. Experience gaelic culture and remnants of life long lost in modern Ireland. Land and explore numerous abandoned or sparsely populated islands off the Connemara coast.
Given the moniker “The Enchanted Island”, Inishboffin is set in the wild splendour of Connemara amid the magical beauty of sea, cliffs and mountains that make up the Galway-Mayo coastline. With its westerly position and its protected harbour, Inishbofin was one of the most important shipping havens on the West coast of Ireland. It was one of the last Royalist strongholds to fall to Cromwell’s army. The ruins of Cromwell’s impressive star-shaped fort from 1656 still overlook the harbour. Inishbofin is also home to “Dún Gráinne”, the remains of a fort used by the legendary Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley from neighbouring County Mayo. It is also home to a second Celtic fort which dates all the way back to 1000 B.C.
The island is a breeding area for many bird species, the rarest or most threatened of which is the corncrake. Other species include common tern, Arctic tern, fulmars, shags, guillemots, various gulls, Manx shearwaters, and choughs. Inishbofin offers three looped walks, all with stunning views of the Islands beautiful scenery and birdlife.
Westquarter Loop (2hrs – 2.5 hours)
The Westquarter loop takes in some of the most stunning Atlantic Coast scenery in Connemara offering views of the Island’s blow holes and sea arch, sea stags where the Island seal colony can be seen, the Dún More Cliffs and Iron Age promontory fort ruins. The walk also offers views of Inishark Island.
Cloonamore Loop (2hrs – 2.5 hours)
The Cloonamore Loop runs over green roads, bog roads and laneways along the beautiful East End Beach and St. Colman’s 14th Century Chapel and Church Lough. You can experience a fertile valley which supports reed beds that support a wide variety of birds.
Inishbofin Middlequarter Loop (1.5 – 2 hours)
This walk runs over Inishbofin’s second highest point, which on a clear day offers panoramic views of Achill Island’s mountains, Inishturk and Clare Island, the Twelve Bens, Maumturks and Croagh Patrick. The trail takes in Inishbofin’s historic and varied Iron and Bronze Age landscapes with mill stones, partitions and evidence of round stone houses.
Perhaps the most famous of Ireland’s isles, Galway’s Aran Islands are synonymous with traditional Irish culture, language, music and tradition. Famed for their wild landscapes, distinctive knitted jumpers and pretty thatched cottages, the picturesque Aran Islands never fail to impress visitors. The islands form part of one of Ireland’s several protected Gaeltacht regions where Irish rather than English is the spoken language.
Inishmore (Inis Mór) is the largest of the Aran Islands and has been attracting visitors to its rugged shores for generations. The island is home to over 50 different monuments of Christian, pre-Christian and Celtic mythological heritage. The geology is an extension of the famous limestone rocks of The Burren, where limestone pavements crisscrossed with grikes, host a plethora of, often extremely rare, wild flowers such as gentian violets and orchids. The landscape of Inishmore is a patchwork of fields hemmed in by precariously balanced drystone walls.
Explore Inishmore, including a visit to the island's most celebrated monument, Dún Aonghusa, considered to be one of the best examples of its kind in Europe. Occupying a site of 14 acres, Dún Aonghusa is a fort that consists of three terraced walls surrounding an inner enclosure containing a platform on the edge of a 100-m / 300-ft high cliff. The views from it are breathtakingly spectacular. Excavations carried out in the 1990s indicated that people had been living at the hill top from c.1500 BC with the first walls and dwelling houses being erected c. 1100 BC. A remarkable network of defensive stones known as a Chevaux de Frise surrounds the whole structure.
Late Bronze Age objects such as rings, tools, beads and foodstuffs found on site are now in Dublin’s National Museum. Archaeologists and scholars from all over the world visit the site annually, and some scholars suggest that the platform overlooking the Atlantic Ocean may have had ritual significance. The Dun Aonghasa Visitor Centre is located on the edge of Kilmurvey Craft Village and provides a wealth of information about Dun Aonghasa, the cliffs, and the Aran Islands in general. It has a number of exhibits and educational materials which are set out in a simple way as so most people can get a good understanding of Dun Aonghasa prior to entering the site itself.
You have the option of reaching Dún Aonghasa from the pier at Kilronen village by bicycle (6 km / 3.7 mi) or by coach.
From Dún Aonghasa, you can walk to the Worm Hole, a natural rectangular shaped pool into which the ocean ebbs and flow at the bottom of the cliffs south of Dún Aonghasa. The Worm Hole has recently become more popular since it has become a venue for the Red Bull Cliff diving competition. From Dún Aonghasa the walk to the Worm Hole follows the cliff-edge and offers dazzling ocean views. Back at Kilronan village, where the ship awaits, you can brave a chilly swim in the turquoise water, people watch, or you relax and enjoy a coffee or a pint of Guinness.