Traditional music is alive and kicking on this
two-day tune-filled itinerary of Ireland’s west coast
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The Wild Atlantic Way is the longest defined coastal driving route in the world, with a spellbinding mix of exhilarating ocean panoramas and enchanting little villages. Following Ireland’s Atlantic west coast, this colossal 2,500km route weaves around wave-lashed peninsulas and through chestnut-coloured bog. It stuns with soaring sea cliffs and castle ruins. From moments of quiet beauty on golden beaches to thrilling experiences in traditional music pubs, here are our top picks of musical-themed highlights to enjoy along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Let Galway be your base from where to explore the Wild Atlantic Way. A vibrant bohemian city, Galway invites you to uncover its rich medieval history as you meander the cobbled streets of the Latin Quarter. You’ll be sure to pass a lively mix of buskers (it’s where a 13-year-old Ed Sheeran plied his trade), and brightly coloured family-run businesses.
Unveil the culinary secrets of Galway City, a foodie’s destination in Ireland. Join a walking food tour of Galway, which brings you on a culinary adventure where you can sample a range of produce from oysters to cheese, sushi to crab and doughnuts to strawberry tarts, as well as local beers and much more. Galway’s famous food culture is explored over a morning and will include an unforgettable trip to the now famous Galway Market (Sat-Sun), and visits to award-winning restaurants and cafés.
Book an Irish Dance class at the Thatched Cottage, a unique experience in the only thatched cottage in the fishing village of The Claddagh. Experience Irish traditional dance in the way it was shared in the past. During the hour-long class, you will learn a few basic steps and moves from sean-nós (old style) and Irish step dancing, followed by some background history of traditional Irish dancing and music. It starts with a short tour of the thatched cottage followed by the dancing.
Settle in by a glowing turf fire for “craic agus ceol” (fun and music) in a traditional pub for some Irish music after dinner. We suggest visiting Taaffes, a 150-year-old pub where the trad music permeates the premises day and night. Located in the heart of Shop Street, many Irish musicians have cut their teeth there, including all time trad legend Sharon Shannon. Try the no-nonsense pub grub for dinner at the mahogany bar while the players tune up. After a few songs here, you can walk a few meters to visit another traditional music temple, Tig Cóilí, just off Shop Street and one of Ireland’s best traditional music venues. The twice daily sessions at Tig Cóilí are so famous that when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wanted to hear some good trad music during their 2020 visit, they came here. The walls of this cosy pub are plastered with pictures of those who’ve played here, including Paul Brady and Frankie Gavin.
Stay at the Twelve Hotel – it boasts a spa, fine dining, and a bakery on site just outside of the city centre.
You’ll be spoiled for scenic choice at Connemara National Park, which stretches across 2,957 hectares – roughly the size of 2,400 football pitches. It takes in four of the famous Twelve Bens mountains, huge expanses of bogs, grasslands, and woodlands, and it’s a birdwatcher’s delight. Three different unmissable trails offer something for every fitness level; or during the summer you can take advantage of guided walks. It is also home to some of some of the finest Irish artisans and crafts makers.
After your morning stroll, fill your camera as you prepare to visit Kylemore Abbey, an iconic castle mirrored in a Connemara Lake. Home to Benedictine Nuns (as well as Connemara ponies) and nestled among rocky mountains, the 1000-acre estate contains a Neo Gothic church, Victorian walled garden and giant’s
Round off your morning with a visit to the workshop of Malachy Kearns, a bodhrán maker from
Roundstone, and learn how to create and play this Irish drum instrument.
Choose a pick-up point to start your Connemara Pub Tour. This experience will take you on a 5-to-6-hour whirlwind tour through beautiful Connemara villages, while stopping off at four different hostelries on route to sample the best food and/or drink Connemara has to offer. The atmosphere and unique character of the Connemara Pub is something special – enjoy a pint or a bowl of seafood chowder, listen to stories from the bartender, or sing a song with Irish musicians and test your dancing skills with local Irish dancers!
Back in Galway city, dine out at Quay Street Kitchen, a cosy little restaurant that’s popular with locals, which offers an impressive range of seafood and vegetarian dishes.
Save some energy to visit other Galway City pubs for more traditional Irish music. The Crane Bar is a
brightly painted corner pub in Galway’s West End. The spontaneous sessions downstairs encourage dropins and amateurs, while upstairs the performances command a spine-tingling attention. Then, you can walk to the nearby Róisín Dubh (that’s ‘little black rose’ to the Gaeilgeoirs), one of the best-known music and comedy venues on the island of Ireland. In an unassuming black and red pub alongside the Eglinton Canal, it always draws big crowds and even bigger names. Alumni include comedians Jack Whitehall and Kevin Bridges, as well as acts as diverse as Toots & the Maytals, Steve Earle and De La Soul.
If you can stay one more day, devote it to exploring the spectacular Cliffs of Moher and The Burren in County Clare. The Burren and Cliffs of Moher were given UNESCO Global Geopark status in 2011. The staggering Cliffs of Moher are not to be missed as Ireland’s most visited natural attraction. They stretch for 8km (5 miles) and reach 214m (702 feet) at their highest point north of O’Brien’s Tower, where you can enjoy unrivalled views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Visit The Burren to experience its enthralling beauty, with limestone pavements and curious rock
formations. The distinctive region has a unique ecosystem, with rare native Irish plants and flowers.
Wander through the narrow passages of the underground caves in The Burren National Park and be
enthralled by waterfalls, stalactites, and stalagmites. Explore fascinating fairy forts and stone dolmens dotted across the karst landscape of The Burren.
This is a sample itinerary to offer suggestions and ideas for planning trips. You can contact your local
Tourism Ireland representative for further information.