This tour takes in the coastline from Mayo, through Galway and onto Clare.
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From the mountainous bog of Erris to the weathered appeal of Connemara, as the Wild Atlantic Way skims the coastline from Mayo to Galway it passes huge bays backed by rolling hills and rocky mountains. The largest of these – Clew Bay – is said to have an island for each day of the year, from Clare Island, ancestral home of pirate queen Grace O’Malley to the private island of Inishturkbeg. In County Galway, the landscape changes with tobacco-coloured hills, desolate valleys and dry-stone walls criss-crossing the fields. No wonder Oscar Wilde dubbed it “a savage beauty”. As the Wild Atlantic Way sweeps into County Clare, cool, grey rock meet west-coast warmth at the Burren, drama looms large at the Cliffs of Moher, and the natural spectacle of Loop Head beckons.
Please Note: This is a sample itinerary to offer suggestions and ideas for planning trips, you can contact your local Tourism Ireland representative for further information. Any mention of specific product on this site is meant to be used only as an example and does not represent an endorsement of that product by Tourism Ireland.
Nearest airports: Knock Ireland West Airport; Shannon Airport; Dublin Airport
Days: 5 (tour can be customised to 2, 3 or 4 days, as required)
Achill Island, Co. Mayo
Westport Town, Co. Mayo
Distance: Approximately 137km
Linked to the mainland by a bridge, Achill Island is a place of mountainous beauty and quiet beaches in secluded bays. Keem Strand with its sea cliffs, stone-flecked mountains and pretty arc of powdery sand is one of the most beautiful. On the way here, stop at the now-famous beach of Dooagh – which hit world headlines when it reappeared after an absence of over 30 years in 2017. On the southern slopes of Slievemore, the Deserted Village stands as a testament to “booley” – the old practice of living in different locations in summer and winter. Achill is thought to have been one of the last places in Europe to continue this tradition and the collection of tumbledown stone cottages is a haunting reminder of the past.
Stop at Pure Magic at The Lodge Achill, close to the Deserted Village.
The town of Westport is a delight, with its tree-lined streets, graceful Georgian architecture and buzzy traditional pubs, full of warmth and wit. Just on the edge of town, Westport House is a fine old country house with a pirate adventure park on its grounds. A variety of group tours are available, from a guided tour of the house to an “after-hours” experience and sheep-herding displays. For information on rates and options, contact email@example.com or telephone +353 98 561 117.
Overnight at Knockranny House Hotel in Westport.
Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo
Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Co. Galway
Distance: Approximately 90km
The drive from Westport into Connemara takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery that the island of Ireland has to offer. The the road passes Croagh Patrick mountain, where St Patrick is said to have fasted for 40 days in 441AD. The visitor centre here provides information on the history and archaeology of Croagh Patrick, and is located opposite the National Famine Monument. Leaving County Mayo and heading to County Galway, the route cuts through the awe-inspiring Doo Lough Valley. This vast, desolate valley is shrouded in brown and green tones and winds down to picture-perfect Killary, one of Ireland’s only fjords, where there is an option to take a 90-minute sightseeing boat tour with Killary Fjord Boat Tours.
Lunch at Kylemore Abbey in Mitchell’s Café or the Tea House by the Walled Garden.
With a fantastically pretty location overlooking a gently rippling lake, Kylemore Abbey is one of the most iconic places in Ireland and has been home to Benedictine nuns since 1920. It’s a magnificent spot to while away a few hours, wandering from the restored rooms of the abbey, to the quiet magnificence of the Victorian Walled Garden and the waterside Gothic church. Discounted rates and guided tours are available for groups. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Before you come into Clifden, stop to stretch your legs at Connemara National Park, with wonderful walking trails of all lengths. There are also tea rooms on site.
Overnight at the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel in Clifden, the beating heart of Connemara with great restaurants and pubs.
Roundstone Harbour, Co. Galway
Enjoying a traditional music session, Galway
Distance: Approximately 103km
Heading to Galway, the road passes through Derrigimlagh Bog – a mysterious natural tapestry of tiny lakes and coffee-coloured peat. The remains of the world’s first permanent transatlantic radio station, built by the Marconi Company, can be found here, along with a monument to Alcock and Brown, who piloted the first non-stop transatlantic flight, which ended by crashing into the bog – surprisingly without injury. Stop at the quaint villages of either Ballyconneely and Roundstone before heading to Galway city.
Lunch at John Keogh’s The Lock Keeper gastropub in Galway city.
With a young, lively population, a bohemian spirit and a very Irish heart, Galway city is a must-see, thanks to its small cobbled lanes, cosy pubs and great seaside location. A walking tour of the city is the best way of uncovering the many secrets Galway keeps tucked away, and Galway Tours (www.galwaytours.ie) offer 90-100 minute tours for groups of six or more. A traditional music session should not be missed while you’re here, and pubs such as Taaffe’s, Tig Cóilí and Tigh Fox Trad House all offer nightly music.
Overnight in the Harbour Hotel, right on the waterfront.
Poulnabrone Dolmen, The Burren, Co. Clare
Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare
Distance: Approximately 99km
Heading south out of Galway city, County Clare beckons with its grey stone landscape and warm, friendly villages. Passing through the village of Ballyvaughan, the Burren unfolds with vast stretches of limestone karst pavements that tumble down to the Atlantic Ocean. The Aillwee Cave is not far from the village. An eerie underworld of caverns, waterfalls and rock formations, the 30-minute tour here is unforgettable. At the Aillwee Cave Farmshop, the award-winning Burren Gold Cheese is available for purchase. Close to the cave is the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a massive Neolithic portal tomb surrounded by stone and the pretty flowers of the Burren. Or detour to the Burren Perfumery, with cosmetics and fragrances inspired by this extraordinary region.
Just outside the town of Lisdoonvarna, the Burren Smokehouse is a great way to get an insight into the ancient tradition of smoking fish. Group bookings are available all year round, and the shop on site sells their award-winning organic Irish smoked salmon, Irish smoked mackerel and Irish smoked trout, as well as local gourmet and organic foods.
Stop at Gus O’Connor’s pub in the famous music village of Doolin for a lunch of beef and Guinness stew or baked Atlantic salmon.
Stretching 8km along the coast of County Clare, the Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most famous visitor attractions, and are an epic sight to behold. Waves crash below, seabirds whirl above and paths wind along the cliff-edge with photo opportunities all the way. The cliffs, along with the Burren, form part of a UNESCO Global Geopark and the visitor centre is the touchpoint for information on the geology, history and wildlife of the area. A Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience, Guided Cliff Walk and Cruise is available with local guide, Pat Sweeney. Visit www.cliffsofmoher.ie for prices and booking.
Overnight at the Lahinch Golf and Leisure Hotel.
Foynes Boat Museum, Foynes, Co. Limerick
Loop Head Lighthouse, Kilkee, Co. Clare
Distance: Approximately 190km
Loop Head Peninsula is a narrow slice of land that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean and brims with drama, history and bleak coastal scenery. Bounded on one side by the raging Atlantic and on the other by the Shannon Estuary, at its very tip the Loop Head Lighthouse stands silent guard over magical ocean views. On to Carrigaholt, home to Europe’s largest group of bottlenose dolphins, who play in the waters at the mouth of the River Shannon. Dolphinwatch Boat Trips run boat trips to visit this group of 200 dolphins, accompanied by marine scientists who provide a running commentary. Charter boats and group prices are available on request. Phone +353 65 905 8156 to make a booking.
Stop at Crotty’s in Kilrush for lunch; for bookings, email email@example.com
The origins of the famous Irish coffee are detailed at the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum – a fascinating and eccentric museum in County Limerick filled with historical exhibits and memorabilia. The Irish coffee was invented in 1942 by chef Joe Sheridan at Foynes Port, where planes en route from Europe to America would stop to refuel. There are huge replica flying boats at the museum; flight simulators and an authentic 1940s cinema. Group rates and special packages are available, some that even include a glass of Irish coffee!
Overnight at the family-run Cliff House Hotel in Ballybunion, above scenic Ballybunion Beach.
This is a sample itinerary to offer suggestions and ideas for planning trips. You can contact your local Tourism Ireland representative here for further information. Please note, any mention of specific product on this itinerary is meant to be used only as an example and does not represent an endorsement of that product by Tourism Ireland.