Brigit’s Garden is the ultimate family day out for those who love nature, the outdoors and a bit of Irish heritage. The kids will have their imaginations run wild, while they explore the wonderful gardens, wildflower meadows and woods. This is a truly special experience on the edge of Connemara and a real hidden gem in Galway.
The Gap of Dunloe is an unbelievably scenic pass near Killarney, winding its way between Ireland’s largest mountain range – the Macgillycuddy reeks – and the purple mountain. It’s a landmark that must be visited on any trip to Killarney. If you ask me, this drive is more breathtaking than the nearby famous Ring of Kerry. Come on, a winding narrow road meandering its way through the mountains. You’ll pass over old stone bridges, you’ll see lakes, mountains and multi-coloured sheep (yep really), ginormous boulders strewn across the landscape and noisy streams. Ahhhh bliss wouldn’t ya say?! Visiting the Gap of Dunloe is a must on a trip to Kerry, and should take one of the top spots on your Ireland Bucketlist.
Visiting old ruins in Ireland is something I really enjoy doing. I find them so mysterious. My imagination runs wild trying to picture what life was like there. Afterward, I love looking into the history of these places. I get sentimental for all these places I’ve never been and lives I have not lived. Clifden Castle is one of these places. It is absolutely beautiful and can only fantasize about how good it looked in its day. If you’re in Clifden or Connemara in General, why not take a look?
Clifden Castle is a young gothic castle and came to be in 1818. The castle was home of John D’arcy, the founder of Clifden town. It can be found on the scenic Sky Road drive in Galway, just 3 km outside of the town and if you ask me – it’s worth a visit!
The History of Clifden Castle – Magical Castle in County Galway
The castle was built in 1818. It was built for John D’arcy and his family and was a gothic style castle overlooking the Atlantic ocean. It seems John had a thing for history, as this he built the castle to look like an Irish castle from hundreds of years previous. In addition, he also added standing stones to mimic the many megalithic relics around the country.
As well as the castle, he owned an estate across Connemara over 17,000 acres. John had dreams of improving the lives of those in the area. As most of you will know, Connemara is a pretty desolate region. It was even more so back then. This is why he created Clifden town, which is just 3 km from the castle. It’s nice to know that by the time of his death he had achieved this. He had established Clifden which still stands as the friendly and charming tourist town we know today.
After his death in 1839, he left the castle and estate to his son. However, within a decade it sold again. Due to the Great Famine, his son Hyacinth could not afford to keep the castle.
The castle was purchased and became a holiday home to the Eyres. They were an English family who bought the castle and the town. They lived here until almost 1920s after which, the valuables were sold.
From here the history of the castle becomes quite crazy. A local butcher -Joyce- bought the land to use for his cattle. Although this caused an uproar in the region. A number of small farmers wanted to purchase the land to expand their farms. Things got a bit out of hand as they barricaded Joyce from the land and replaced his herd with their own. Joyce finally sold the land as the locals repeatedly drove his animals away. It was decided up by the farmers and anything left in the castle was stripped and sold, including the roof and rafters. As you can imagine, once the roof was gone it very quickly became a ruin. Now just an empty shell on the landscape which still stands today.
It always makes me sad to see a building like this left to ruin. I’d imagine it was an amazing home back in its day.
Directions to Clifden Castle
Clifden castle is very easy to find. It’s in Galway, on the Sky Road Drive. Just 3 km west of Clifden along the coast. In addition, there is a sign for it and you can’t miss the castle walls and gate at the entrance. You can’t actually see the castle from the road here but there are great views of it along the Sky road Drive.
Visiting the Castle
You can only visit the castle on foot. Although, there is a small parking area at the gates. I wouldn’t exactly call it a car park people essentially just abandon ship along the road. From the gates, it is a short walk down a narrow lane. The castle emerges around a corner and even as a ruin, it is an impressive building – although not old at all in terms of the majority of Irish Castles.
The castle has no fee for entry. Truth be told, it is on private land. It is on land owned by a few locals but it appears most of them have no objection to visiting the grounds. However, they do not want people to enter the building. The ruins could be unstable so it is understandable they do not wish to be liable for any injury.
You can walk around the grounds to the back of the property. This is where you’ll get the best view of the castle I think. With the ivy-covered walls and an entrance to the castle.
There is a huge drop inside the front entrance of the castle as the floor is gone, so be careful.
Because it’s not widely advertised as an attraction in the area, it tends to be really quiet there. Perfect for those looking for hidden gems off the beaten track!
You may notice some standing stones on your exploration. John D’arcy had these added to resemble other standing stones around Ireland.
- There is no historical information at the castle so research before or after
- No fee
- It is on private property so be respectful
- As mentioned, the owners do not want people to go inside as they could be held responsible for any injury on the property (which I don’t think is fair if you are entering voluntarily you should not be holding the owners responsible). If you are entering be very careful and respectful.
Other things to do in Clifden or nearby:
- The Sky Road Drive
- Clifden Town
- Diamond Hill
- John D’arcy Memorial – I think after visiting the castle, it’s nice to visit the memorial built for John D’arcy. It is up a short hike on a hill overlooking Clifden town. Known for the best views of Clifden.
Clifden Castle ticket prices?
This attraction isn’t a public attraction. It is privately owned, with no guided tours or anyone present at the building. There is no fee or charge to visit. However, the area is owned by multiple landowners and as a result, some are less eager to have people visit than others. You may be asked to leave the property and it is advised that you do not enter the castle. As it is not being specifically used as a tourist attraction, it is not stabilized.
Are there guided tours of the building?
No. You may walk down the lane and look at the castle but there are no staff or facilities there. If a landowner comes along and asks you to leave they are in their right to do so.
Is Clifden Castle Haunted?
During the famine, the surrounding tenants gathered at the castle begging for food and work. In the region huge numbers of people starved to death. Some people like to think the castle is haunted by the poor souls who were ravished by starvation and perished during the Great Famine. However, while I was there I didn’t get any spooky vibes.
Final Thoughts on Clifden Castle
It’s sad to hear learn how a magnificent castle can fall to ruin. Clifden Castle is one such story. I absolutely loved visiting the grounds and getting to see this what is left of the building. It’s in a stunning area of Connemara and just along the Sky road. Definitely worth a visit.
The following links have some more information on this place.
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The Sky Road drIve is considered to be one of the most beautiful drives in Ireland. Although let’s be clear, there are countless beautiful drives in Ireland! But, Sky Road definitely one of the most memorable in the Connemara region. The loop, starting and finishing in Clifden (Galway), gives wide-open views of the rugged coastline and nearby Islands of Inishturk and Turbot.
So, whether you’re planning on driving, cycling or walking the Sky road, keep reading for all you need to know:
Sky Road Drive Clifden
About the Sky Road Loop
How Long is the Sky Road route & where does it start?
The sky road loop is 15 km from start to finish. As mentioned already, it starts and ends in Clifden, which is known to some as Connemara’s Capital Town. The route is well signposted and will take you west of this friendly town and out along the coastline.
The road winds out as far as Kingstown Peninsula and veers right, eventually joining up with the N59, taking you back to Clifden again.
There are two routes on this Clifden Drive. Just a couple of km into the route (heading clockwise), you will be met with a decision. Just passed Clifden castle there is a divide in the road. You can take either the Lower Sky or Upper Sky Road. This is completely up to you but my advice is – take the Upper Road!
The Lower Sky Road
The lower route brings you much closer to the coast. However, because you are lower down you won’t get the same expansive views. You will also miss the best part of the drive – the viewpoint on the upper road.
The Upper Sky Road
In my opinion, the upper route is the one you want to take. It runs much higher in the landscape – as the name gives away! On this stretch, you will get a sweeping view over the coastline as well as nearby islands and the rest of the land. You will also pass the Wild Atlantic Way viewpoint by taking this route.
Further on the route, the two roads join up again and will continue on the coast back to the N59. Once you hit this national road, it is a short journey back to Clifden.
Places to Note on the Sky Road Drive
Clifden is known by some as the Capital of Connemara. This town in Galway is popular with tourists for its location in Connemara as well as it’s many pubs, restaurants, and cute shops. I love having a look around the quaint craft shops and galleries that are always dotted across tourist towns. In Clifden, my absolute favourite shops are Lughnasa (LOVE this place), Connemara Blue, Whitethorn Gallery and I got these gorgeous coasters in a shop; I think it may have been called Walsh’s Emporium.
The D’arcy Monument
Just at the start of the route is the D’arcy monument. It’s a memorial for John Darcy, the founder of Clifden town. However, the main reason this spot is so popular with tourists is that it’s the best place to look over and photograph Clifden. It is at the top of a small hill and takes a short hike to get up to the monument.
Clifden Castle on the Sky Road
Clifden Castle is a magical-looking ivy-covered castle ruin just outside the town. It was built in 1810 and was home to John D’arcy, who you’ll now know, established Clifden.
There’s a small parking area and a short walk down a narrow lane to reveal the castle.
Wild Atlantic Way – Sky Road Drive Viewpoint
At the highest point of the Upper Sky Road, you will come across the WAW viewpoint. You can’t miss it with the familiar Wild Atlantic Way sign towering at the edge of the car park. You can pull up, hope out and breathe in the fresh country air while enjoying panoramic views of the area.
What is the Wild Atlantic Way?
The Sky road loop follows along the Wild Atlantic Way. For those of you know don’t know, what is it? The Wild Atlantic Way is a route that snakes it’s way along the edge of the west coast, from Kinsale in cork to Malin head in Donegal. This route boasts the most rugged coastline and passes must-see attractions in the west of Ireland.
Old Stone Bridge
Near the end of the route, before joining back on the n59, here is a beautiful old stone bridge. You can find it just after Bayridge house. We stopped to take some photos here, I thought it was too pretty to skip!
My Experience driving Sky Road in Clifden
I drove the Sky road towards the end of summer. Although sadly, I did not have summer weather for it. Starting out in Clifden, Eoghan and I drove the route clockwise, going west out of town. I’m guessing most people do it this way and head out along the coast.
We chose the upper sky road route and stopped along the way at the Wild Atlantic Way viewpoint. While we were driving I found myself gasping and “Oh my goding” at the views.
After stopping to take pictures at the bridge, we decided to turn back the way we came. We had driven the stretch of the N59 so many times we preferred to seize the opportunity to try out the lower sky road. Not gonna lie, I didn’t find this road that impressive at all. It is very low down and at a lot of points, the hedge along the road went above the windows so we couldn’t see out much at all.
On the way back we stopped off at Clifden Castle. We took the short walk down to see it. It was great to stretch the legs after driving. The castle is so cool and the grounds are completely open to explore. We spent a while there looking around before getting back to the car. After that, there was time to stop off in Clifden for a bite before heading home.
Other Nearby Attractions
- Omey Island:
- Diamond Hill
- Kylemore Abbey
Things to note:
- Very narrow roads
Final Thoughts on The Sky Road Drive
Even on the overcast day we had, the route was stunning, with its far-reaching look over Galway’s west coast. If you’re going through Connemara take my advice, take the sky road, and the high road!
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Further resources for topics talked about in this post:
The Diamond Hill Hike in Galway is a really popular attraction in Connemara National Park. The hill is part of the 12 Bens but standing on its own, will give you the best panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Don’t let the word hill fool you, I would for sure consider it a mountain, standing at 445 metres. BUT, paths and steps have been added to make it accessible to all. Whether the sun is shining or the clouds have rolled in its aa great thing to do. Perfect for those who love the outdoors, hiking or photography. Make sure you don’t miss it.