Irish Poet Oscar Wilde described Galway as a “Savage Beauty” and ya know, I couldn’t describe it better myself. The Connemara region is known for its desolate but inspiring and wild scenery, beaches and colourful small towns. Discover the allure of Connemara yourself with my list of the best things to do in Connemara.
25 of the Best Things to do in Connemara Galway
Map of Connemara
Connemara Sights and Attractions – Things to do in Connemara
1. Derryclare lake and Pine Island inConnemara
Pull up to this lake on a calm morning for mind-blowing reflections. This famous spot is just outside Clifden, at the entrance of the Inagh Valley and is a great place to stop off for some photo opportunities. The island is just offshore and with the backdrop of the 12 Bens mountain range behind, it’s just gorgeous.
Where is Pine Island Connemara: This lake and Island is about halfway between Maams Cross and Clifden in the centre of the Connemara region. It’s just over one hour’s drive from the city centre.
For more of the view, see my Youtube Short on Pine Island: https://youtu.be/bN0wztSMhlY
2. Kylemore Abbey – Interesting things to do in Connemara
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Kylemore Abbey was originally built as a castle in 1868 and then became an Abbey. It’s is perched alongside Pollacappul Lake nearby to Letterfrack and Diamond Hill. The Abbey has a very interesting history which you can discover for yourself when you visit.
Explore the immaculate victorian walled gardens, the grounds, and enjoy a bite to eat and a rummage through the craft shop. This spot is the top attraction in Connemara and one of the most popular in Galway.
Where is Kylemore abbey: This popular tourist attraction is just outside Letterfrack and is ~1 1/2 hours drive from Galway city on the N59. It’s located between Clifden and Westport
3. Aughnanure Castle – a Unique Castle with a Wild History in Galway
The castle you will see at the site today was built by the O’Flaherty Clan in the 1500s. The O’Flahertys owned the land and were expelled in 1256. However, they re-conquered the Earl who had taken the area and regained control. The history is really interesting and the castle itself is known to be pretty unique!
Where is Aughnanure Castle? The castle is located between Oughterard and Moycullen, just 29 km from Galway City. It takes about 25 minutes to drive from Galway town.
4. Brigit’s Garden – A Wonderful Family Experience in Galway
Brigit’s Garden is absolutely fantastic. It’s perfect for families as the little ones will have the absolute time of their lives in the 11 acres of Native Irish woodland. They will enjoy learning about the fairy trees, and exploring the remake huts on the grounds. Brigit’s garden will immerse you in Irish Folklore and myths. I highly recommend this unique and special experience.
I have a full post on Brigit’s Garden:
Where is Brigit’s Garden: Brigit’s Garden is located in Rosscahill, just off the N59. There are signs on the main road to direct you to this place which will take ~20 minutes to drive from Galway City
5. Aasleagh Falls – A Guide to the best things to do in Connemara Ireland
This is actually on the Galway border but technically Mayo. Close enough right?! I think we’re all suckers for a good waterfall. And this waterfall along the River Erriff is a good one. Although Aasleigh falls do not have height on their side, these tumbling falls are still incredibly beautiful and every artist’s dream. I can only imagine how many paintings and photos have been created and inspired by this location. I’ll have to go back, get a better shot and add it to my own collection!
As well as popular with visitors from all over, salmon fishing is a regular occurrence. If you go at the right time, you might catch the salmon leaping up and over the falls as they move upstream.
Where is Aasleagh Falls? Aasleagh falls is along the Galway/Mayo border. It’s just off the N59 along the River Erriff, just outside Leenaun.
6. Old Fishermans Cottage near Maams Cross – Connemara Cottages
There are so many spots around Connemara that you will just come across while driving through, and immediately look for somewhere to pull in and get out and look. This is one of those places. Though there are many old cottages in the area, this one always stands out to me perched looking out over the river. It makes you wonder what life was like here once. And is a great spot for photographers.
Where is the cottage? It’s just a few minute’s drive from Maams cross. Take a left turn at Peacocks hotel (coming from Galway City) and drive for a few minutes. The cottage will be on your right.
7. Screebe Cottage – Unusual things to do in Connemara
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Another photographer’s dream. Screebe cottage by the side of the lake is yet another postcard location in Connemara.
Where is Screebe Cottage: It’s just six miles south of Maam Cross. But I can’t give any better directions than that, unfortunately!
8. Lough Inagh – Famous fishing Lake in the Inagh Valley
Lough Inagh is a famous fishing lake in the Inagh Valley in Connemara. Not only popular with fishermen, but tourists and photographers flock here to enjoy the beautiful views of the lake, with the backdrop of the heather-covered mountains.
Where is Lough Inagh: Take the R344 on the right after Recess when heading from Galway to Clifden. The lake will be on your left. You can’t miss it!
9. Sky Road Drive – Connemara’s most popular drive
The Sky Road Drive is an incredibly scenic drive along the west coast of Galway. It starts and finishes in Clifden after looping around by the coast. Take this drive for some jaw-dropping views of the coast, and the nearby Islands.
For more, see my post: Sky Road Drive | Scenic Drive in Connemara Galway Ireland
Where is The Sky Road Drive: The route starts in Clifden and makes its way out along the coast. It splits into 2, the upper and lower sky road so you can choose which you want to take. I recommend the upper!
10. Clifden Castle – Beautiful Ruins along the Sky Road Drive in Connemara
Clifden Castle is a beautiful old 19th-century ruin, just outside Clifden. You can walk down and around the castle, and even right inside. Although, do so at your own risk. Walk around the garden and get a feel for what life was like here when it belonged to John D’arcy – the founder of Clifden Town.
For more about this: Clifden Castle | Beautiful Castle ruins in Clifden Galway | Hidden Gem
Where is Clifden Castle: Not far into the Sky Road route you’ll come to a small carpark on the left side of the road, near the Hillside Lodge. You won’t miss it because there is a stone archway at the entrance. As you have probably guessed, walking through the stone archway will bring you down the path to the castle.
11. Killary Fjord – Ireland’s only true Fjord
Killary Fjord/Harbour is Ireland’s only Fjord. You can look right down the water all the way towards the Atlantic from Leenaun village. It starts right up at Aasleagh, just under the falls. On a summer’s day, it is just beautiful, and you can follow the road right up alongside the Fjord. If you visit, be sure to stop off at the famous “Misunderstood Heron” for a bite to eat!
Where is Killary Fjord: The Fjord starts in Aasleagh but you’ll have fantastic views from Leenane. Or drive alongside it on the N59
Towns in Connemara:
Connemara has countless towns from Spidal to Oughterard to Clifden. But if you ask me, there are some towns I really recommend you visit.
12. Spiddal – a charming beach town just outside Galway City
Spiddal is probably one of the most popular Connemara towns. There are 2 main reasons why people flock here – firstly the beach, and secondly the craft village.
Spiddal beach is the perfect place for a dip or to catch sunset. Because of its location, it’s a lot quieter than Salthill prom, but you can still take a scenic walk along the coast from the beach right up to the harbor and beyond.
The craft village accommodates multiple Irish businesses. From basket makers to glass craft, jewelry and so much more. A stop-off here is always worth it, and no doubt you’ll leave with a souvenir or two!
Where is Spiddal: This town is just 25 minutes drive from Galway City. To get there simply drive west out of Galway towards Salthill and keep going. You’ll pass Barna first and then Spiddal. You’ll also be driving past the beautiful coastline on the way.
13. Roundstone Village – Places to visit in Connemara, Galway
Roundstone is for sure a postcard village. It’s picture-perfect, a row of coloured buildings along the busy harbor. Because of this, it is popular with artists and many famous artists have painted the spot. The village is also known for its summer festival and traditional music nights. As you can imagine, it’s a firm favourite with tourists.
Where is Roundstone: Roundstone village takes an hour and a half to drive from the city. As you can probably guess, you follow the N59 but just before Clifden you take a left turn for the village.
The Beautiful Beaches of Connemara – Galway’s Best Beaches
14. Gurteen Bay – beautiful unspoiled beaches in Connemara
Gurteen Bay is just outside Roundstone village and is the most peaceful beach I’ve ever been to. I once visited in the evening and there was no one else there. Because of it being sheltered by the headland, it was so quiet and not a breeze in the air, so you could soak in the sounds of the waves. The sand is almost pure white and so fine, and is made up of old crushed foraminifera shells. So it’s a great and safe place for swimming.
Where is Gurteen Bay: It is a 6 minutes drive from Roundstone on the R341. There is a sign for “Port na feadoige” and “Gurteen Graveyward” .. morbid!
15. Dog’s Bay – Beautiful Beaches in Connemara Galway
One really unique thing about this area is that the beach is actually back to back with another. Dogs bay is literally located on the other side of the beach with a thin strip of land in between. The water here faces the opposite direction – They form a tombolo which protrudes out into the ocean. Similarly, horseshoe-shaped Dog’s Bay is very sheltered, with crystal clear waters and a pristine sandy beach.
Where is Dogs Bay: It is a 6 minutes drive from Roundstone on the R341. Take the left turn just before the Atlantic View House BnB
16. Furbogh beach near Spiddal in Connemara
I know Galway has countless beautiful beaches and Furbogh beaches is definitely one of those. The first time I ever saw it I was just driving by, caught a glimpse of the beach out of the corner of my eye and veered in off the road to stop. There is plenty of parking space, where you can open your windows and enjoy the sea breeze and views from your car, or you can take a walk down the steps for a barefoot stroll on the sand. Another great location for sunset.
Where is Furbogh Beach: Driving between Barna and Spiddal you’ll come across the beach. You can’t miss it. There is a long carpark and Pádraicíns Seafood Bar & Restaurant is at the end
17. Moyrus Beach
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Moyrus Beach is a calm and quiet beach in Southern Connemara, but as you’ll see above, it is really something.
18. Glassilaun Beach
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This crazy beach is in Northern Connemara
Hikes and Mountains in Connemara – Walks in Connemara
What to do in Connemara
19. Diamond Hill & Connemara National Park – Things to do in Connemara National Park
Diamond hill is one of the 12 bens mountains and is located within Connemara National park. You can climb the mountain in a couple of hours and soak in the panoramic views of Connemara, the park and the coastline while you rest at the top. It’s located in the popular town of Letterfrack and if you’re wondering if it’s difficult to climb, I’ve done it which shows just how doable it is. For more check out my post :
Where is Diamond Hill: The easiest way to access the hill is through the National Park car park in Letterfrack
20. Mam ean – Hike and Pilgrimage walk in Connemara
Mam ean is a fantastic walk through a pass in the Maumturk mountains, linking the Maum and Inagh Valleys. It is technically a pilgrimage. You’ll find a small chapel and alter along the route which mass takes place every St Patricks day. Years ago, this would have been a site for secret mass when Catholicism was outlawed in Ireland.
As you hike the route you’ll be blown away by the surrounding scenery of the surrounding valley, the 12 Bens mountain range and on a good clear day, you may see the whole way out to the sea.
Where is maam Ean: There is a few ways to get to this place. Both, by taking a turn off the N59 at or after Maams Cross in Connemara.
21. Western Way Hike – Connemara Hikes
This is an intense hike, starting at Oughterard and going all the way through Mayo and on to Sligo. From start to finish it’s over 200 km, so it’s not for the faint of heart. But I like to do a bit in Connemara where you will have amazing views of the 12 Bens.
To see more of the scenery, check out my Youtube short:
22. Galway Wind Way
Galway Wind Way is a wind farm just outside Oughterard town. It has plenty of trails through the woods. Some of which have stunning panoramic views of the area, which was carved out by the last ice age. Galway Wind Way is a great place for a Sunday family walk. For more information see:
Where is Galway Wind Way: Heading from Galway City, take a left turn in Oughterard before the bridge. Continue straight out and you’ll come to Galway Wind Way on your left. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you see the windmills!
23. All or any of the 12 Bens
The 12 Bens is a Mountain Range in Connemara, which includes Diamond Hill, Mam Ean, Benbaun, Derryclare and 8 other mountains. It’s 22 peaks in total. While you can climb any one of the mountains, you can do the whole thing which is a serious hike. The full 12 Bens hike is 30 km in total and if you’re quick walker, will get it done in one day.
Woodland Walks in Connemara
24. Rosscahill Woods – Woodland and Lake in Galway
Rosscahill woods surrounds Ross Lake and is part of the old Ross Estate. It outside Oughterard and is the perfect place for a walk or a family day out. There are a few trails to choose from, from the main gravel path that loops through the woods, to the narrow woodland trails that branch off and snake their way along the edge of the lake and between the trees.
Where is Rosscahill Woods? Just off the N59 between Oughterard and Moycullen
25. Derroura Woods and Mountain Biking Trails
Experience special views of Connemara or get your adrenaline going with the mountain bike trails of Derroura. For walking, you can stick to the main woodland trail but there are 16km of trails in total with steep and challenging paths, with some of the most beautiful views of Connemara.
Where is Derroura in Connemara: Along the N59 between Oughterard and Maams Cross. The entrance is across from Lough Bofin.
If you need somewhere to stay along your travels, be sure to check out Airbnb – which is my go-to for affordable accommodation. Alternatively, treat yourself. You can book into:
- Connemara Coast Hotel
- Connemara Lake Hotel
- The Twelve Hotel
- Screebe Hotel
Things to do in Connemara
So this just some of the best things to do in Connemara Galway. It’s by no means a complete list but it will surely keep you busy on your trip! And will satisfy your craving for beautiful Irish Scenery. While most people visiting Galway will stick to the city, if you’re looking for some more unusual things to do in Galway, take a trip out to Connemara.
A reminder that all of my images are subject to copyright
In addition to the above, check these out for more information on the places mentioned, lots of fun things to do in Connemara :
For some other places to visit in Galway:
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