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 Ireland Travel Guide

Best Places to Visit in  Western Ireland

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Best Places to Visit in Ireland's West








1) Shannon     Limerick     Bunratty Castle     Dromoland Castle   Adare  
2) Galway    Cliffs of Moher    The Burren     Lisdoonvarna     Dunguaire Castle   
3) Connemara     Kylemore Abbey     Aran Islands

The Connemara

The Connemara and the 12 Bens are a magical experience.

Use the menu above (repeated at the bottom of the page), to find attractions on this page or others in our section on Ireland's West.


The lands to the northwest of Galway grow increasingly rocky, mountainous, boggy and inhospitable.  Fishing has long been practiced in this area and you will find most villages nestled somewhere near the area's shore. Although settlements are sparse and 

the land is barren, the Connemara attracts the attention of travelers looking for scenic, rugged beauty.  It is not like a trip to the Outback, but it is a little wilder than the rest of Ireland. 
The Connemara is wild, rugged, and beautiful.  This sparsely populated area offers good hiking, great coastal fishing, and spectacular scenery.  The Twelve Bens (mountains) in center of the Connemara offer moderately challenging hiking in one of Ireland's few remaining wilderness areas.    It's actually not all this beautiful, but much of it is lovely.

The Twelve Bens, also called the Twelve Pins, are composed of a quartzite outcrop and are not especially high (between 500 and 800 meters) or extensive.  If you are in good shape, you should be able to walk them in a day (at least on a day with good weather). Perhaps the best way to get a sense of the Connemara and its trails is to visit the Connemara National Park and its visitor center in Letterfrack. The official website for the park can be found here.   

Most walkers/hikers will find exploring the area difficult due to the ever-present bogs. Not only can the bogs be dangerous, but be prepared for the next step to swallow your foot and steal your shoe!  Be sure to wear high boots, leggings and be prepared for rain or generally damp conditions.  Sometime broodings, sometimes moody, the Connemara is always a delight.

The Connemara offers other outdoor activities including, golfing, hunting and cycling.  If you are interested in spending a few days in the area, you might want to make Clifden, the capital of the Connemara, your base of operations. 

The town offers good food, fun shopping, a variety of accommodations and is becoming known for its musical artists.  For more information on the Connemara and Clifden, visit Connemara's official tourism website.


Other Attractions in County Galway 

                                  Kylemore Abbey in the Connemara is a pleasant visit.

Kylemore Abbey

If you decide to wander the Connemara, you might be interested in visiting Kylemore Abbey and its beautiful gardens.  Kylemore is home to the Benedictine Nuns of Ireland, although portions of the estate function as a tourist attraction.  The estate was built in the 19th century as a  residence/faux-castle, but was eventually acquired by the Benedictine Nuns who converted it into an abbey and a boarding school. 

The chapel at Kylemore Abbey


The nuns who purchased the property, in an example of turnabout, were from an order from Yrpes, Belgium that had fled Ireland for Belgium  in the 17th century to avoid religious persecution. They  returned to Ireland and purchased the castle as they were fleeing  the dangers of World War I in Belgium,

For the official  Kylemore Abbey website, click here.

The Aran (Arainn) Islands 

This modest chain of islands seems to enjoy something of a cult reputation and attractsThe limestone cliffs near Dun Aonghasa are steep and treacherous many visitors.  The islands are small, rocky, craggy and a testament to people's desire to survive under harsh conditions.   The islands appear to have experienced waves of migration in the past and they have a number of ancient forts, monasteries and churches to prove it.  As in most migrations, it is thought that many of the earliest settlements were related to groups seeking to avoid persecution for their religious or cultural beliefs. 

The three islands of Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oirr comprise the Aran chain. Inis Mór (also called Inishmore) largest  (approximately 6 square miles (16 sq. km)) and is home to approximately 900 residents.  The island can be reached year round by ferry from Rossaveal in Connemara (County Galway), which can be reached by bus from Galway.



Your visit to Inis Mór will begin in Kilronan, where you will find lodging, pubs, grub and shopping. Transportation here takes several forms as you can hire a bike, a taxi, ride in a  horse-drawn carriage or jump on a bus to tour the island.

A day visit is often just the ticket, but you might want to spendmore time if you are interested in birding, hiking or desire to spend some of your vacation in a remote, pleasant environment.  Inis Mór offers bed & breakfasts as well as other types of lodging, but book ahead as this island's population (normally around 900) swells in summer. 

Once you arrive, stop in at the Heritage Center (if it is open) for a worthwhile overview of life on the island and the uniqueness of its history.

The stone fort know as Dun Aonghasa or Dun Aengus

Inis Mór is a large, elevated outcrop of  limestone (similar in composition to the Burren) and its geology helps make the island a scenic wonderland.  The steep cliffs that rim its shores are the most attractive sights on the island.  Although they are a number of beautiful cliffs, the most popular are those near Dún Aonghasa (Dún Aengus), the most well known of the ancient fortifications in the Aran Islands.

Built of stone at the edge of precipitous drop to the ocean (130 feet) the fort features multi-layered (onion like), low, thick walls that defend an elevated center area protected by  another wall with stone buttresses.  The age of Dún Aengus site is unknown, although some claim it dates from the Bronze Age. For an interesting review of the history and construction of Dún Aengus, see this website.

More Places To Visit In Ireland

Click the jump bar at the bottom of this page to go directly to the descriptions of the listed attractions in Ireland's West

Or, use the link menu on the right-edge of this page to explore another of Ireland's wonderful regions.

If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index or Googling ThereArePlaces.

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A locator map showing the counties in the West of Ireland


Climate Note

Temperate maritime; modified by North Atlantic Current; mild winters, cool summers; consistently humid; overcast about half the time.
Dublin Climate
Cork Climate





Thatched roof modern in the Connemara










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Dublin and Vicinity

The Southwest
Cork, Killarney, Ring of Kerry, Dingle, Blarney Castle and more.

The West
Galway, Connemara, Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Aran islands and more.

The Southeast
Waterford, Rock of Cashel, Jerpoint Abbey and more.

The North and Northern Ireland
Donegal, Sligo, Giant's Causeway, Dunluce Castle, Belfast and more.

Introduction to Ireland

1) Shannon  Limerick     Bunratty Castle      Dromoland Castle   Adare  
2) Galway    Cliffs of Moher   The Burren    Lisdoonvarna           Dunguaire Castle   
3) Connemara     Kylemore Abbey     Aran Islands
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