Things to See and Do
County Galway is a chock-a-block of sights, sounds, and history. While Galway City is west Ireland's most happening town, regions such as Connemara, Joyce Country, and the Aran Islands all offer visitors a unique blend of tradition and steady progress.
A majority of County Galway's interior is made up of the vastness that is Connemara (
Moving west from Galway City along the R336, R343, and R340, you will encounter the small fishing hamlets of Spiddal (An Spid éal), Carraroe (An Cheathrú), and others around Mace Head.
The most splendid town in the area is Roundstone (Cloch na Rón;
To the north along the N59, the town of Oughterard (Uachtar árd) offers the county's best fishing, as well as the Glengowla Mines (091 552 360, open March–November, daily, 10
Clifden: A Base for Exploration
Connemara's capital town is Clifden (An Clochán). Bustling in comparison to the aforementioned villages, it has its own allure. Walking or biking the Sky Road is one way to appreciate the landscape; other walks are outlined at the Connemara Walking Centre (095 21 379) off of Market Street, which also offers the Michael Gibbons Walking Ireland Tours, specializing in archaeological and historical outings. Or, contact Connemara Safari (095 21 071,
Walking in Connemara leaves hikers exposed to the elements. Bring proper hiking boots, socks, a warm hat, and a long-sleeve wind/rain jacket. If kids are along, carry energy snacks: trailmix and bottled water are available at the grocer in Letterfrack. During spring, summer, and fall, bring insect repellent with you everywhere in Connemara, as the annoying pests known as midges proliferate.
Killary Adventure Center
A company gaining notable recognition over the years, the Killary Adventure Centre (095 43 411,
Connemara National Park
Located on the edge of Letterfrack, the Connemara National Park (095 41 054,
Before venturing out on one of the three well-marked trails, check out the visitor center to read up on the flora and fauna of the region; the film you can watch there is a noteworthy addition. The vistas from the upper parameters afford awe-inspiring views of Kylemore Abbey and Lough, as well as Ballynakill Harbour. Park open all year. Visitor Centre open April–May and September to mid-October, 10
The Gothically inspired Kylemore Abbey (095 411 146,
The castle was converted to an abbey in the 1920s; fourteen nuns currently live, worship, and run a convent school for girls here. While a good portion of the abbey is closed to visitors, five impressive rooms display part of its lavish interior and the chapel makes a nice photo stop. The well-done visitor center runs buses to and from the gardens. A restaurant and pottery shop are also on hand. In 2010, the convent school was closed; the rest of the estate has thus far remained unaffected. Open all year, 9:00
Truly removed Inishbofin (Inis Bó Finne;
Those looking to get off the beaten path certainly will be able to do so. However, careful research should be done beforehand. The middle regions of Ireland are composed mostly of heath and bog land. This mushy terrain with bog pits (akin to quicksand), accompanied by extreme temperature variations, can ruin any outing for the underprepared.
The Aran Islands (
Historically, each island has played an important role in Celtic history. The islands are so removed and desolate that Christian monks could not resist settling there. They began occupying the islands and building beehive stone huts as early as the fifth century. Later inhabitants perpetuated their existence with sustenance farming techniques that turned the Burren-like terrain into arable land. The thousands of kilometers of renowned stone wall help to not only mark plots, but also to keep the wind from uprooting precious crops. The best sights and activities on each island are outlined in the following sections.
Most tourists arrive to the main port of Kilronan in Inishmor. The tourist office and Aran Heritage Centre (099 61 355) are great points from which to begin exploring. Numerous sights are accessible by walking, cycling, or hiring a driver or pony trap. The islands are hilly, so only the fit should consider walking or cycling. The famed 2,000-year old Dún Aengus fort is the most popular site; lined with stone spikes to ward off enemies, it sits on the edge of a 90-meter (300-foot) cliff face. While a great photo spot, parents should be aware that the sheer drop has no protective barrier, so keep an eye on children. The more-deserted but as-impressive Dún Dúchathair, known as the Black Fort, is a thirty-minute walk from Dún Aengus. The Clochán na Car-raige, with surrounding Na Seacht Teampaill (the seven churches), is the island's most famous scattering of monuments.
The friendly farmers and fishermen on Inishmor work during the tourist season giving guided visits. One way to see the best sights on the island is to hire a driver and guide. Contact Bertie Faherty, who runs Dún Aonghas Tours (087 237 9707 or 099 61 329,
The least-visited island, Inishmaan is not as developed as the other two isles. While the friendly locals love tourists, an adventure here is truly a step back in time. The most-frequented sights include the Teach Synge cottage, where writer J. M. Synge spent his summers, and the Dún Chonchuir, the oval-shaped fort in the center of the island.
Getting to and from the Aran Islands
Flying to the Aran Islands is feasible from the Connemara Airport in Minna, near Inverin (Indreabhán). Aer Arann (091 593 034,
Aran Island Ferries (091 568 903 or 091 572 273,
Getting to the port at Rossaveal (Ros an Mhíl) is slightly tricky. Drive the N59 to R336 south. At Casla, a sign for Ros an Mhíl points west. Upon turning, keep your eyes open for a sign with a small boat symbol on it. Continue past the Spar Grocery to the dock. Bring sufficient cash to the islands; banks are virtually nonexistent.
Aran Direct (091 506 786 or 091 566 535,
Aran Island Hopping
Traveling intra-islands can be tricky. Both ferry companies operate direct-only routes to each of the islands from Rossaveal. In theory, this means returning to Rossaveal to go onward to other islands. However, Doolin Ferries (065 707 4455/466,
Cars are not transported to the islands, nor are rentals an option. Mainland parking is available at the Rossaveal pier for 10 per day. Make sure to book plane or ferry tickets in advance if you plan to travel during the summer months. Check