Connemara is hands down one of my favourite places to visit in Ireland. There’s something about the vast and wild landscape here that makes it so easy to forget your worries and just slow down, relax and soak in all its goodness! At any time of year and in any type of weather, Connemara is simply stunning.
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You can’t help but feel like you’re stepping back in time as you explore the unique and rugged landscape of this region. This is a place were you’ll come across more sheep than humans – off season anyway! As they lazily wander the roads it’s hard not to take your cue from them and just take your ease.
If time allows, I’d recommend that you give yourself at least two days in Connemara. More, if possible. There really is so much to see in this region. Allow yourself to relax and enjoy it, instead of rushing around trying to squeeze it all in. I’ve always been a bit of a crammer myself and I’m working towards the less is more approach these days. It’s probably one of the reasons I love Connemara!
Though I have visited multiple times, there are still lots of places I haven’t explored in Connemara yet but here are some of my favourite things to see and do in Connemara. I plan to keep adding to it as I explore more of this region in the future.
It’s pretty hard not to be blown away by the magnificent Kylemore Abbey. Not only is it a beautiful building in an idyllic location, its history reveals a love story that will warm the hardest of hearts! Be sure to visit the Victorian Walled Gardens and the Gothic Church too, which are included in the price of your entry.
Kylemore Abbey has been home to the Benedictine nuns since 1920 and they make beautiful handmade food and beauty products that are available in the Craft and Design Shop next to the parking area.
Take to the sky…or at least to Sky Road!
Starting from the town of Clifden, Sky Road is a stunning 11km circular loop drive takes you out west for spectacular views over Clifden Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Be sure to stop and enjoy the short scenic walk to Clifden Castle before continuing along Upper Sky Road to the viewing point. It’s the only dedicated parking area along the route so stop, soak up the amazing views and get your fill of selfies!
I always try to stop off at Derryclare Lough. Surrounding the beautiful Pine island and with the twelve Bens mountains in the background, this is quintessential Connemara. Every time I visit it’s different, depending on the conditions, yet it’s always breathtaking. It also doesn’t take much time out of your itinerary as you can just pull in off the main road. That’s right, there’s not even any walking involved to get to this beautiful spot!
If you are in the mood for a bit of a workout then head to Connemara National Park. The Diamond Hill loop walk provides stunning views over the surrounding countryside and to Ballinakill Bay and the Atlantic coast. You can choose a shorter or longer loop walk depending on your preference and itinerary. Both provide you with stunning views but get right up the top of Diamond Hill for stunning panoramic views of the area.
The Killary Fjord, said to be Ireland’s only true fjord, was carved out by a massive glacier making it’s way from land to the Atlantic Ocean. The fjord is sheltered by spectacular mountain scenery with Mweelrea to the north and the Twelve Bens and Maumturk Mountains to the south. Take a cruise along the Fjord to fully appreciate the beauty of this area. You may even be lucky enough to see dolphins near the mouth of the fjord.
Clifden is the largest town in the region and therefore known as the ‘Capital of Connemara’. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who has visited the town and hasn’t fallen in love with the place! It’s the perfect base for exploring and has many great places to stay, eat, shop and of course enjoy the bit of craic. You’ll find traditional Irish music playing in the pubs year round but particularly during the summer months when the town really comes to life.
Derrigimlagh Discovery Point
Honestly, I don’t think I’d even heard of the Derrigimlagh bog prior to my most recent visit to Connemara. Not sure how I missed it but it’s a fascinating stop and well worth visiting. Take a 5km trail through the Derrigimlagh bog complex, stopping at the information points along the way to learn about this unique area and its fascinating history.
As well as being an area of outstanding beauty, the bog is famous for being the landing place of pilots Alcock and Brown after they completed the world’s first transatlantic flight. It was also the site of the Marconi Wireless Station from where the first commercial wireless messages were transmitted across the Atlantic.
Ballynahinch Castle Hotel overlooks the Owenmore River, surrounded by 700 acres of private woodland with the twelve Bens Mountain range in the background. It doesn’t get much more idyllic than this. If your budget stretches to spending a night here, then why wouldn’t you?! Cosy up by the fire with your book and an Irish coffee! Walk the grounds, taking in the amazing views. Or participate in one of the many activities on offer like hiking, biking or fishing. If you’re not staying, you can still enjoy lunch in The Fisherman’s Pub.
Connemara has some of the most spectacular beaches in the country. Think white sand, clear water and mountain backdrops. Two of my favourites are Glassilaun beach and Dog’s Bay. These photos don’t even do them justice. Check them out, you won’t be disappointed. Better yet, find your own favourite and keep us posted!
The Inagh Valley is one of the most picturesque routes taking you through the heart of Connemara. Whether you drive, walk or cycle through the valley, expect to be blown away by the spectacular mountain and lake views. To see more of the incredible beauty of this area, check out my post from our overnight stay at the wonderful Lough Inagh Lodge.
Get Lost while Exploring Connemara
My top recommendation for Connemara though, is simply to get lost! Follow signposts for beaches and random places you’ve never heard of. There is really so much to see in this region that I can’t possibly list it all and sometimes the things you don’t plan for turn out to be the highlight of your trip. You can’t really go wrong in this beautiful region, so go have fun exploring and find your own gems.
Having your own transport is preferable in Connemara as it isn’t possible to explore extensively using public transport. If you don’t have a vehicle you can still visit a lot of the highlights by joining a tour. Here are some of the options available: