Connemara, located in County Galway, is a mix of rugged and gentle; immense valleys, low vegetation and heaths tending to yellow contrast with lakes, waterways and endless green landscapes. Not forgetting the sea, yes because although the interior of Connemara is embarrassingly beautiful, one must remember that the Gaelic term “Conamara” means precisely “sea inlets.”
The Wild Atlantic Way encompasses all of Connemara, and it is a spectacle to drive along it in a succession of breathtaking vistas, culminating in what was one of the most exciting stops on my ontheroad in Ireland: the stunning Skyroad near Clifden, one of the highlights of this itinerary.
Warning: if you are planning a trip to Connemara, you may also be interested in these other articles of mine:
And if the idea is to visit Connemara by car, I think this other article may also be for you Driving left: tips for not getting anxious
Connemara discovery tours
I want to recommend tours to discover this beautiful part of Ireland:
- CLICK HERE or HERE for an English-language tour from Dublin that will take you to explore the abbey, Killary Fjord and magnificent Galway!
- Want to have an amazing experience (it was also on my schedule)? How about a horseback ride around the beaches of Connemara? It must be something memorable. Find all the information AT THIS LINK.
Visiting Connemara in Ireland in 5 steps
The best way to appreciate this part of Ireland is definitely by car. Traveling independently allows you to get lost through the narrow streets, stop at the most scenic spots and, why not, take routes that no one has ever taken (watch out for sheep), get out of the box and build your own idea of travel…and therefore your own stages.
So here are the 5 places in Connemara (north to south) that will make you fall in love with Ireland.
1 – Westport, at the gateway to Connemara
The town of Westport is part of the counties of Mayo and Sligo. I still include it in this itinerary because you cannot help but stop. It is a must stop on the way to Connemara.
Because of the charm of its small tree-lined boulevards, the beautiful river that runs through it, and the stone bridges, Westport is regarded as the best town to live in Ireland.
Think the lady at the restaurant where I had eaten in Bundoran also recommended it to me, in the Donegal. She had made sure that I stopped at least for a brief stopover. That lady was not wrong, Westport deserves an hour or so among its colorful streets, maybe devote your lunch break to it.
Something quick to eat on the river, I assure you it will be a great lunch break. Clearly, in a road trip than 8 days, it was impossible to devote more time to it. For those who will be in Ireland more days than I was, Westport, at the gateway to Connemara, could be a good base for both Connemara itself and for excursions to the Achill Island area.
2 – Killary Fjord, Ireland’s only fjord
Who would have expected there to be a fjord in Ireland. Well yes, there is and it also determines the beginning of Connemara. It is said to be a fjord (although some scientists claim it is not glacial in origin) about 500 meters wide that pushes into the interior of Irish territory for 16 kilometers. It represents the natural border between County Mayo and County Galway.
This leg of Connemara is a treat for the eyes. There is not much else to do except admire the landscape that changes as you proceed along the road. Sheep make a fitting backdrop for a place that, when the car is turned off, conveys all the meaning of an ontheroad trip: peace and freedom.
In addition to reconnecting with nature, at Killary Fjord, or rather Killary Harbour, you can also visit the small village of Leenane, or take a mini-cruise aboard small boats.
3 – Kylemore Abbey, the abbey in Connemara
There is no doubt about it, Kylemore Abbey represents what every traveler would like to see on Irish soil. A spectacular abbey reflected in the large dark-water Pollacappul Lake. All around it is greenery. A hill behind it and lots of tranquility (at least in early March).
History of Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey is only an hour from Galway City, and its history is very special as well as melancholy. The site on which the abbey stands was purchased by one Mitchell Henry around 1850. It was a gift toward his wife Margaret who, during their honeymoon, had been thunderstruck by the beauty of Connemara.
Mitchell built here one of Ireland’s most distinctive castles, the “consequences” of which were: nine children, a happy and carefree life lulled by the slow pace of Connemara. Up to this point the story is very romantic, from here on it becomes melodramatic. In 1874, Margaret fell ill with dysentery and in a very few days died. The neo-Gothic church on the estate and not far from the abbey is dedicated to her.
Visiting the abbey
Back to us: when visiting Connemara, it is imperative to visit Kylemore Abbey, the neo-Gothic church and the Victorian Waller Garden, one of the last walled gardens built in Ireland.
Currently, the abbey is owned by Benedictine nuns and has been opened to the public and tourism. The price for admission is €13 for an adult. There are reductions for students and children. I recommend that you visit the -> directly official abbey site -> so that you can directly purchase tickets online and check the opening hours, which change greatly depending on the season in which you visit Connemara.
4 – Connemara National Park
In the already incredible territory of Connemara, there is also a national park. A protected natural area consisting of 2,000 hectares of mountains, grasslands and forests where you can trek independently and marvel at every corner.
For more information about the trails and activities you can do in Connemara National Park, I invite you to visit the park site.
5 – Sky Road and Clifden, the icing on the cake
The Sky Road near Clifden was like the icing on the cake at the end of a day spent visiting Connemara. I even managed to find a hotel right on the Sky Road (Waterfront Rest B&B). Waterfront, no chaos, dispersed in Irish nature…what more could you want. The Sky Road runs in a circular fashion along a peninsula near Clifden. A road about 10 miles long that runs through the moors, perpetually overlooking the sea. Occasionally you pass by a few small cottages (of course with a sea view). I had the pleasure, and also the luck I would say, of visiting it with the colors of the sunset and there are no words to describe this little piece of Ireland. My advice is: don’t miss the Sky Road.
How to ride the Sky Road
Coming to the more practical side…the Sky Road is a single-lane but two-way road. It has occasional indentations to allow cars to leave room for those coming from the opposite direction. On the north side of the peninsula there is only one road. On the south side there is one low road and one high road, as you can see from the attached map. Once you have finished your tour on the Sky Road, enjoy dinner in beautiful Clifden. If you go there out of season, it will actually be quite sparse, the places will almost all be closed, but it will be very charming all the same.