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Once described by Oscar Wilde as an area of “savage beauty”, Connemara is a unique place with its rugged and dramatic landscape facing out towards the Atlantic Ocean. Situated on the west coast of Ireland and along the Wild Atlantic Way, many flock to soak up the area’s wild scenery, quaint stone walls and stunning shorelines. For many it is a world away from the busyness of life and is therefore a haven for those wanting to relax and refuel, be it nursing a pint of Guinness in a cosy pub, hiding away on one of its islands or scaling one of the area’s epic mountains.
Ready to discover and experience Connemara? Why not explore it as part of one of our Drive Ireland routes and make sure to use the guide below to inspire you along the way?
Places to Discover in Connemara
It goes without saying that Connemara National Park is a must-see spot whilst in Connemara and, seeing as the park spans 2,957 hectares of bogs, nature trails and mountain ranges in the area, there is a good chance you won’t miss it! In the park can be found some of the Twelve Bens Mountains, including Bencullagh, Benbrack, and Benbaun, as well as Gleann Mór (Big Glen). What’s more, there are various activities such as fishing, hiking, surfing and horse-riding to get stuck into, as well as lots of opportunities to wander by foot among the park’s rugged landscape.
Along Connemara’s coastline are also several islands to explore, some of them inhabited and others not. This includes Innisbofin, a popular island with over 100 inhabitants, Omey Island, a lesser-known island that it is possible to walk to at low tide, and Innishnee, a wonderful extension of Connemara that is accessed by bridge via the village of Roundstone.
Often referred to as Connemara’s ‘capital’, Clifden is a great base for those exploring Connemara with its wide selection of accommodation, quaint shops and pretty pubs. The town is wonderfully situated at the foothills of Twelve Bens, with the River Owenglin running through the town and out onto Clifden bay. A beautiful walk will take you from Clifden via the Beach Road, where a monument of John D’Arcy, the founder of Clifden and the man who built Clifden Castle, can be spotted along the way. Whilst on the walk make sure to ascend Monument Hill, which offers stunning views of Clifden and all that lies beyond.
Another highlight of Connemara is its pristine beaches dotted along the coast. Dog’s Bay at Roundstone is a particularly beautiful beach with its white sand and turquoise waters attracting many visitors from around the world. There is also Coral Strand, a beach made up of coral rather than sand, as well Glassilaun in Renvyle, a popular beach that was once used for the filming of Tristan and Isolde.
For those seeking culture and Irish heritage, there is no better place than Connemara. As well as being a strong Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) area, Connemara has lots of local crafts, history and culture to soak up as part of a visit there. For instance, tucked away within Spiddal village is An Ceardlann, a beautiful craft village that has everything from basket weaving, pottery making and all sorts of artisan and locally made products. There are then various historical castles and churches based in Connemara that represent the strong heritage that surrounds the area. A significant and worthwhile castle to visit is Aughnanure Castle, built in 1500 and once home to the O’Flagherty clan who existed all those years ago. Then there is Kylemore Abbey, a 19th-Century Benedictine monastery and a walled garden that are situated along the northern shore of Lough Pollacappul and at the base of Druchruach Mountain.
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Connemara is also the setting for The Quiet Man, a classic film starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Many visit the area to put themselves in the shoes of the Hollywood stars by visiting some of the iconic locations used in the film. This includes the infamous Quiet Man Bridge, which lies 7.5km west of the village of Oughterard and still looks very much the same as it did in the film.
Places to Eat and Drink in Connemara
There are no shortage of places to eat and drink whilst exploring Connemara.
Being based near the ocean, it is not surprising that many of Connemara’s menus are filled with freshly caught seafood and fish. This includes the popular O’Dowd’s Seafood bar, a cosy and much-loved restaurant and bar that serves up a selection of seafood and fish dishes, alongside a great pint of Guinness. Another favourite is Mitchell’s in Clifden, where an exquisite seafood chowder and separate seafood platter come highly recommended. For true fish aficionados, a tour of Connemara Smokehouse is well worth a visit. At the Smokehouse, visitors can enjoy a tour looking at the methods that go into smoked organic salmon, as well as a few samplings of the salmon itself. Lastly, serving up a wonderful ‘surf and turf’ or traditional Irish stew, Off the Square in Clifden is another excellent eating out option.
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Of course, Connemara is overflowing with quaint and cosy pubs to enjoy a pint of Guinness and live traditional Irish music. The Shamrock bar in Roundstone is one such place and on the weekend treats customers to live jazz sessions too. Powers Thatch bar is another favourite drinking hole within Connemara and it’s difficult not to be automatically won over by the traditional thatched roof outside, not to mention its lively traditional music sessions that are run throughout the week.
Looking for somewhere to stay on your visit to Connemara? Check out the latest hotel deals in and around Connemara and be prepared to fall in love with the area on a visit there.
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