Last updated on November 25, 2023
In this episode we look at a very beautiful and very well known region in the west of Ireland, Connemara. We also take a good look at an equally beautiful but slightly less well-known region, Mayo. So let’s get started:
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County Connemara boasts pristine rocky landscapes. The barren land offered the farmers only a meagre income over the centuries, because farming was difficult and the pastures for the cattle were stony and meagre. Fishing was better, but risky in the stormy Atlantic.
“There were many stones and little bread” sums it up in a nutshell. The rocky landscape was correspondingly lonely and sparsely populated in the past.
Today the landscape is still wild, but much less lonely. From Galway, tour buses offer day trips to Clifden, Kylemore Abbey and many other beautiful corners of Connemara.
If you want to be alone here in the summer months, it is best to drive on the small narrow roads off the beaten track.
Less well-known than Connemara, but no less beautiful, is the Mayo Highlands further north. The high moorland mountains are reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands – only smaller, of course. On the border of the two counties is the long-drawn-out sea inlet “Killary Harbour”.
Killary Fjord or Killary Harbour
Killary Harbour is an elongated bay that sheltered ships from the stormy Atlantic Ocean, then as now, and is a natural harbour.
In fact, it is a fjord and the only fjord in Ireland. It is about 15 kilometres long and up to 45 metres deep!
The long rows of buoys are evidence of shellfish farms and there are also salmon farms in the clean waters of Atlantic Bay.
The shores are lined with wild rhododendrons and green, boggy mountains rise on both sides of the fjord. The south side of the fjord belongs to County Connemara, the north side to County Mayo.
The borders meet at the end of the fjord. There is the village of Clog and nearby are the beautiful Aasleagh Falls.
The N59 country road winds southwards through the green hills, on whose flanks peat is still cut.
A little further on, one of Connemara’s most important sights comes into view: Kylemore Abbey. The castle was built around 1870 by a major industrialist as a residence and has served as a convent school and monastery for nuns since 1920.
The magnificent monastery castle cannot be visited from the inside, but the beautifully landscaped monastery gardens can.
In any case, the location of the castle is beautiful and well worth a photo stop!
The town of Clifden and the Sky Loop
Clifden is the pulsating heart of Connemara and its capital. The bustling, typically Irish town is bursting with colourful houses, pubs, shops and accommodation.
In summer, there’s all sorts of cheerful activity here. But if you book early enough, you can easily find a B&B or hotel for the night.
From Clifden, a small road leads west, around a landfall and curves back to the N59.
This is the Sky Road or the famous Sky Loop. This little road is a highlight for motorcyclists! But car drivers will also enjoy the picturesque road very much. However, the single-lane road is too narrow for motorhomes.
Past Clifden Castle, it leads directly along the rugged cliffs.
Again and again you see small bays, fishing boats, steep cliffs and hills. In places it goes steeply uphill and downhill.
Like a roller coaster with many incredible views! A dream! Don’t believe it – try it!
The coasts and mountains of Connemara
Once you’ve seen all the highlights, you’re done with Connemara, aren’t you?
Far from it! Even and especially away from the tour buses and tourist attractions, there are always scenic gems to be found.
Follow the coastline on small roads or drive through the mountains, you can’t go wrong here. And if you are exhausted from taking so many photos, you can relax for a while on one of the beautiful beaches.
Another “insider tip” is the R344 through the mountains. Close to the Pines Viewpoint, it leads north past Lough Inagh.
Wrong direction? Never mind, you can turn around after a while, the valley is beautiful in both directions!
Barren, stony and rustic with magnificent mountains and rugged coasts, this is how the “Wild West” of Ireland presents itself.
Travellers get their money’s worth here and should therefore plan at least one full day for Connemara.
If you’re still in the mood for a colourful and lively nightlife, we recommend the city of Galway – and then there’s the south.
But more about that in the next episode of this series of articles on the Wild Atlantic Way ….
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