Galway is one of those Counties where you could go for a holiday for a month and you still wouldn’t have seen all of its amazing attractions, scenery, beautiful towns, walks and so much more. I have a lot of friends in Galway and I was delighted when two of my fabulous Galway girls- Stephanie and Emma- agreed to go Galavanting with me to the West coast. We headed out the N59 from Galway city Roundstone bound! This is a really beautiful drive through the pretty little towns of Moycullen and Oughterard. There are lovely little craft shops in both towns and plenty of choice to stop for a bite to eat. Further out the road you will come across a sign to the right for Leam- blink and you will miss it (as we did, but we got turned around and drove back). This is where the “Quiet man” bridge is (The famous 1950 film with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara). Apparently so many tourists have taken rocks and stones from this bridge that it has been rebuilt 3 times! We didn’t take any souvenirs with us this time but we took a few snaps, recreated the famous scene where John Wayne pulled poor old Maureen around and then hopped back into the car.
Our plans for the day had changed a few times and we had originally decided to head straight for Clifden for lunch but Emma spotted a sign for Ballynahinch Castle so we decided to take the R341 towards Roundstone. This beautiful Castle Hotel is nestled in between beautiful woodlands and overlooks Ballinatard Lough. It’s in such an idyllic location and if you want a bit of luxury on your trip to Connemara, then check this place out!
I was starting to get hangry at this stage so we headed back out onto the main road. It’s a short drive from here along the Wild Atlantic Way into Roundstone. Roundstone is a pretty little coastal harbour town. It has one main street where you will find an array of restaurants, craft shops and bars. Oh but the scenery! As you look across the harbour you are greeted with a fabulous array of mountains (The Twelve Bens), beautiful islands and coastline. There was a little farmers market at the top of the town on the day we visited. Stalls selling ice-cream, breads and cakes (I resisted), Connemara pottery and loads more! We took a stroll down the town and we were spoiled for choice for places to eat. Eldons Hotel is in the centre of the town as is the Roundstone House Hotel. If you are a lover of seafood then you are in the right place. The Bogbean Cafe and the Shamrock Bar and Restaurant were highly recommended to us but we settled for O’Dowds restaurant right opposite the harbour.
O’Dowds Bar and Restaurant is known as the oldest in Connemara and it has an array of awards to entice the hoards of tourists that pass through here all the time. The day we visited the bar and restaurant was hopping and we got one of the last tables in the restaurant. They have a lovely sized menu with plenty of specials also. If you aren’t a lover of seafood then fear not! There were plenty of options on the menu for everyones taste! And really good value too! Did you know the movie “The Matchmaker” was filmed here in the 90’s. There is a beautiful little gift shop in the middle of the town with the same name. A must stop for some souvenirs. You can take a ride on a Galway hooker here also (excuse the pun- it’s a boat!) from the harbour that will set you back €50. Well worth the trip around the beautiful Islands in the bay.
Roundstone is a perfect base for some of Connemara’s beautiful walks also. The scenery from the top of Errisbeg mountain is amazing and while we didn’t get a chance to take this walk while we were there,(full belly’s and everything! :)) I will definitely be back to trek up it. There is also plenty of easy loop walks to do from the village.
Our next port of call on our Connemara drive was Gurteen bay. This stunning beach is just a short 5 minute drive from Roundstone and is a beautiful spot on a nice or not so nice day. There is a good big car park here and a spot to set up for a picnic! Gurteen Bay Caravan park is situated right at the beach and would be a perfect getaway during the summer months. Even though it wasn’t a particularly warm day, there were plenty of people in swimming and loads of people out walking. This beach is situated on one side of a penninsula. On the other side you have the similarly stunning Dogs Bay. Walking around this penninsula there are numerous photo opportunities and plenty of encounters with random sheep. The indescribable natural beauty here is out of this world. This is also the setting for the much loved Irish film- “Into the West” (Tayto!!). Its easy to see why they picked this particular location.
Unfortunately not long after we had arrived in Dogs Bay the rain came. We had planned on exploring more of the secluded bays around Roundstone but we hopped back into the car and headed North on the Wild Atlantic Way towards Clifden. Again the scenery on this drive is fabulous and you are hugging the coast all the way into the busy little town of Clifden. Clifden is the largest town in Connemara and while we visited it in the pouring rain, you could still feel its charm. We pulled in on the main street and headed straight for Walsh’s bakery for a cup of tea and compulsory cake! The selection of cakes and pastries in here are amazing and they have some lovely porcelain tea sets on sale too.
We realised the rain wasn’t going to let up so we took a walk through the town and discovered the Alcock and Brown Hotel. Named after John Alcock and Arthur Brown who were two English navigators. They landed their plane after the first transatlantic crossing close to Clifden in 1919. Probably not the best place for two British pilots to land during the Irish civil war! There is plenty of other accommodation in Clifden also including the Station Hotel and countless numbers of bed and breakfasts and guesthouses. There are plenty of bars and Restaurants also. Guys Bar stood out to us as having a lovely seating area outside and very cosy interior. There are some fabulous art gallerys in Clifden also. Head down main street and you will find the Lavelle art gallery and the whitethorn art gallery. Perfect spots to pick up some souvenirs of Connemara.
After we were well and truly soaked by the rain, we headed back to the car and decided to head out to the sky road for a last Galavant before heading back towards the city. We headed back out past the Alcock and Brown Hotel and followed the signs for the Sky road. Now the rain was pelting down at this stage but the scenery was still absolutely amazing. This is a looped 20 minute drive that will bring you back into Clifden. You are driving right along the cliff for the first half of this drive so you need to take it easy. There are a few spots to pull in and take photos over the North Atlantic. On a better day the photo opportunities from here would be out of this world. On the sky road you will pass by a beautiful secluded harbour and some beautiful inlets, but you need to look out for the traffic in the form of sheep on this road also!
We took our leave of beautiful Connemara after a thoroughly enjoyable day out. This is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to the places to visit in Connemara. North Connemara including Killary Fjord, Leenaun, Tullycross and the National park itself are all calling me to go visit! That’s definitely a weekend trip I think but I can’t wait already! I have attached a few links below if you are planning a trip to this amazing part of Ireland- as always- Happy Galavanting! xxx