The Craic is Mighty: Things to Do in the West of Ireland

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Things to Do in the West of Ireland

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The west of Ireland is a treasure trove of breathtaking scenery, rich history, and vibrant culture just waiting to be explored. With its stunning national parks, historic castles, and charming towns, west Ireland offers something for everyone. Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline-pumping adventure or a relaxing retreat, the west of Ireland promises unforgettable experiences.

You’ll be captivated by the towering cliffs, pristine beaches, and rugged landscapes that characterize this magical part of the Emerald Isle. From picturesque villages to traditional music festivals, every corner of the western Ireland offers a distinctive slice of Irish charm.

It’s time to dive into the unforgettable experiences this part of Ireland has to offer.

Key Takeaways

  • The west Coast of Ireland boasts a diverse range of attractions from natural wonders to cultural experiences
  • Uncover the fascinating history as you explore the region’s castles, villages and festivals
  • Adventure awaits with plenty of outdoor activities, scenic drives, and unforgettable family outings

Top Attractions in West of Ireland

Cliffs of Moher

One of the most iconic natural attractions on the island, the Cliffs of Moher stand tall at over 700 feet, offering astonishing panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Your camera will be working overtime as you capture unforgettable memories. Make sure to visit the visitor centre, where you can learn about the area’s geology, wildlife, and history.

Aran Islands

The Aran Islands, located off the coast of County Galway, are a must-visit destination for anyone interested in ancient Irish culture. With their unique charm and an array of historical landmarks, such as the ancient Dun Aonghasa Fort, these islands will leave you awestruck. Don’t forget to rent a bike and explore the beautiful landscapes at your own pace!

Burren National Park

The fascinating Burren National Park is a true geological wonder. Its unearthly limestone landscape is adorned with diverse flora that is guaranteed to captivate you. While visiting, you should take a guided walk to learn about this unique ecosystem’s intricacies and the notable archaeological sites scattered throughout the park.

Killarney National Park

Last but not least, the enchanting Killarney National Park awaits you with its magnificent lakes, dense forest, and idyllic walking trails. A visit to the historical Muckross House and its delightful gardens is highly recommended. Take a leisurely stroll along one of the park’s many walking routes, or perhaps rent a bike and discover the park’s diverse wildlife.

Best Beaches and Surfing Spots

Achill Island

Achill Island, located in County Mayo, is a fantastic destination for beach lovers and surf enthusiasts. Check out Keem Bay, a stunning Blue Flag beach surrounded by cliffs, perfect for a relaxing day by the water. When you’re ready to catch some waves, head to Keel Beach for its consistent surf conditions, suitable for both beginners and experienced surfers.

Galway

Galway offers a variety of beautiful beaches and surfing spots for your enjoyment. Salthill, located just outside Galway City, is a popular spot for a leisurely stroll along the promenade and a dip in the sea. For surfers, try Lahinch Beach in County Clare, just a short drive from Galway. With its exposed coastline, Lahinch provides excellent surf conditions that cater to all skill levels.

Sligo

Sligo is home to some of Ireland’s best surfing beaches. Strandhill Beach is a popular choice among surfers for its consistent waves and easy paddle-out. The picturesque beach is ideal for beginners and advanced surfers, as well as families seeking a fun day by the sea. For more experienced surfers, Easkey is a famous spot that offers powerful, world-class waves and a thrilling experience.

West Cork

West Cork boasts an impressive array of both well-known and hidden gem beaches. Barleycove is a large, sandy beach perfect for sunbathing and swimming. Meanwhile, surfers should not miss the chance to visit Inchydoney Beach, known for its consistent waves and stunning scenery. To truly experience the best that West Cork has to offer, explore some of the lesser-known beaches, such as Warren Beach and Owenahincha Beach, where you can unwind and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Historical Sites and Castles

Ross Castle

Nestled on the shores of Killarney’s lower lake, Ross Castle is an iconic 15th-century tower house. This beautifully preserved castle offers you a glimpse into Ireland’s rich past. Take a guided tour to learn about the castle’s history, admire the impressive architecture, and soak up the stunning lakeside views.

Charles Fort

Charles Fort, located in Kinsale, is a prime example of a star-shaped fort built during the 17th century. Explore the fort’s grounds and delve into its fascinating history. With majestic views of the harbor and surrounding area, Charles Fort is an essential stop for any history enthusiast.

Fastnet Lighthouse

As you venture further west, don’t miss the breathtaking Fastnet Lighthouse. Known as the “Teardrop of Ireland,” this marvel of engineering was built in the 19th century and stands as a testament to the bravery of countless sailors navigating treacherous waters. A visit to Fastnet Lighthouse offers you awe-inspiring views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding coastal landscape.

Mizen Head

Be sure to explore the natural beauty at Mizen Head, Ireland’s most southwesterly point. Here, you’ll find dramatic cliffs and rocky coastline, as well as a visitor center detailing the area’s maritime history. During your visit, you can walk across the suspension bridge connecting the mainland to the Mizen Head Signal Station, which offers incredible photo opportunities.

Western Ireland Itinerary

If you are planning an Ireland road trip in the West region, we recommend starting in Galway city on the atlantic coast.

Day 1 & 2: Galway Kick off your journey in the vibrant city of Galway, full of culture, history, and craic. Don’t miss out on:

  • The Spanish Arch and Galway City Museum
  • Quay Street for food, drinks, and live music
  • A stroll around the Latin Quarter
  • Day trip to the Aran Islands where the irish language is the mother tongue

Day 3 & 4: Connemara Next, head out to Connemara, where rugged mountains meet crystal-clear lakes.

  • Kylemore Abbey
  • Connemara National Park
  • The quaint fishing village of Roundstone
  • Sky Road, Clifden for breathtaking views

Day 5 & 6: Westport, County Mayo This charming town is a perfect base for exploring the breathtaking Mayo coastline.

  • Climb Croagh Patrick, a pilgrimage site with stunning views
  • Visit Westport House and Gardens
  • Explore Achill Island and the Wild Atlantic Way

Day 7 & 8: Sligo The land of hearts desire, Sligo, is steeped in literature, history, and incredible landscapes.

  • Visit W.B. Yeats’ grave at Drumcliffe Churchyard
  • Explore the ancient Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery
  • Enjoy a surf lesson on Strandhill Beach

Day 9 & 10: Donegal Finish your trip in the ruggedly beautiful county of Donegal.

  • Explore Glenveagh National Park
  • Visit the imposing Donegal Castle
  • Walk along the Slieve League Cliffs, some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, if you have more time keep going along into Northern ireland and the stunning Antrim coast.

Stunning National Parks and Countryside

Ireland’s west coast is home to breathtaking landscapes, lush green countryside, and enchanting national parks. In this section, we’ll explore some of the must-visit parks and countryside in County Kerry, County Mayo, and County Cork.

County Kerry

In County Kerry, you’ll find the captivating Killarney National Park. Home to beautiful waterfalls, stunning lakes, and Ireland’s tallest mountain, Carrauntoohil, this park offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or just seeking a peaceful escape, this national park won’t disappoint. Make sure to immerse yourself in the charming Muckross House and Gardens and take a leisurely ride on a traditional jaunting car.

County Mayo

The wild beauty of County Mayo will captivate your heart. Visit Achill Island, the largest island in Ireland, where you can explore its untouched beauty and perhaps even catch glimpses of dolphins swimming offshore. If you’re a fan of hill walking and adventure, don’t miss Benbulbin in County Sligo, with its remarkable landscape and panoramic views. For something truly magical, head to Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park, Ireland’s newest national park with its vast wilderness, dark skies, and unique flora and fauna.

County Cork

Make your way to County Cork and discover the serene beauty of the Bantry House and Gardens, overlooking Bantry Bay. This historical mansion offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside and access to beautiful woodland walks. County Cork also has the magnificent Sheep’s Head Peninsula with its dramatic sea cliffs and rugged coastline, perfect for a scenic hike or a quiet picnic with a view.

Thrilling Adventures and Activities

Wild Atlantic Way

Get ready to explore the Wild Atlantic Way, a breathtaking coastal route that stretches for 2,500 km along Ireland’s west coast. Embark on exhilarating activities such as:

  • Surfing: Ride the waves in some of the best surf spots in Europe.
  • Hiking: Lace up your boots and hike the dramatic cliffs and scenic coastal paths.
  • Cycling: Pedal through the picturesque landscapes and charming villages.

Beara Peninsula

Discover the unspoiled beauty of the Beara Peninsula, a lesser-known gem with stunning views and historic sites. During your visit, you can:

  • Drive: Take a scenic drive along the winding roads and experience breathtaking views of the rugged coastline.
  • Walk: Stroll through the charming villages and explore ancient ruins and monuments.
  • Wildlife: Keep your eyes peeled for seals, dolphins, and whales that frequent the area’s waters.

Lough Hyne

Immerse yourself in the serenity of Lough Hyne, a marine lake known for its rare and diverse flora and fauna. Enjoy activities such as:

  • Kayaking: Paddle through the calm waters and take in the beauty of the surrounding forest.
  • Snorkeling: Plunge into the crystal-clear water and discover the incredible marine life.
  • Hiking: Wander the beautiful trails around Lough Hyne and admire picturesque views.

Skibbereen

Venture to Skibbereen, a bustling market town surrounded by lush countryside, where you can:

  • Heritage: Delve into the town’s history at the Skibbereen Heritage Centre and uncover secrets from the past.
  • Golf: Tee off at the local golf course, offering a challenging game with magnificent views.
  • Art: Browse the art galleries and studios, showcasing the vibrant local art scene.

Charming Towns and Villages

Westport

Welcome to Westport! This picturesque town in the west of Ireland is full of charm. Stroll through the colorful streets with Georgian architecture and lively pubs. Visit Westport House, a stunning heritage house with extensive gardens. While you’re here, don’t miss the chance to experience traditional Irish music and dance in the local pubs.

Croagh Patrick

If you love outdoor activities, then visiting Croagh Patrick should be on your list. This mountain, also known as Ireland’s Holy Mountain, offers stunning views as you hike towards the summit. At the peak, you’ll find a chapel where pilgrims gather to pay respects and admire the panoramic views of Clew Bay.

Clew Bay

As you explore the west of Ireland, be sure to visit Clew Bay. This beautiful bay is dotted with over 100 small islands, some of which are inhabited. You can enjoy various water sports like kayaking or take a boat trip to explore the picturesque islands. Your visit to Clew Bay won’t be complete without witnessing the awe-inspiring sunset over the ocean.

Atlantic View

Indulge yourself in the breathtaking Atlantic View. As you drive along the Wild Atlantic Way, you’ll be treated to spectacular coastal scenery and small villages with their own unique charm. Make sure to stop at the numerous lookout points to take in the dramatic landscape and snap memorable photos. This scenic route will leave you with an unforgettable impression of the rugged beauty of the west of Ireland.

Fun Road Trips and Scenic Drives

Galway

Exploring the west of Ireland is a must for any road trip enthusiast. One of the best starting points for your adventure would be the vibrant city of Galway. Known for its lively music scene and charming streets, it’s a great base to explore the surrounding attractions.

A highly recommended drive from Galway is along the Wild Atlantic Way. This popular driving route takes you along breathtaking coastal scenery, sandy beaches, and charming villages. You’ll find plenty of spots to stop and take in the stunning views or enjoy a picnic.

Another highlight near Galway is the Connemara Loop. This scenic route covers approximately 80km, taking you through the stunning Connemara National Park, and offers opportunities to see unique landscapes and the famous Connemara ponies.

County Kerry

Continuing your road trip in the west of Ireland, you’ll reach County Kerry. This area is famous for its picturesque landscapes, colorful towns, and cultural attractions.

Begin by driving the famous Ring of Kerry this 179km-long circular route will take you around the Iveragh Peninsula, showcasing some of Ireland’s most breathtaking scenery. You’ll pass through lovely towns like Killarney, Kenmare, and Glenbeigh, while encountering panoramic views of the coast, lakes, and mountains.

For a more off-the-beaten-path adventure, consider exploring the Dingle Peninsula. This rugged landscape offers a rich cultural experience, with traditional Irish music, local crafts, and ancient historic sites. The Slea Head Drive, a 48km circular route around the peninsula, showcases the best of this captivating region.

And don’t miss the chance to drive the impressive Skellig Ring. This lesser-known 32km extension of the Ring of Kerry takes you along the coast, offering views of the famous Skellig Islands. The route is narrow and winding, but the extraordinary beauty makes it worth the effort.

Festivals and Traditional Music

Galway

Galway is a lively city filled with vibrant festivals and traditional Irish music. When visiting, make sure to check out the Galway International Arts Festival which showcases a range of performances, exhibitions, and street spectacles. If you’re a fan of traditional music, the Galway Tradfest is a must-visit. Venues around the city host concerts, céilís, and sessions featuring some of Ireland’s finest traditional musicians.

Sligo

Sligo is another great destination for festival lovers and music enthusiasts. The annual Sligo Live is an exceptional event that celebrates folk, roots, and indie music. For those who enjoy traditional Irish music, Sligo Trad Week is an unforgettable experience. It brings together a combination of performances, music lessons, and friendly gatherings, allowing you to immerse yourself in Ireland’s rich musical heritage.

West Cork

West Cork showcases a unique blend of music and culture that attracts visitors from all around. The Clonakilty International Guitar Festival is a must-attend event for music enthusiasts. This week-long celebration of guitar talent features local and international performers, workshops, and exhibitions.

For those who prefer traditional Irish music, the Masters of Tradition Festival in Bantry showcases some of the finest traditional performers from Ireland and beyond. It offers a great opportunity to experience the music that has shaped Ireland’s cultural landscape.

FAQS on West Ireland

What towns are on the Irish West Coast?

The West Coast of Ireland is sprinkled with charming towns each with its unique character. Here are a few to whet your appetite:

  • Kinsale in County Cork
  • Dingle in County Kerry
  • Ennis in County Clare
  • Galway City in County Galway
  • Westport in County Mayo
  • Sligo Town in County Sligo
  • Letterkenny in County Donegal

What is the west coast of Ireland?

The West Coast of Ireland, also known as the Atlantic Coast, is a dazzling stretch of coastline running from County Donegal in the north to County Cork in the south. It’s home to the world-famous Wild Atlantic Way, a 2,500km driving route that boasts some of the country’s most spectacular scenery – think dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, rugged islands, and vibrant coastal towns.

Which coast of Ireland is the prettiest?

While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, many visitors are especially enchanted by the West Coast of Ireland. Its raw, untamed beauty, coupled with the warmth and charm of its towns, make it a truly unforgettable destination. That said, the East Coast, with gems like the Giant’s Causeway and the Mourne Mountains, also offers stunning views and experiences. In short, every corner of Ireland is filled with its own unique charm and beauty!

What is a top visitor attraction on the west coast of Ireland?

There are countless attractions that draw visitors to Ireland’s West Coast, but if we had to pick just one, it would be the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. These towering sea cliffs stretch for 14km and reach heights of up to 214 meters, offering breathtaking views over the Atlantic Ocean. They are a true testament to Ireland’s wild and natural beauty.

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