Set within a windswept corner of County Galway, the region of Connemara is at once stark and sublime. From the Twelve Bens mountains to the dramatic Atlantic coastline, the landscape twists and undulates, revealing pearlescent coral beaches, swathes of misty bogland and even a glacial fjord flanked by the majestic Kylemore Abbey. While the wilder quarters of this breathtaking land offer ample opportunity to test out your windbreaker, a cosy pub or restaurant is never far away. Here are six of the region’s essential experiences.
1. Diamond Hill
For every star God put in the sky, it’s said he tossed a million stones in Connemara. You’ll find a chunk of them on and around this quartzite ridge, which takes its name from the shiny rocks local children once sold to tourists as ‘Irish diamonds’. It’s a short, calf-stretcher of a climb, leading to incredible views over the Atlantic, Kylemore Abbey and the surrounding mountains.
2. Dog’s Bay
Connemara is four-seasons country, capable of throwing rain, wind and sunshine at you within a single afternoon. Luckily, Dog’s Bay and Gurteen, two beaches sitting back to back on an isthmus off the Ballyconneely peninsula, drop jaws in any weather. Just up the road is harbour town Roundstone, where a creamy chowder at O’Dowd’s Seafood Bar & Restaurant is a hug in a bowl.
3. Omey Island
You can reach Omey at low tide via a causeway from Claddaghduff. It’s an odd feeling to drive or walk for half a mile across the rippled sand, but the break with the mainland is magical, delivering you to an outpost whose treasures include a sunken church (Teampaill Féichín).
Set between Doughrough Mountain and Lough Pollacappul, this turreted pile has a self-guided tour telling the story of the castle and abbey. Its community of Benedictine nuns was first set up after they fled Belgium in the First World War. There are also grand restored salons and Victorian walled gardens.
5. Sky Road
This nine-mile driving loop to/from Clifden circles a tiny peninsula with a craggy coastline and views stretching from the islands of Inishturk and Turbot to the Twelve Bens mountain range. Don’t be tempted to hike the route — there’s no path and lots of blind bends.
Killary is a snaking, 10-mile glacial fjord forming a natural border between Mayo and Galway, perfect for kayaking. Afterwards, grab a bowl of mussels from the Misunderstood Heron, a seasonal food truck overlooking the Killary at Leenane.
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