If you haven't visited Ireland before, Connemara is an excellent place to start. Situated in the north-west corner of County Galway, to the west of Lough Corrib, Connemara allows you to submerge yourself in Irish culture, sample local cuisine and see the sights, offering something for everyone to enjoy.
The presence of the Atlantic Ocean to the west has shaped the rugged coastline to produce some beautiful hidden beaches and seaside hamlets. To the north is Killary Harbour, Ireland's only true fjord that reaches for 10 miles (16 km) from the Atlantic, forming a natural border between counties Galway and Mayo. To the south of Connemara is Galway Bay, which boasts a collection of small islands, famous for its unique traditional sailing craft - the Galway Hooker.
The easiest way to reach Connemara is to head to Galway City then take the Clifden Road (N59). The journey itself provides many a dramatic and breathtaking view from the mountainous terrain inland to rolling fields and jagged coastlines. Connemara (Conamara) translates to 'Inlets of the Sea' and as you wind around the peninsula you can expect to see an abundance of small bays and coves, waiting to be explored.
There are many things to do in Connemara, the main coastal village Clifden boasts an array of colourful shops, traditional Irish pubs, fine restaurants and plenty of accommodation from friendly B&Bs to luxurious hotels.
If you're looking for an architectural gem the ruins of the Gothic Revival–style Clifden Castle can be found west of the town of Clifden by Sky Road. The manor house was built c 1818 for the local landowner John D'Arcy, but it fell into disrepair after it became uninhabited in 1894. The estate faces south overlooking Clifden Bay, and the surrounding pastures are home to grazing cows, sheep and horses.
When it comes to natural beauty, Connemara boasts an abundance of flora and fauna. If you're an avid walker, be sure to check out Connemara National Park. The main access for the Park is located near the village of Letterfrack along the N59, although hiring a car is not essential as there are plenty of public transport options.
Offering 2,957 hectares of mountains, bogs, heaths, grasslands and forests the varied terrain provides environments for every ability. There are four main walking routes ranging in distance from the short Ellis Wood Nature Trail (0.5km) to the more steep Upper Diamond Hill Walk (3.7km) - one of the more challenging things to do in Connemara. If you can make it to the top the stunning views across the valley are well worth the hike. Be sure to pack your camera!
Other features of the park include relics of human presence such as an early 19th-century graveyard, house ruins, previous water and drainage systems and an ice house. Once you have explored the park why not visit the tea room for refreshments?
Historically, the parklands were mainly used for agriculture and grazing cattle. Some of the more fertile lowlands were used for growing vegetables, the old cultivation ridges and hollows still recognisable today. One of the most abundant plants in Connemara National Park is the purple moor grass, which casts a mauve hue across the low-lying moorland. The wild and untamed landscape is home to the Connemara Pony - the only breed of pony native to Ireland.
If you're looking for things to do in Connemara to keep older children occupied The Point Equestrian Centre in Ballyconneely offers horse riding and pony trekking for all levels of experience. Enjoy rides along the Atlantic coastline with the Twelve Bens mountain range towering on the horizon.
After a day of exploration, you'll be ready for a well earned sit down and a cold beverage or two. The picturesque fishing village of Roundstone is home to award-winning seafood bar and restaurant, O'Dowd's of Roundstone. The restaurant won 'Pub of the Year 2017' (The Georgina Campbell Awards) and prior to that was listed in the 2015 Michelin ‘Eating Out In Pubs’ guide, Irish Examiner. The restaurant overlooks the harbour with panoramic views over Roundstone Bay & the Twelve Bens. As well as serving fresh local seafood (including their famous seafood chowder), you'll find succulent meat, chicken and vegetarian plates on the menu with a dish to suit every palate.
One of the best things to do in Connemara is experience a traditional, lively Irish pub. Head to Lowry’s Bar in Clifden for an authentic evening full of fantastic music, great whiskeys and fresh food. Expect live music 7 nights a week (in season) with Lowry’s Bar Famous Tuesday Night Sessions held all year round, welcoming musicians to join in.
If fine dining is more to your taste, a visit to The Owenmore Restaurant at Ballynahinch Castle Hotel is a must. Overlooking the magnificent terraces above the salmon river, the restaurant offers a relaxed elegance in a grand, majestic setting. The impressive selection of dishes on offer created by chef Pete Durkan and his team very regularly to complement the changing seasons. With an extensive wine list, you'll be sure to find a tipple to tantalise your taste buds.
After you've exhausted your list of things to do in Connemara and are looking for simple respite during an action-packed weekend, or are simply after a romantic escape Connemara offers a wide variety of accommodation to suit all budgets and itineraries.
Connemara National Park offers both Hostel and Hotel Style rooms. All rooms all have private bathrooms and sleep two to six people and there’s a large modern well-equipped kitchen so you can whip up a picnic ahead of your excursion.
For an idyllic retreat visit The Anglers Return to Roundstone. Built in the 1800's as a sporting lodge the quaint guesthouse sits at the foot of Derradda Hill, overlooking the famous Ballynahinch River. Its scenic gardens are brimming with flowers, characterful stone walls, pathways and river views. Inside the building retains many of its original features including low ceilings and log burning fires.
The luxurious Abbeyglen Castle Hotel is nestled amongst the Twelve Bens with beautiful views overlooking Clifden Bay. It's a great choice if you want to be close to local attractions such as Kylemore Abbey, Connemara National Park, the local museum and Connemara Golf Links. Staff are warm and welcoming with your comfort and experience being their number one priority.
Self-catering cottages in Ireland are a great option for families and couples looking for a bit more privacy, and you will find plenty of self-catering cottages in Connemara to choose from.
So whether you're visiting Connemara for the vast array of activities or plan to just head to the nearest pub for an Irish Guinness hopefully this overview of things to do in Connemara will be helpful and has inspired you to dig out your suitcase and book your flight already!