Guide to sightseeing and visitor attractions in Galway County and surrounding counties.
The Aran Islands are located about 48km (30 miles) from the mouth of Galway Bay. Inishmore (or Inis Mór) is the largest of the three islands which measures just 14km (9 miles) in length and 4.8km (3 miles) at its widest point. The islands are famous for their prehistoric and Christian monuments including the spectacular Dún Aengus fort that is one of best examples of this type of fort in all of Europe. Other ancient stone forts worth visiting include Dún Eoghanachta and the crumbling Dún Dúcathair. The unique landscape of the islands exhibit a crosshatch of thousands of miles of stone walls and visitors flock to the islands to enjoy the cliff-top walks and spectacular coastal scenery. The islands are also home to more than 430 different varieties of wild flowers and plants making them popular with botanists. Inishmaan (or Inis Meáin) and the smallest, Inisheer (Inis Thiar, or Inis Oírr) are less busy in Summer but are well worth visiting as they offer visitors a more authentic experience.
Cliffs Of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are is one of Ireland's most visited tourist attractions. Situated in North-West Clare between the villages of Liscannor and Doolin, the Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland's most spectacular natural wonders. Over 700 feet tall at their highest point, the shale and sandstone cliffs drop almost vertically to the Atlantic ocean far below. From the top there are views, on a clear day, to the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, the Maum Turk and Twelve Bens mountains in Connemara to the north and Loop Head in Co Clare to the south. The grass roofed Visitor Centre is set into the hillside and offers an all weather experience. The Atlantic Edge Exhibition Area brings to life the story of the Cliffs of Moher. The themed zones of Ocean, Rock, Nature and Man present the setting, geology, wildlife and human stories associated with the cliffs.
The Burren, in County Clare is a barren place, famous for its unique rock formations and exceptional diversity of flora and fauna. There are also large number of historic sites contained within The Burren, making it a popular visitor attraction for the region. Covering an area of approx 300 km2, its boundaries are clearly defined to the north and west by Galway Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, with the villages of Ballyvaughan, Kinvara, Tubber, Corofin, Kilfenora and Lisdoonvarna situated at it's edge. Among the archaeological sites of importance are tombs, burial chambers and the celtic high cross in Kilfenora. The well-preserved Corcomroe Abbey is one of the most popular sights in the area. Many visitors also come for the walking, sea-angling, photography and caving that make this corner of Ireland such an attraction.
The distinct region of Connemara is located in the north west corner of County Galway. Connemara's breathtaking landscape is a mixture of unspoilt rivers, lakes, woodlands, rich meadowlands, rugged hills, dramatic mountains and stunning coastline of sandy beaches and crystal blue waters. Connemara is a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) area, rich in Irish culture, heritage and traditions. The main town in the Connemara region is Clifden. It has lots of quirky shops, restaurants and traditional Irish pubs to explore. Throughout the region there are many very interesting attractions like Kylemore Abbey, Connemara History & Heritage Centre in Clifden, Glengowla Mines in Oughterard, the 40,000 acre Connemara National Park and the set of the film 'The Field' in Leenane, which was directed by Jim Sheridan in the 1990's. Connemara is the ideal place to visit if you want to experience all things Irish.
Rinville Forest Park
Rinville Forest Park is located only 5 minutes from the picturesque village of Oranmore. It is a wonderful amenity, created around an ancient castle, a stately home and a fine estate demesne, which dates from the 16th century. With an extensive network of walks through woodlands, open farmland and by the sea, the Park offers a recreational facility of outstanding quality and beauty. There is access to Rinville Point and Saleen Point, where views of Galway Bay, Galway City and the Burren of Co Clare, can be enjoyed. Raven, grey heron and otter are numbered among the fascinating fauna which can be observed, while the flora includes cultivated and wild flowers, shrubs and trees. The Park has picnic areas and a children's playground, is open year round and admission is free.
Coole Park outside Gort was the home of Lady Augusta Gregory, dramatist and co-founder with Edward Martyn and W.B. Years of the Abbey Theatre. The garden of the house, with its yew walk and autograph tree is preserved. Carved on the autograph tree, among others are the signatures of John Masefield, George Bernard Shaw, Sean O'Casey. The area is also a National Nature Reserve due to its great wildlife importance with its native woodlands and turloughs.
Portumna Castle was built in 1616 by Richard Clanricarde, then governor of Galway. The Castle is a symmetrical three-storey mansion built over a basement. It was built with beauty and comfort in mind and offers a breathtaking view of Lough Derg. Inside the Castle, a series of exhibits tells the story of the house and the Clanricardes. Outside, a walled forecourt has been rebuilt and the Portumna Castle gardens are laid out with geometric paths and formal enclosures. The castle is open to the public from March to October.
Dunguaire Castle is a magnificent 16th century castle overlooking the village of Kinvara and Galway Bay. From April to September the castle comes alive with medieval banquets, which feature theatrical performances involving rhyme, verse music and song. Part of the lore about Dunguaire's Castle is that the Lord of the castle was very generous and he continued this generosity into the afterlife. Today, if a person stands at the front gate and asks a question, they will have an answer to their question by the end of the day.The castle also has a crafts and visitors shop.
Aughnanure Castle was built in the 16th century as a stronghold of the O'Flaherty clan, and is renowned for its unusual double bawn. It lies in picturesque surroundings close to the shores of Lough Corrib. In 1546, the O'Flaherty's motto "Fortune favours the strong" and the powerful Mayo O'Malley's Motto "Powerful by land and by sea", were joined in the marriage of Donal an Chugaidh O'Flaherty and Grainuaile or Grace O'Malley. Standing on what is virtually a rocky island, the Castle is a particularly well-preserved example of an Irish tower house. In addition, visitors will find the remains of a banqueting hall, a watch tower, bastions and a dry harbour.
Of all the 365 islands on Lough Corrib Inchagoill is the most famous and most visited. The name Inchagoill comes from 3 Irish words "Inis An Ghaill" meaning the Island of the stranger. Situated approximately half way between Cong Co. Mayo and Oughterard Co. Galway (4.5 miles from each) this special island is home to a number of ancient monastic ruins, some dating back to the 5th Century.
Glengowla Mines is a historic 19th Century silver and lead mine situated west of Oughterard in County Galway. Guided underground tours every 20 minutes - last tour 5.30 pm - and an exhibition of all the tools originally used in the mine. The tour explores large marble chambers and caverns studded with lead & silver pyrite and veins of calcite & quartz in addition to other precious materials. A unique heritage attraction being the only one of its kind in the country.
Kylemore Abbey & Gardens
A trip to the West of Ireland is not complete without experiencing the beauty and tranquility of Kylemore Abbey and Gardens. Facilities include a visitor centre, an exhibition housed in the main reception rooms of the house and a video which takes the visitor through the history of the house and its occupants. Open all year round.
The beautiful round arched west doorway at Clonfert Cathedral is a lovely relic of Irish Romanesque decorative architecture built A.D. 563. Monasteries flourished as centres of learning and sent missionaries to many European countries, bringing with them the classical literature of Greece and Rome. Reports in the 9th century suggested that anyone who spoke Greek on the continent was an Irish person or had been taught by an Irish person
No visit to Connemara would be complete without a visit to Killary Fjord. The nine mile long inlet boasts some of the finest scenery in the West of Ireland, and because of its sheltered nature, its waters are always calm ideal for taking one of the daily scheduled cruises which depart from Leenane village. Step back in time as you sail past the many deserted villages, abondoned since Famine times, which dot the Northren shore of the Fjord. Admire the rugged landscape of Mweelrea, the highest mountain in Connacht.