I went on an organised daytrip from Galway to Cliffs of Moher and Burren. The first stop we made was at Dunguaire Castle.
Dunguaire is a small castle built around 1520 by the O’Hynes clan. In the end of February it was closed, but between May – October you can visit the interior. For that there is an admission. The castle has got a scenic location and we got 15 minutes to walk around and take some photos. On the way back to Galway we also made a short stop but only to take photos from the road. As the tide was high then we got photos of the castle with water in front of it.
Letterfrack is a village in Connemara, situated about 15km northeast of Clifden.
I chose Letterfrack to be my base for a few days while exploring Connemara. The Connemara National Park visitor Centre is situated in Letterfrack, but was closed during my visit in February. From the visitor centre there is a good trail up on Diamond Hill where I hiked up soon after I had arrived to Letterfrack. During my stay in Letterfrack I also visited Kylemore Abbey and hiked up on Tully Mountain.
Letterfrack is a village and for being such a small place I was surprised to find three pubs, at least two cafés, a large food store, a post office, a library (with Internet) and there is also a film club and a furniture college in Letterfrack.
My Letterfrack page.
I had seen photos from Tully Mountain and wanted to do a hike there while in Letterfrack. When I asked Mike at Letterfrack Lodge about the mountain he borrowed me a map, and drew on the map where I should walk while on the mountain. I also wrote down his instructions.
In the morning I brought a lunch picnic and set off for Tully Mountain. From Letterfrack I first walked along the road to Tully Cross. After Dawros River I turned left towards the mountain. Mikes description was something like this: Walk past the quay a few hundred metres to the top of the road, turn 90° right and walk 50m to the fence, hop over at the step (and yes, there was a way to get over the fence there), keep going straight to the shoulder. Stay on the shoulder to the top, there are four tops, keep going downhill to a stonewall, turn left, follow the stonewall and coast back.
It was a beautiful sunny day and the views were stunning in all directions, towards the sea and towards Connemara National Park. I enjoyed the hike very much and didn’t see anyone else on the mountain. Tully Mountain is only 356m high. There is no real trail, but only some sheep tracks. When it was time to descend I walked a bit too much to the left and there the heather was high at places. Near the stonewall I found a big stone in the sun where I had my lunch. On the way back I followed a narrow road below the mountain and then continued back along the main road to Letterfrack.
Walking to and from Tully Mountain, and the hike on the mountain, had all together taken around 7 hours. This hike was the highlight of my week in Ireland.
Connemara National Park Visitor Centre is situated in Letterfrack. It was closed in the end of February when I visited but it is here that the trail up on Diamond Hill, a mountain 442m high, begins. The hike to the top and back is 6.7km long, but if you don’t want to go all way up there are shorter trails to walk as well. I couldn’t see any other trails leading further into the national park while I hiked up on Diamond Hill. The trail is mostly easy to walk, but higher up on the mountain slope the path is rockier.
I arrived in Letterfrack before lunchtime, and I had bought my lunch picnic already in Galway, so after checking in my luggage at Letterfrack Lodge I headed out for Diamond Hill. It was a clear and sunny day, even though a bit cold. It was a lovely walk with beautiful views.
My visit to Galway was very short. I stayed for two nights, but went on a daytrip to Cliffs of Moher and Burren in between. I visited The Collegiate Church of St Nicholas and took a walk along River Corrib to Galway Cathedral, but I didn’t have time to visit the City Museum or take a stroll along the seaside promenade to Salthill. From Galway I travelled on to Connemara to stay there for a few days, but it is also possible to take an organized day tour from Galway to Connemara.
Galway has around 75 000 inhabitants and many of them are students. The city is known for all its festivals and cultural events, and pubs where traditional live music is often played.
Galway evolved from a small fishing village situated at the mouth of River Corrib. In the 13th century the town got its first fortified walls and in 1396 king Richard gave the power to 14 merchant families, families loyal to the crown. It is after those 14 families that Galway got the name City of the Tribes. With a natural harbour trade flourished with Portugal and Spain for centuries, until Galway was besieged by Cromwell in 1651.
My Galway page.
Clifden is often called the Capital of Connemara because it is the largest town in Connemara, even though there are less than 2000 inhabitants living in the town. During summer many tourists come here while visiting Connemara. There are several B&Bs, pubs, cafés and gift shops.
I visited Clifden only for a day and night and that day I walked the Sky Road, a scenic road outside Clifden, and I also walked the road past the harbour to a small beach. It was the first of March when I visited so it was not tourist season.
My Clifden page.
Kylemore Abbey was constructed between 1867 and 1871 by Mitchell and Margaret Henry. They had visited Connemara already during their honeymoon in the 1850s and loved the area very much. When Mitchell Henry inherited money they bought the old hunting Lodge Kylemore Lodge and 15 000 acres of land. On the site of the lodge they built their castle. Construction of the castle and gardens gave good paid work for the tenants and people in the area. The Henry’s also made other improvements for their tenants, like setting up a school for the children.
Mitchell and Margaret Henry had nine children and they lived a happy life together at Kylemore Castle. Their happiness ended in tragedy as Margaret died of dysentery, only 45 years old, while the family were on holiday in Egypt 1874.
In 1903 Michell Henry sold Kylemore Castle to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester and the Duchess had a lot of changes done to the interior of the castle. Kylemore Castle change owners again and finally, in 1920, it was purchased by an order of Benedictine Nuns, and thus became Kylemore Abbey. The nuns have made much restoration work of the Walled Garden and Gothic Church and they have had a boarding school which closed as late as June 2010.
To come to Kylemore Abbey I walked from Letterfrack. It is 4km and the walk took around 45-50 minutes. I arrived before 10 o’clock and luckily it had already opened. At Kylemore Abbey I walked around for 3h to see the main building, the Gothic Church and the Walled Gardens, before I went to a café to have coffee and scone.
The admission was 12.50 Euro (February 2013).
I had heard of the scenic Sky Road outside Clifden and wanted to walk it when I was in the area. It is a walk of about 11km along a narrow road above the Clifden Bay. The views are very nice, but the day of my visit it was cloudy. Returning to Clifden, from the village Kingston, I took the Lower Sky Road which runs parallel with the Sky Road above. Eventually it joins the Sky Road.
What I noticed was that there were fences along the road most of the time and I had a hard time finding a nice place to eat my picnic lunch at. At the highest point of the Sky Road there is a viewpoint and car park, so I sat on the wall there to eat my sandwich. With many tourists coming in the summer I think it would be good with a few more places for people to stop at and have picnic. When I the next day talked with the woman at Clifden Town Hostel she told me that she lives along the Sky Road and only the previous week her driveway had been blocked by a car and people having picnic.
If I would return in summertime I would rent a bike and cycle the Sky Road instead of walking.
When I came back to Clifden after walking the Sky Road I thought I would take the Beach Road down to the harbor before going back to the hostel. At the harbor I realised that the road continued when I saw a sign for the Boat Club and beach, so I decided to continue too. The road follows the bay, but not for very long. It ends by the Boat Club and a small beach. It is a beautiful walk to take and it was definitely worth it even if I just had walked the Sky Road. The day had been quite grey and cloudy but when I came to the beach there was finally sunshine.
Connemara National Park is a big area east of Clifden and south of Leenane and it includes 4 of the 12 bens - umong them is Benbaun, which is the highest of them with 730 meters. Inside that National Park you may also see plenty of megalith graves, dating back more than 4000 years.
You may walk through the national Park all year long, but the Visitor centre is only open during summer, daily between May and September.
More infos and pics are to be found on their web-page - click on my link below !
Travelling west from Galway on the road to Clifden it is possle to take in a delightful backwater. The road to lettermore winds gently over a rumber of narrow stone bridges that connect the little island group. In some ways in reminded me of a kind of mini Irish version of the Florida keys. These island vary in size from a couple of miles to postage stamp size. This strongly Gaelic speaking area is windswept and brutal in it's scenic beauty. I recommend visiting during a torrential thunderstorm permeated with low sunshine.
The drive to the very end of the half dozen or so islands doesn't take too long and you will have seen a different side of Connemara to the traditional worn route of the average tourist.
I've been and back ;-) Great time :_)
Just to let let yous know you can get a map and guide of the Connemara loop from most garages you stop at which does prove pretty uselful although most of the old timers in the area will disagree that this is the correct Connemara loop ! For the best portions of food you can try Bards Den in Letterfrack. The best pub I found was Paddy Coynes in Tullyfrack which is a very small village. Great guiness, great crowd and traditional music that night ( Sunday ). There are several taxis which you can get in the area if you ask the bar staff......as for the Connemara loop....its just a case of drive and stop whereever you want ;-)
One of the most common trips out for day from Galway is to visit the wilds of Connemara. The unspolit widerness is shared between County Galway and County Mayo. The twelve Bens (mountains) dominate the landscape they rise up between the peat bogs in a majestic way (oh god, I’m no good at the purplely landscape writing stuff). They are just very beautiful. O.K ?
Many visitors make it all the way out to Clifden, which is going just about as far west as it is possible without having to enter Canada. It’s geographical position led Marconi to set up his station nearby for transatlantic messages, and Allcott and Brown found the area very useful for crash-landing their plane. They only had to walk about 500 meters to Marconi’s station to telegraph the news of their historic arrival. The ‘Sky road’ (see tip on Clifden) is a road that proffers up some implausibly beautiful views.
The location of two films also interest many visitors to Connemara. ‘The Quiet man’ starring John Wayne was filmed around the beautiful village of Cong and ‘the Field’ (I would say it is the most Irish film I’ve ever seen) was filmed around Leenane. Both films revolve around an American returning to his roots.
There is plenty more besides. Just hire a car or go on one of the many organised coach trips
The King's head pub stands on the main street in galway city and dates from 1649. It is a great pub to visit with good music, food and beer.
For years I didn't realise the significance of the name and the date - but then I got wise !
In 1649 Oliver Cromwell was in power in England, and he needed the previous king, Charles 1st executed. The normal executioner refused, and the story goes that no Englishman could be found to do the deed. Eventually two soilders from Galway offered to do the job called Gunning and Dear. Gunning was selected. One of the last things that Charles 1st was reputed to have said was "How does my hair look ?", well it takes allsorts I suppose.
With the benefit of a mask, Gunning performed the beheading in Whitewall, London. His reward was to be given the land that the King's head stands on. Being a good Irishman, the first thing he did was build a pub !
Some features of the pub remain to this day.
An investigation was held on the restoration of the monarchy into who the executioner was. He was never caught although some in Galway claim that Gunning's business partner got him drunk one evening and Gunning admitted that his right arm was so strong because it was the one that cut of the King's head. His partner then blackmailed him over several years until he had all of the business to himself. They tell you the same story in the pub itself, except the names change. I'm convinced the above version has more historical evidence, but no-one really knows the full truth of the matter.
P.S He wasn't however stupid enough to call the pub the 'King's head' in 1649, the name is only about 100-150 years old.
'The Fields of Athenry' is a song known all over the world. Many presume that the song has a long history, but it was in fact written in 1979 by 'The Dubliners'. Others claim that they have modified a song from 1888 .
These days it is often sung at various gathering and has become embedded into the 'celtic cultural landscape'. It is song ( like 'Galway bay' as well) that Irish mothers will be singing to the offspring for decades to come.
First stop on any visit is obviously the quite impressive three-story Norman castle built by Meiler de Bermingham, who was granted much of the lands of Connaught in 1235. Following an attack on the castle in 1316, town walls were erected.
The ruined abbey is just across the road from the castle and grounds in Athenry, and was founded in 1241 by Meiler de Bermingham - the same bloke who built the castle. I guess planning permission was more easily gained in those days.
The place burned down in 1423, it was re-built with a central tower and the present northern doorway.
The market cross, right in the middle of the town, is apparantly unique in Ireland for two reasons. Firstly it has not been moved since it was erected in the 15th century and secondly it is a 'lantern' type structure (more common in the UK) rather than more common 'Celtic Cross'. In it's shadow many thousands of business deals have been struck with a handshake sealing the deal. An e-mail confirmation just isn't the same.
Athenry has generally regarded as one of the finest 'walled' town built in Ireland. Most of the walls and towers lay in various states of decay.
The North gate however still stands proud and as you exit the town the road drives straight through the structure. The tower also features a good example of a 'murder hole' aboove the gate.
I believe the guided walk is well regarded, or just visit the heritage centre to get the full story on the town.
Clonfert (yes, i've never heard of the place either) is Ireland's smallest diocese. Must be the sort of place that Father Ted would aspire to.
The Cathedral at Loughrea, although only the size of a reasonably large parish is a little gem.
Begun in 1897, it marries the Celtic revival movement with the arts and crafts movement. This means that unlike most cathedrals that are a mixture of different architectural styles from differing eras.
The interior is thus more important than the somewhat ordinary exterior. The wooden Church furniture have a certain homely quality to them, as you might expect. The stained glass windows are of an exceptionally high standard.
There is a 30 minute audio tour available, which I somehow missed and a small museum (closed when I was there).
I selected the Park House Hotel because it is very convenient to both the bus and train stations in...more
Aran Islands, County Galway, Ireland
Good for: Solo
Ardagh Hotel The short version Location: could not have been better. Staff: professional and...more