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Ireland Travel Guide

Best Places to Visit in  Western Ireland

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            Best Places to Visit in Ireland    Detailed Map 

 

 

 

  

Best Places to Visit in Ireland's West

 
1) Shannon    Limerick    Bunratty Castle    Dromoland Castle   Adare  
2) Galway     Cliffs of Moher    The Burren     Lisdoonvarna      Dunguaire Castle  
3) Connemara     Kylemore Abbey     Aran Islands    


Galway

Galway Bay looking towards the Connemara

Use the menu above (repeated at the bottom of the page), to find attractions on this page or others in our section on Ireland's West.

Galway sits at the head of Galway Bay on the Galway River.  The river, which is locally known as the River Corrib, is named after the scenic Lough Corrib, which is a short hop to the north of the city.  The lake/loch/lough is the largest in the Republic of Ireland. 

The town of Galway, capital of County Galway, is famed as the gateway to the scenic areas to the west and northwest of Ireland, particularly those in County Galway and nearby County Clare.  Galway is one of the larger cities in Ireland and offers a range of accommodations. Consider making Galway your base when touring County Clare and County Galway. If you prefer not to be in the city, there are a number of fine inns and B&Bs scattered throughout the West. 

Galway and its surrounds have had a long and colorful history. One of the earliest settlements in the area was Claddagh, a fishing village that pops in and out of Irish history during a 1500-year period.   Eventually a fortressed settlement was constructed and the area was named "Galway".  In the 16th century, the town became a busy seaport focused on trade with Spain and the "Spanish Arch", which dates from this period, commemorates the relationship.  There is also a popular rumor the Christopher Columbus visited Galway during his voyages of exploration.  The town declined in the subsequent centuries due to a variety of factors, although recently it has become one of the fastest growing cities in Ireland.  Unfortunately, growth has had its price and a mix-mash of development is now occurring.  In addition,  the city was not built to handle as much traffic as it now experiences - so be prepared to negotiate heavy traffic, especially in the summer and during festivals.

                 

Galway is a fun place to visit.   Its pubs are filled with music, song, good food and interesting characters. A visit to one of the city's restaurants followed by some time at a few pubs is a nice way to end a busy day of touring.  There is good quality shopping in Galway and if you need to stock up provisions for your trip this is a good place to do it. Finally, Galway is a university town (the National University of Ireland at Galway) and the University is a source for the arts and cultural events throughout the town.

To be honest, there is not a lot to see in Galway and what is of interest is found in a small area near Eyre Square.  Most visitors take a quick tour of Eyre Square, which was renamed Kennedy Memorial Park" to commemorate a visit made by John F. Kennedy who visited Galway in 1963.  The Square has been the "center" of activity in Galway for centuries. Nearby you can find the Spanish Arch, one of the old gateways to the city mentioned above and the "Lynch Window" (near St. Nicholas Church).  The local legend goes like this - A mayor of the town during the era of trade with Spain was named Lynch.  His son killed a visiting Spaniard and was sentence to hang for his crime.  When the executioner refused to hang the mayor's son, the mayor did the deed himself, which helped coin the term "lynching".  In addition, you might be interested in the Collegiate Church of Saint Nicholas, parts dating from the  14th century. It is widely held that Columbus attended mass here, as Galway was the last known port on his voyage of discovery.

A locator map showing the counties in the West of Ireland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The publs in Galway are friendly places, sometimes filled with songs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Attractions in County Clare

The Cliffs of Moher 

The Cliffs of Moher are majestic and worth exploring.

The Cliffs of Moher, highlighted by a precipitous drop to the turbulent waters of the Atlantic, are one of the most spectacular sights in Ireland. Located on Ireland's west coast between Liscannor Bay and the South Sound (near Hags Head) the Cliffs are a dramatic sight. The drop to the Atlantic is approximately 700 feet and almost straight down. The landscape evokes a feeling of tenacity, as if Ireland (and the Irish) struggled up out of the sea and continue to spit in the wind to show their determination to survive.

Uo close the details of the Cliffs of Moher are quite interesting.

The Cliffs of Moher are a popular attraction and at over six miles in length, there is room for everyone.  Aside from an observation tower where you can get a more panoramic view of the Cliffs, there is little development and the wind, waves and weather all too often let you know who rules this rugged coast.                 

Cornelius O'Brien, relative of the famed Brian Boru - the historic king of Ireland, built the tower on the edge of the Cliffs of Moher in the early 19th century, as a tourist attraction.  From the tower you can see north to the Aran Islands, Galway Bay and Connemara.  A modest fee is charged for admission.

There is now a new visitor center set into the hillside called the Visitor Experience at the Cliffs of Moher (fee).  It includes an interpretative center called the Atlantic Edge, as well as a cafe, restaurant and audio-visual theatre. Visit the official Cliffs of Moher website for information on the Cliffs and the visitor's center.

The Burren    

Often represented as "a landscape from another world", or a "moonscape", the Burren is a bare-rock area comprised of uniquely weathered limestone.  The area is known for its megalithic burial mounds and dolmens.

The Burren is an eroding limestone platform that seems magical.The Burren is variant of the type of landscape known as karst.  In these areas, layers of dense, highly jointed, thinly bedded limestone are extremely susceptible to erosion, which results an environment with caves, springs, streams in unexpected places, and a unique look. In addition, during the Ice Age, the Burren was pulverized by glaciers that left a rolling, rocky, plane.

Today, the area looks like a "rock graveyard" with blocks of limestone of various sizes, ranging from large plates to small stones, spread haphazardly across low rolling hills. Most vegetation has a hard time growing in glaciated, limestone areas, but an amazing variety of plants that grow nowhere else in Ireland, make the Burren their home. 

 

                 

The Burren National Park is located in the southeastern section of the Burren and covers approximately six square miles.  For information on visiting the park and for information on the areas wildlife, see the park's official website.

                             The Poulnabrone Dolmen in the Burren

More than five thousand years ago, the early inhabitants of the area, used slabs of limestone to build temples and portal tombs, sometimes called dolmens. The Poulnabrone Dolmen (off R480 - north and east of Lisdoonvarna and south of Ballyvaughan) is shown in the photograph above. A number of these interesting sites are spread throughout the Burren.

Plan to see the Burren on your way to or from the Cliffs of Moher.  The Burren (located in northwest County Clare and south of Galway) is promoted as a "must see" in all the guidebooks, but will appeal mostly to hikers who have time to explore this area. There are several locations that serve as visitor centers to the Burren.  If you are thinking about seeing this area, consider stopping at the Burren Visitor Centre at  Kilfenora.

There are several other attractions ringing the Burren that should be on your list if you visit this area.  If you drive up from the south, you might take a slight detour through Doolin to see Doonagore Castle that dates from the 16th century.  Although a private residence and closed to the public this small castle is a photographers delight and not far off the beaten path.

Next, plan to stop in Lisdoonvarna   .  It is Ireland's major spa town and its therapeutic waters are widely known.  This small village is also the matchmaking center of Ireland.  September is the time the Lisdoonvarna hosts one of Europe's most famous annual matchmaking festivals, but unless you are looking for romance, we recommend you avoid the town in September.

        

Finally, take some time to visit Kinvara (also spelled Kinvarra) .  The town (a former fishing village), is quite scenic and it hosts nearby Dunguaire Castle, one of the most photographed castles in Ireland.  The castle, which dates from the early 16th century, overlooks Galway Bay.  It is operated by Shannon Development and medieval banquets are held April through October, although the ground are open to day visitors from May thought September.  See the Shannon Development site for information on the castle or attending its banquets. 

In a curious twist of fate, the area around Kinvara is now being developed with luxury homes.  For years this empty but delightful coastal plain was just "another empty stretch".  Now it appears to be transitioning to a bedroom community for Galway or summer homes for successful Dubliners.

More Places To Visit In Western Ireland

Click here for page 3 of our Guide to Ireland's West, featuring the Connemara, Kylemore Abbey and the Aran Islands

Or, Click the jump bar at the bottom of this page to go directly to the descriptions of the listed attractions in Ireland's West

Or, use the link menu on the right-edge of this page to explore another of Ireland's wonderful regions.

If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index or Googling ThereArePlaces.


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Dublin and Vicinity

The Southwest
Cork, Killarney, Ring of Kerry, Dingle, Blarney Castle and more.

The West
Galway, Connemara, Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Aran islands and more.

The Southeast
Waterford, Rock of Cashel, Jerpoint Abbey and more.

The North and Northern Ireland
Donegal, Sligo, Giant's Causeway, Dunluce Castle, Belfast and more.

Introduction to Ireland

 

 

O'Brien's Tower overlooks the Cliffs of Moher.

 

 

 

Although mostly rock, a large variety of flowers eke out a life on the Burren

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
1) Shannon    Limerick   Bunratty Castle      Dromoland Castle   Adare  
2) Galway    Cliffs of Moher  The Burren   Lisdoonvarna           Dunguaire Castle  
3) Connemara     Kylemore Abbey      Aran Islands  
   
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