The Connemara is wild, rugged, and beautiful. This sparsely populated
area offers good hiking, great coastal fishing, and spectacular scenery.
The Twelve Bens (mountains) in center of the Connemara offer moderately
challenging hiking in one of Ireland's few remaining wilderness areas.
The Twelve Bens, also called the Twelve Pins, are composed of a quartzite
outcrop and are not especially high (between 500 and 800 meters) or
extensive. If you are in good shape, you should be able to walk them
in a day (at least on a day with good weather). Perhaps the best way to get
a sense of the Connemara and its trails is to visit the Connemara National
Park and its visitor center in Letterfrack. The official website for the
park can be found
Most walkers/hikers will find exploring the area difficult due to the
ever-present bogs. Not only can the bogs be dangerous, but be prepared
for the next step to swallow your foot and steal your shoe! Be
sure to wear high boots, leggings and be prepared for rain or generally
The Connemara offers other outdoor activities including, golfing, hunting
and cycling. If you are interested in spending a few days in the area,
you might want to make Clifden, the capital of the Connemara, your base of
The town offers good food, fun shopping, a variety of accommodations and is
becoming known for its musical artists. For more information on the
Connemara and Clifden, visit Connemara's
official tourism website.
If you decide to wander the Connemara, you might be interested in visiting
Kylemore Abbey and its beautiful gardens. Kylemore is home to the
Benedictine Nuns of Ireland, although portions of the estate function as a
tourist attraction. The estate was built in the 19th century as a
residence/faux-castle, but was eventually acquired by the Benedictine Nuns who
converted it into an abbey and a boarding school.
The nuns who purchased the property, in an example of turnabout, were from an
order from Yrpes, Belgium that had fled Ireland for Belgium in the 17th
century to avoid religious persecution. They returned to
Ireland and purchased the castle as they were fleeing
the dangers of World War I in Belgium,
For the official Kylemore Abbey website,
This modest chain of islands seems to enjoy something of a cult reputation
many visitors. The islands are small, rocky, craggy and a testament to
people's desire to survive under harsh conditions. The islands
appear to have experienced waves of migration in the past and they have a number
of ancient forts, monasteries and churches to prove it. As in most
migrations, it is thought that many of the earliest settlements were related to
groups seeking to avoid persecution for their religious or cultural beliefs.
The three islands of Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oirr comprise the Aran
chain. Inis Mór (also called Inishmore) largest (approximately 6 square
miles (16 sq. km)) and is home to approximately 900 residents. The island
can be reached year round by ferry from Rossaveal in Connemara (County Galway),
which can be reached by bus from Galway.
Your visit to Inis Mór
will begin in
Kilronan, where you will find lodging, pubs, grub and shopping.
Transportation here takes several forms as you can hire a bike, a taxi, ride
in a horse-drawn carriage or jump on a bus to tour the island.
A day visit is often just the ticket, but you might want to spendmore
time if you are interested in birding, hiking or desire to spend some of
your vacation in a remote, pleasant environment. Inis Mór offers bed &
breakfasts as well as other types of lodging, but book ahead as this
island's population (normally around 900) swells in summer.
Once you arrive, stop in at the Heritage Center (if it is open) for a
worthwhile overview of life on the island and the uniqueness of its history.
Inis Mór is a large, elevated outcrop of limestone (similar in
composition to the Burren) and its geology helps make the island a scenic
wonderland. The steep cliffs that rim its shores are the most attractive
sights on the island. Although they are a number of beautiful cliffs, the
most popular are those near Dún Aonghasa (Dún Aengus), the most well known of
the ancient fortifications in the Aran Islands.
Built of stone at the edge of precipitous drop to the ocean (130 feet) the fort
features multi-layered (onion like), low, thick walls that defend an elevated
center area protected by another wall with stone buttresses. The age
of Dún Aengus site is unknown, although some claim it dates from the Bronze Age.
For an interesting review of the history and construction of Dún Aengus, see
More Places To Visit In Ireland
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