Galway is a vibrant city, with an amazing atmosphere and plenty of attractions to keep you busy throughout your visit. However, don’t restrict yourself to just the city. There is so much more exploring to be done outside of the city centre. One of the best places to explore is Connemara, a stunning area of the Wild Atlantic Way with breath-taking coastal landscapes, the most beautiful beaches and the spectacular Connemara National Park.
Even better, Connemara is only just over an hour drive from Maldron Hotel Sandy Road, making our hotel the perfect base for exploring Connemara. This list highlights the best things to do in Connemara.
Connemara National Park
The first thing to do in Connemara is to visit the Connemara National Park. A 1 hour and 20-minute drive from Maldron Hotel Sandy Road, this beautiful park is a must see for all visitors! The park is made up by over 50 glorious mountains across four ranges, the Twelve Bens, Partry, Maum Turks and Sheffrey.
We highly recommend that you do the Diamond Hill walk. Considered by many to be one of the best hikes in the country, Diamond Hill stands at 445m high overlooking the small village of Letterfack. It takes takes approximately 2.5 to 3 hours to reach the summit and offers some pretty spectacular island, ocean and mountain views.
Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Gardens
Kylemore Abbey, one of the most popular thing to do in Connemara, dates all the way back to 1867, when it was originally built as a castle by Mitchell Henry as a gift for his wife. It then became home to the Irish Benedictine nuns who transformed it into an abbey in 1920. There is so many stories to be heard during your visit as the history of the abbey is one rich of tragedy, romance, education and spirituality.
A visit to Kylemore Abbey is one of the best days out you could have in Connemara, with the 1,000-acre estate consisting of a beautiful 6-acre Victorian Walled Garden, the fascinating 14th century Neo-Gothic church and stunning woodland and lakeshore walks.
Dog’s Bay & Gurteen Bay
There is a reason that Dog’s Bay is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the Ireland. A short drive from Roundstone village, Dog’s Bay is a stunning horse-shoe shaped beach, stretching over a mile long with lovely white sands and crystal-clear water. The sand is made up solely of tiny fragments of seashells which gives it its amazing white colour.
A headland separates Dog’s Bay from another fabulous beach, Gurteen Bay which is also a discovery point along the Wild Atlantic Way. If you are feeling up to the challenge you could take on the coastal walk of Gurteen Peninsula which takes 2-4 hours to complete. This may be tough, but the scenery is highly rewarding.
Omey Island is another must-do in Connemara: a beautiful sandy grass island, 600m offshore from Claddaghduff. The island can only be accessed at low tide, follow the signposts in the sand which will lead you on your journey. Once on the island you will be presented with amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding area.
Omey Island is only 1 mile square, however, there is plenty to discover. You will come across the ruins of Teampaill Féichín a mediaeval church built in the 7th century. Astonishingly, the church was covered in sand until 1981 and is surrounded by a semi-sunken village which was wiped out during the famine. St Feichin’s Holy Well can also be found on the island. Fahy Lough, a freshwater lake makes up over a third of the island and is home to swans, ducks and brown trout.
Trust us, you will highly regret not driving along the Sky Road during your visit to Connemara. Honestly, pictures may not do the views on offer justice, they are simply stunning! The route is 16km long and goes from Clifden onto Kingstown peninsula and back into Clifden via the N59. The roads separate into lower and higher roads just after the castle gates. The lower roads give close up views of the sea however, we recommend taking the higher road as this gives you breath-taking views of the entire area! You won’t find many views like this across Ireland.
There is a spacious car park and viewing point at the highest point of the sky road, giving visitors the best opportunity to capture that perfect snap.
Top Tip: Pack some treats and drive up to the viewing point at sunset to make the experience more romantic. Your other half will definitely appreciate this.
Need more romantic ideas? Check the top things to do in Galway for couples!
Killary Harbour, located in the rugged countryside of Leenane, is home to Ireland’s only fjord. Killary Fjord extends 16km in from the Atlantic to its head at Asleagh and is also quite deep at 45m at the centre. Killary Harbour offers visitors spectacular views of the surrounding area including Mweelrea Mountain, the Twelve Bens and Mamturk mountain ranges.
There is also plenty of excellent outdoor activities to take part in such as, hiking, scuba diving and bird watching. There are also companies who run regular boat trips around the fjord.
Inishbofin is a unique island just 10km off the coast of Cleggan. To get to the island you must take the ferry from Cleggan pier, which leaves three times a day during peak times and twice a day during the off-peak times. Inishbofin is only 8km long and 3km wide, representing an area of true natural beauty.
The island is rich in history, with beautiful beaches, plenty of hiking routes and stunning scenery. Inishbofin is also home to many different species of flora and fauna. The island is famous for its traditional Irish music with many a session to be had throughout the year!
Last but certainly not least thing to do in Connerma is Glengowla Mines. It is both an excellent and unique day out in Connemara. Situated just outside of the village of Oughterard, Glengowla Mines date back all the way to 1851 and were in operation until 1865, measuring 40 metres deep and 200 feet wide.
Today you can visit the mines on a guided tour, marvel at features of the mines and learn more about the workers who mined here until 1865. You can also pet the residential Connemara ponies, have a look around the museum and search for gold at the gold panning station.
Do you want more ideas and activity around Galway? Be sure to check our other list including the best sightseeing in Galway, nightclubs, pubs and shops in Galway. If you’re around in December, the Galway Christmas market is also a must-do.
Maldron Hotel Sandy Road
Maldron Hotel Sandy Road is the perfect hotel for whatever your plans – whether that’s a relaxing break, a base from which to explore the West of Ireland or just to simply enjoy the atmosphere of Galway City. We know having your car is vital while exploring Galway, so we offer all of our guests free, secure underground parking throughout their stay.