Wednesday, December 19, 2018

My 5-Day Wild Atlantic Road Trip Guide: Itinerary, Photos + Loads More

Stop 1 – Connemara National Park

My first stop was a lengthy 3 hours and 48 minutes from Tralee, but it was worth the long, slog of a drive.

I’ll never get tired of Connemara National Park.

connemara national park things to do in ireland
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Situated in the West of Ireland in County Galway, the park covers around 2,957 hectares of mountains, bogs, grasslands, and woodlands, making it an immensely scenic part of the island to drive through.

Some of the Park’s mountains, namely Benbaun, Bencullagh, Benbrack and Muckanaght, are part of the famous Twelve Bens or Beanna Beola range.

things to do in connemara national park
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

I was happy to just drive through and hop out of the car whenever something caught my eye but if you’re looking to explore the area, here are some of the things you can do.

The Best Things to do in Connemara

Stop by Aughnanure Castle
Check out Kylemore Abbey
Have a gander at Inchagoill Island
Drop by Connemara Heritage & History Centre
Visit the Glengowla Mines
See the Quiet Man Bridge
Spend some time on Diamond Hill

Stop 2 – one of the best towns in Ireland – Leenaun

You’ll find the gorgeous little town of Leenaun on the southern shore of the Killary Harbour, at the northern edge of Connemara.

Please stop here – it’s deadly.

One of the reasons I’m so fond of the place, aside from the fact that the views that surround you are just out of this world, is that Gaynor’s Pub, which you’ll find in the town, is the place that they filmed the bar scenes from the movie ‘The Field’.

That’s a whole load of nostalgia right there.

I parked up the car and headed into the cafe inside the visitor center/gift shop for a bite to eat.

where to eat in leenaun
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

If you drop by, go for the vegetable soup with homemade brown bread – it’s fantastic.

While I was happy to wander through Leenaun, there are lots of other things I could have done. Here some more activities to help you plan your trip.

7 Things to do in Leenaun (or close by)

Have a gawk at the Killary Fjord from afar
Hop on one of the Killary Fjord Boat Tours
Get the adrenaline pumping at the Killary Adventure Centre
Check out Joyce Country Sheepdogs
Ramble along Glassilaun Beach
Kick back at Aasleagh Falls
Chill in a Connemara Seaweed Baths

Stop 3 – the other-worldly Leenaun to Louisberg Drive

This drive deserves a road trip guide dedicated to it as it’s one of those stretches of road that just completely shock the system.

I’ve driven this route many times and on every occoasion, I’ve been taken aback by the sheer lack of people driving along it.

The scenery varies from icy lakes to rugged mountains to open country.

leenaun to louisburg drive
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

As you make your way along the road, you’ll pass Doo Lough, a long dark freshwater lake on the Murrisk peninsula.

Keep an eye out for a plain stone cross – it stands as a memorial to the Doolough Tragedy which took place in 1849.

The only advice I can give you during this drive is to take your time and stop and stretch your legs as often as possible.

As you make your way towards Louisburg, you’ll drive alongside the Sheaffry Hills and the Mweelrea Mountains, which make your final stretch of the journey an absolute treat.

Stop 4 – Onwards to Achill

After arriving in Louisburg I pointed the car in the direction of Achill, with the intention of arriving on the island just before the sun started to set.

By this stage, the driving was taking its toll, and I was longing for some food and a seat in a pub to take in everything I’d seen that day.

Achill never ceases to amaze.

achill island aerial photo
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Never.

Achill Island lies off County Mayo on Ireland’s west coast and is connected to the mainland (thankfully) by The Michael Davitt Bridge.

The island is scattered with peat bogs, rugged mountains, towering sea cliffs and beautiful clean beaches and bays.

I skipped Keel beach on this occasion, but here’s a picture I took on a different trip to give you a sense of what it’s like.

keel beach achill island
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

From the get-go, the final destination I had set in my head from when I left Tralee many hours previously was Keem Bay.

So, I popped it into Google maps and made my way there.

This was my first time on Achill as the sun was starting to set, and it was an experience that I’ll remember for a long time to come.


If you take the road that hugs the coast, you’ll be guided along narrow roads that, at times, meander through the island and are an absolute joy to cruise along.

This was my third time on Achill, and I’d thoroughly recommend that you give yourself a decent chunk of time to explore the island as you tend to find yourself stopping constantly and just gazing around the place in awe.

As I reached the final stretch of the island the sun was beginning to drop fast.

Moments like this are why I love exploring Ireland.

They’re unpredictable, you can’t plan them and they make you feel like the earth has momentarily slipped off its axis, causing time to stand still.

This was a special moment – sunset on Keem with the whole beach to myself. Literally.

I spent some time on the beach admiring the view before climbing a little way up the hill that sits to the right of Keem.

From here, the view was just out of this world.

I knocked off the camera, put the phone away and just sAt back and tried to soak in what lay before me.

A special moment.

ACHILL ISLAND AT SUNSET
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Step 5 – Newport for the final night

With all the excitement (and driving), I totally forgot to book a room for the night – yes, again.

The nearest available place was a B&B called Brannens in Newport.

I rang ahead and got a nights bed and breakfast for €55 – bargain.

I arrived at Brannen’s tired and with a thirst on me for a couple of pints, so I checked into my room (clean, modern and incredibly comfortable) and made my way to the pub connected to it.

Brannen’s pub in Newport is one of those places that I imagine hasn’t changed a whole lot in 40 years – it’s what I’d call a traditional Irish pub.

No frills, pictures of local GAA teams on the wall, and locals sat up at the bar having a chat.

I took a seat next to them and ordered up a pint of Guinness.

Over the course of three hours, many different people came and went; each of them pulling up a seat by the bar, ordering a drink, nodding me a hello and chatting away to the barman and the locals.

As I sat back in my stool nursing my pint, people watching, and chatting away to some of those in the pub, I got a genuine appreciation for what a pub can do for a community.

A good pub brings locals together.

This really was the perfect way to finish off my 5-day Ireland trip.

I drained the end of my 5th pint and hit the nest.

Wrapping it all up

If you have 5 days to explore Ireland you want to see some of Cork, Kerry, Galway and Mayo, then this route will suit you to the ground.

It’s packed with amazing things to see from the get-go and takes in a good chunk of Ireland.

Obviously, there are many things I would have done differently, but for the most part, I was pretty happy with how it went.

If you’ve yet to embark upon an Irish road trip of your own, now’s the time to do it.

Check out our road trip guides for some inspiration and let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Have any road trip questions?
I monitor the comments here and am more than happy to offer any advice or answer any questions. If you’d like to ask something about exploring Ireland, do so below, and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

Keith
Howaya! The purpose of this site is to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories. No spam. Clickbait. Or boll*x. Ever. Keith

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