Day 11 – Diving into Connemara before taking the best drive on Ireland’s West Coast to Mayo
I know I keep saying it, but we’ve another action packed day on the road in store.
We’ll be mixing road trippin’ and hiking to form an absolute peach of a day.
Here’s everything you need to know about day 11!
- Hiking in Connemara
- Kylemore Abbey for a post-hike coffee
- Leenaun for lunch and a view
- Aasleagh Falls
- A drive that’ll stick in your mind forever
- Westport for lunch
- On to Achill
- Hiking boots
- Rain gear
- Some snacks for the hike
Day 11 Stop #1 – Diamond Hill
Clifden to Diamond Hill (park at the visitor center) – 21-minute drive (Leave Clifden for 8:30, arrive at Diamond Hill for 8:52)
Our first stop of the day offers the perfect opportunity to escape the car and stretch your legs.
Something I’ve heard said on many occasions is that to truly appreciate the beauty of Connemara, you need to see it from above – enter Diamond Hill.
Hit play above and check out the view 😮
There are two walks to choose from;
The Lower Diamond Hill walk
This trail measures around 3 km and has modest climbs along the route.
You’ll enjoy fantastic views of the surrounding Connemara countryside, coastline and islands over the course of the 1 – 1 and a half hours that it takes to complete.
The Upper Diamond Hill trail
This is a continuation of the Lower Diamond Hill walk which takes you up to the summit of Diamond Hill. For those that fancy giving this a shot, the entire circuit of the Lower and Upper trails measures around 7km and should take between 2.5 – 3 hours.
At the summit, you’ll be treated to panoramic views across all of Connemara.
Expect to see the Twelve Bens mountain range, Tully Mountain and Mweelrea to the North.
Day 11 Stop #2 – Kylemore Abbey for coffee and a gawk
Diamond Hill to Kylemore Abbey – 7-minute drive (Allow yourself 1.5 to 3 hours to climb Diamond Hill. We’re going to allow for 2.5 hours, so you’d arrive to the Abbey for 11:27)
At this stage you should be still buzzing from your early morning ramble.
We’re heading straight for the café in Kylemore Abbey for coffee and cake (if you’re feeling peckish).
The Abbey itself is a Benedictine monastery that was founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle, in Connemara.
The whole place looks like something plucked straight from a fairy-tale.
When I visited here last, I literally just walked along the edge of the lake and took it all in from afar.
You can do the tour if you like, but the view from the other side of the water is amazing.
Day 11 Stop #3 – The Lovely Little Village of Leenaun
Kylemore Abbey to Leenaun – 20-minute drive (spend 40 minutes – longer if you do the tour – at Kylemore Abbey and get to Leenaun for 12:27)
Leenaun is hands-down one of my favourite little (and I mean ‘little’) villages in Ireland.
It’s small, has a buzzy atmosphere from all of the tourists and locals milling about the place and the views out over the Killary Fjord are nothing short of sensational.
Any time I’m here I nip into the little café that’s attached to the gift shop right across from the big parking area (you literally can’t miss it).
I can vouch for the vegetable soup and coffee both being class.
It’s not long since you’ve eaten, but if you’re feeling a little tender after a few drinks the night before, grab a coffee by the window and soak up the view.
For those of you that have watched ‘The Field’, you may recognise Gaynors pub in Leenaun as the pub that featured so frequently in the movie.
Day 11 Stop #4 – Aasleagh Falls
Leenaun village to Aasleagh Falls – 5-minute drive (spend 30 minutes in Leenaun – more if you’re eating – and aim to get here for around 13:00)
There are few sounds that rival the soft ‘plops’ that emit from a waterfall the size of Aasleagh Falls.
You’ll find the waterfall a stone’s throw from Leenane village on the River Erriff, just before the river meets Killary Harbour.
You can park the car at a lay-by close to the falls and there’s a pathway that allows visitors to make the short stroll to the waterfall.
Stretch the legs and gulp down lungfuls of fresh air.
Day 11 Stop #5 – One of the most breath-taking drives in Ireland
Aasleagh Falls to Louisburgh (Co. Mayo) – 40-minute drive but allow 1.5 hours minimum (you’ll have spent 20 minutes at Aasleagh Falls, so you should arrive in Louisburgh for around 14:50)
OK, so this isn’t necessarily a stop, but you’ll be stopping plenty of times over the course of the drive.
The Leenaun to Louisburgh Drive deserves a road trip guide dedicated to it as it’s one of those stretches of road that just completely shocks the system.
I’ve driven this route many times and on every occasion 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.
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.
Day 11 Stop #6 – Westport for a late lunch
Louisburgh to Westport – 26-minute drive (arrive around 15:25)
We’ve another tonne of things to do today, so we’re going to take some time to eat up in the gorgeous town of Westport.
I’m going to recommend you head to J.J O’Malleys Bar & Restaurant for a bite to eat but here’s a map of all of the best places to eat in the area – just zoom in on Westport.
Fuel up and have a ramble around the town before heading back to the car.
Day 11 Stop #7 – Exploring Achill Island
Westport to Achill – 52-minute drive (leave Westport at 16:55, arrive on Achill for 17:47)
Achill Island is (thankfully) connected to the mainland by The Michael Davitt Bridge, which makes getting to it an absolute doddle.
The island is scattered with peat bogs, rugged mountains, towering sea cliffs and beautiful clean beaches and bays.
We’re going to skip Keel beach on this occasion, but here’s a picture I took on a recent trip to give you a sense of what it’s like (feel free to stop here if you like).
Our destination for this road trip is Keem Bay.
Pop it into Google maps and make your way there.
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.
The first time you lay eyes upon Keem Bay is something that carves itself upon your memory.
If you can, pull in at the side of the road after you come up the hill just before the bay comes into view (there’s limited parking on either side – literally enough space for one car).
Admire the scene in front of you from above, then make your way to the car park at the end of the winding road.
Spend some time on the beach admiring the view before making your way up a little way up the hill that sits to the right of Keem.
From here, the view is just out of this world.
Here’s a tonne of pictures of Achill Island if you’re hankering for more!
Day 11 Stop #8 – Newport for the Night
Achill to Newport – 56-minute drive (leave Achill at around 16:55, arrive to Newport for 20:50)
Now that, was busy aul day.
Time for a bit of R&R in a town called Newport. I’m going to recommend that you stay in a B&B called Brannen’s, which is right in the center of the town.
I completely stumbled upon this place last winter, and managed to get a nights bed and breakfast for €55 – bargain.
Nip over to The Grainne Uaile for a bite to eat and then back to Brannens for a pint.
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 proper traditional Irish pub.
No frills, pictures of local GAA teams on the wall, and locals sat up at the bar having a chat.
Chill for the evening. We have, you guessed it, another cracking day ahead tomorrow as we explore more of Mayo before heading onto Sligo and Donegal.
Where the road trip will take us on day #12 (a place that’s older than the pyramids, cliffs and more)
Day 12 will give you the perfect mix of active and chilled exploring.
Get a good rest the night before and awake ready for battle!
Move onto page 13 below to check them out!