11 Best Things To Do in Connemara (Hikes, Castles, Scenic Spins + More)

two photos of Connemara
Photo left via LOUIS-MICHEL DESERT. Photo right via Hugh O'Connor. (on shutterstock.com)

If you’re in search of incredible places to visit and things to do in Connemara in Galway, you’ve landed in the right place.

This magnificent little corner of the Wild Atlantic Way is home to a seemingly endless number of adventure opportunities, that are perfect for those looking a bit of a road trip.

in fact, this section of the county is home to many of the best places to visit in Galway, as you’ll discover below, from hikes and walks to megalithic tombs, beaches and plenty more.

The best things to do in Connemara in Galway

Where’s Connemara, you ask? It’s that beautiful bump on the west coast of Ireland, north of Galway Bay, and almost severed from the mainland by Lough Corrib and Lough Mask.

Infused with Irish culture and a rich history, Connemara is the perfect place to escape to for a night or three, especially if you’re fond of the outdoors, great food and stunning landscape.

1. Drive, Walk or Cycle your Way Around Connemara National Park

connemara co galway
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

However you decide to get around, the stunning scenery of the Connemara National Park will blow you away (literally, at times, thanks to Ireland’s very temperamental weather!).

The park is dominated by over 50 mountains, each of which belongs to either the Twelve Bens, the Maum Turks, the Partry or the Sheffrey mountain ranges.

Follow the Wild Atlantic Way around the windswept coastline or enjoy the delights of the Connemara Cycle Route, passing the prettiest villages, stunning beaches and windswept hills.

One of the best things to do in Connemara, in our opinion, is to head off on the Diamond Hill Hike. The views from this mighty mountain are out of this world.

2. Head for a Wander Around Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey connemara
Photo by Brian Morrison

Many of the more popular things to do in Connemara revolve around natural sights, unsurprisingly enough, but Kylemore Abbey is a worthy exception.

Nestled at the foot of a green mountain overlooking Pollacapall Lough, this fairytale castle has a romantic history and, tragically, a not-so-happy-ever-after ending.

Mitchell Henry and his wife fell in love with this spot on their honeymoon. When he later inherited a sizeable fortune, he had the castle built in 1868 as a gift for his wife.

When she died, he added a Neo-Gothic Church as a memorial. It became a Benedictine Abbey for a community of nuns in 1920 and they still inhabit this beautiful abbey-castle with rooms and gardens open for public tours.

3. Spend the Night Somewhere Swanky (or Drop in for a Bite to Eat)

Ballynahinch castle
Photo via Ballynahinch Castle

What better way to treat your loved one (or yourself) than by spending a night at Ballynahinch Castle, one of the top castle hotels in Ireland (and the world, according to Condé Nast magazine).

Set in 700 unspoilt acres, it has its own salmon fishery along with stunning grounds that contain a meandering river. There are also numerous hikes right on the doorstep.

If an overnight stay is too pricey for your taste, book a meal in the elegant Owenmore Restaurant and sample Rack of Connemara Lamb or Dry Aged Irish Fillet of Beef.  

Ballynahinch is arguably one of the most impressive castles near Galway City and it’s well worth a visit even if you just admire it from the outside.

4. Spin along the Sky Road in Clifden

Sky road clifden things to do county galway
Photo by Christian McLeod via Ireland’s Pool

Truly a “Highway to Heaven”, the Sky Road heads out from the beautiful village of Clifden on a seven-mile journey of phenomenal vistas.

One beautiful landscape after another is revealed, taking in the town views from the D’Arcy Monument, Clifden Castle, the 1875 Coast Guard Station and the end-of-the-world experience at the tip of Eyrephort peninsula before circling back to Clifden.

It’s not a journey to rush and if you can incorporate a sunset, so much the better. If you’re in search of romantic things to do in Connemara, grab a picnic in Clifden and hit the Sky Road for sunset.

5. And Then Grab a Bite to Eat in the Buzzy Town of Clifden

clifden town connemara
Photo by Chris Hill via Tourism Ireland

Clifden is the pretty Connemara capital with a charming town centre showcasing a variety of architectural gems in pastel hues.

Nestled in a glen with church spires reaching for the clouds, Clifden has plenty of top restaurants and pubs delivering home-cooked local cuisine.

Head Chef Liam O’Connor offers a mouthwatering menu at the Carriage Restaurant while the Marconi Restaurant is a favourite haunt for locals.

Dine on fresh oysters, crab and lobster or succulent Connemara Blackface Lamb for a memorable gourmet experience. 

6. Take a Boat Ride to Inishbofin Island

Inishbofin
Photo by David OBrien/shutterstock.com

Inishbofin Island is one of a handful of places to visit in Connemara that tends to get left out of many itineraries, which is a shame, as this island really is beautiful

Just seven miles offshore from Connemara, Inishbofin Island is a scenic destination at the end of a breezy ferry trip from the fishing village of Cleggan.

Step aboard the Island Discovery and enjoy the passing scenery of white-sandy beaches, craggy cliffs and towering mountains.

On arrival, there’s plenty of time to enjoy a meal and a loop walk in this Special Area of Conservation before returning to the real world again.

7. Or Stretch Your Legs on the Omey Island Walk

omey island
Photo by Wirestock Images (Shutterstock)

Now, you need to be careful with this next one. Omey Island can be reached at LOW TIDE each day (here’s a guide on how to know when and where to cross).

Plan to make the crossing at low water and follow the signposts in the sand to explore the historic highlights of this one-mile-square hidden gem.

Pass the monastic graveyard, climb the Crocán na Mban hillock, visit the church and Holy Well and take in stunning scenery on this unique walk. 

8. Head for a Saunter Along the Sand at Gurteen Beach

aerial view of Gurteen Beach
Photo via mbrand85 on shutterstock.com

When it comes to things to do Connemara delivers time and time again. Nothing beats a walk on a beach as incredible as the one above.

Located near Roundstone Village, Gurteen Beach offers uninterrupted views of Erriberg and the Connemara coastline.

The pure white sand (a result of fragmented foraminifera seashells), crystal clear waters and windblown vegetation make this a memorable flat walk along the two-mile-long beach. 

9. Or Take a Dip in the Crystal Clear Water at Dog’s Bay

Crystal Clear Water at Dog’s Bay
Photo via Silvio Pizzulli on shutterstock.com

There’s a reason that our next stop ranked highly in our guide to the best beaches in Ireland – it’s incredible!

Horseshoe-shaped Dog’s Bay is on the opposite side of the spit from Gurteen Beach and is slightly shorter in length at just one mile.

Enjoy a back-to-back walk taking in the stunning coastal scenery in this protected bay on the Wild Atlantic Way with the reward of a cooling paddle or swim on a nice day.  

10. Spend a Rainy Day Exploring the Glengowla Mines

Inside the Glengowla mines
Photo via Ballynahinch Castle

A visit to the Glengowla Mines is one of the more unique things to do in Connemara. Those that visit will head underground on a guided tour of the caverns that gave up their lead and silver in the 1800s.

Trace the shiny veins of copper pyrite, better known as “fool’s gold” and try your hand panning for gold and gems. There’s a farm walk, sheep-herding demo and museum to keep all ages happily occupied.

11. And a Sunny Day Taking in the Magnificent Renvyle Peninsula

Renvyle Beach
Photo by Alexander Narraina (Shutterstock)

To appreciate the full beauty of Connemara, enjoy a stunning scenic drive around the Renvyle Peninsula in the shadow of the holy Croagh Patrick Mountain.

Stop at the Quaker village of Letterfrack, sample a refreshing pint of Guinness in an authentic Irish bar in Tully Cross, walk beside the sandy beach of Glassilaun, admire stunning Kylemore Abbey and take photos of Ireland’s only fjord – Killary.  

If you can tick off all these spectacular things to do in Connemara you’ve really seen this beautiful corner of Ireland at its very best.

Map of Connemara attractions

Things to see in Connemara in County Galway: What have we missed?

I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some incredible things to do in Connemara National Park and beyond. If you have somewhere to recommend, let me know in the comments below and we’ll check it out.

Gillian Birch is a travel writer and published author. She has travelled the world and uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many travel experiences, particularly those that involved adventures in Ireland.

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