Known by many as the heart of Irish culture, Connemara is an isolated region in Galway famously described by Oscar Wilde as a place of ‘savage beauty’. Teetering on the edge of the rugged west coast of Ireland, the region is home to valleys, coves and a spectacular coast line that will sweep you off your feet. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself here on a day when the sun peeps through the grey clouds, you’ll watch amazed as the rolling green hills, black-as-night lakes and craggy rocks become awash with a soft golden hue. After taking in the magnificent surroundings, delve into Irish life in Clifden, the capital of Connemara. The main street is lined with galleries, eateries and traditional pubs where you can enjoy a stout while listening to local folk music through the afternoon. The cuisine here boasts locality and seasonality and you won’t need to search far for a delicious, homely meal. Our travel guide to Connemara takes you to the best hotels, restaurants and attractions in the region.
The beauty of Connemara has recently attracted clusters of modern holiday homes popping up around the region but to really immerse yourself in the romance of this ancient Irish county, nothing beats the Ballynahinch Castle Hotel. Nestled in 700 acres of private woodlands (and perched on a still glass-like river), the luxury hotel is housed in a stunning manor house looking out onto the dramatic Twelve Bens mountain range. Secluded yet within comfortable distance from the main town, Clifden, the location is ideal for enjoying the peace of Connemara while being within arms reach of the joys of Irish village life. The ambience here is plush without being pompous. Comfort is key during your stay and the generously sized stately rooms are designed with this priority in mind. What the hotel lacks in spa facilities, it makes up for in abundance with the fantastic outdoor activities on offer. From guided walks through the grounds and fishing in the river, to boating on the lake and horseback riding, the activities on at Ballynahinch Castle hotel are designed to show off the magnificent grounds on which it sits.
The Quay House: A picturesque traditional hotel housed in a restored Harbour Master’s manor located in the heart of Clifden.
Founded by a husband and wife team, Mitchell’s Restaurant has become an institution in Clifden and is a must-visit when in the area. The restaurant is located in a charming turn-of-the-century building which stylishly showcases some of the original features. The focus on natural materials such as stone and wood reflect the welcoming seaside feeling of the village and creates a warm and cosy atmosphere in which guests can enjoy their meals. In the winter, the two open fires roar as friendly waiters bring drinks and dishes to the tables across the two floors of the restaurant. Like most eateries in the region, Mitchell’s makes the very most out of the regional produce. All food, including the bread and sweet treats are cooked in-house. We absolutely recommend opting for one of the fish dishes on the menu which are prepared using freshly caught seafood delivered by the local fisherman on a daily basis.
Kai’s Café & Restaurant: A casual eatery in Galway serving European dishes made from fresh high-quality produce.
The Lodge Restaurant: A boutique restaurant in the heart of Connemara offering Irish cuisine with a twist.
O’Dowds Seafood Bar: An atmospheric and informal restaurant loved for its traditional Irish breakfast.
Connemara Smokehouse: A family run restaurant dating back to 1979 and famed for its smoked salmon.
When the tide goes out, head to Omey Island, a tidal island in Claddaghduff. Once home to around 400 people, the now abandoned island is a magical place that is imbued with a sense of mysterious history with the numerous ruins and antiquities that inhabit the land. From the ruins of the medieval Feichin’s Church to the remains of the ruined village houses, a peaceful walk around the Omey takes you back through time and around beautiful natural surroundings. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins frolicking in the waters at the tip of the island where you can watch the Atlantic surf roll in. As the afternoon goes on, be sure to keep your eye on the time and get back to the mainland before the tide comes back in!
Dog’s Bay Beach: A sheltered beach with crystal clear waters for safe swimming and kitesurfing located two miles from Roundstone.
Connemara’s Islands: Near by islands, Inishbofin and the Aran Islands are known for their culture, pristine beaches and dramatic stunning landscapes. Perfect for long walks or cycle rides.