ViaHero · August 27, 2019
Western Ireland is spectacular. Full of sweeping cliffs and colorful towns like Galway and Limerick, it’s a practical treasure trove! Be sure to check out these 15 magical things to do in the west of Ireland—from jamming to local music to exploring incredible national parks to enjoying the region’s sensational cities.
To experience the *real* west of Ireland (and not just the tourist hubs), have an Irish local plan your trip. They’ll offer insider tips, unique itinerary ideas, and a personalized map, all based on your interests and budget. Learn more.
#1: Jam to Irish music in Doolin
Once a fisherman’s village on the wave-beaten western edge of Ireland, Doolin today is seen as the capital of Irish traditional music. Check out spots like McGann’s Pub, where you’ll find locals squeezed in to hear fiddlers, singers, flutists, tin whistlers, and bodhrán (Irish drum) players belting out toe-tapping trad sessions. The next day, follow the Doolin Cliff walk for incredible views of the Atlantic.
#2: Cruise with dolphins down Killary Fjord
Killary Fjord is Ireland's only Fjord; it extends 10 miles from the Atlantic through the heart of the rugged Connemara region. Drive along the fjord from Kylemore Abbey to Westport for a unique view around every corner. Or, relax on a catamaran as you cruise down the sheltered waters, and take in the dramatic mountains as dolphins swim alongside.
#3: Scale the Cliffs of Moher for a stunning Atlantic view
No trip to the west of Ireland is complete without visiting the famous Cliffs of Moher. The sweeping, romantic cliffs are one of Ireland’s most visited natural attractions and definitely one of the coolest things to do in Ireland. Stand on the cliff’s edge and take in the natural beauty of the Atlantic Ocean.
#4: Explore spirited Galway City
Galway’s incredible seafood, historic markets, and nearby nature make it one of the best cities to visit in Ireland. There’s lots to do during the day—so definitely connect with a local for suggestions—but at night, the streets of Galway come alive with music! Check out the tunes. It’s easy to do, as many pubs jam late into the night with traditional Irish music.
Pro tip: Definitely pay a visit to the Galway City Museum to check out the city’s long and rich history.
#5: Walk the mystical landscape of the Burren
The Burren National Park in County Claire is home to spectacular rocky cliffs and rugged landscapes that may remind you of the surface of the moon. Moonlike, perhaps—but the countryside bursts into color in the spring when blooming wildflowers spread across the rock formations. Exploring the rainbow display is one of the best things to do in Ireland.
Pro tip: Foodie? Make sure to check out the Burren Food Trail, a restaurant, market, and food-shop crawl that takes you on a farm-to-fork journey every Monday from May through October.
#6: Take in the beauty of Connemara National Park
Speaking of national parks...exploring the expansive and beautiful Connemara National Park is one of the most remarkable things to do while in Ireland. Its rugged mountains and numerous lakes make Connemara a must-see destination. The park’s many hiking trails range from 30-minute strolls to 8-hour treks, and views from the summit of Diamond Hill are simply stunning! Have an Irish trip planner design the best walking route for you.
#7: Fall in love with ancient Limerick
Limerick, one of Ireland’s oldest cities, will leave you in awe. Explore the regal King John’s Castle, shop the Milk Market to pick-up locally-produced, fresh food, and check out Celtic artifacts at the Hunt Museum.
Then, mix it up—ask an Irish local to help you get tickets to see the local rugby club Munster play a match at Thomond Park. Cheering on the local team (roar may be a better word than cheer) is one of the best things to do in Limerick.
#8: Walk through the pages of a fairytale at Kylemore Abbey
Standing majestically on the edge of Kylemore Lake is the neo-Gothic Kylemore Abbey, which looks like it sprang from the pages of a fairytale. This storybook castle is run by Benedictine nuns who invite visitors to discover the magic, beauty, and serenity of one of the best places to visit in Ireland. (It’s only a 15-minute drive from the Connemara National Park visitor center so you can see both in one visit!) The Abbey is amazing to look at from the lake, or from up close. Don’t forget to stop and see the beautiful walled garden near the Abbey.
Pro tip: Ask a local trip planner about adding the Abbey to an itinerary that includes visiting Connemara and the Wild Atlantic Way, or as a day trip from Dublin or Galway City.
#9: Bike around the gorgeous Aran Islands
Exploring the spectacular and remote Aran Islands is one of the top things to do in Ireland—and one of the best ways to see the islands is by bike (you can easily rent one near the ferry terminal). The islands are known for their ancient stone forts, churches, magnificent cliffs, and Gaelic culture—so basically, you'll never run out of things to see. A stay in a local B&B will give you a sense of the islands’ rustic feel—the islands didn’t even have electricity until 1973!
Pro tip: If you’d prefer to see the islands from the water, ask an Irish local about boat trips around the Aran Islands
#10: Experience the impressive ruins of Kilmacduagh Monastery
Set among the rocky limestone landscape of the Burren, the ruins of the 800-year-old Kilmacduagh Monastery still stand. The ruins are remarkable enough, but Ireland’s tallest surviving ancient bell tower is truly something to behold. Saint Colman is said to have founded the monastery on this site in the 7th century when his belt fell to the ground—a sign that this was the spot to build the church.
#11: Discover the idyllic village of Cong
Nestled between the lakes of Lough Corrib and Lough Mask, the peaceful village of Cong is known for its pretty, thatched-roof cottages and as the setting for the Oscar-winning movie, The Quiet Man. Visit the burial site of Rory O'Connor, the last High King of Ireland at Cong Abbey and tour Ashford Castle, the old country estate of the Guinness family. Ashford is home to one of Ireland’s luxe 5-star hotels, making it one of the best places to stay in Ireland.
Pro tip: Ask a local Irish planner the best way to see Lough Corrib—it’s the biggest lake in Ireland, and there’s a ton to check out.
#12: Find peace on the isolated Achill Island
Achill, Ireland’s largest island, gives visitors a wonderful sense of solitude and tranquility (despite its connection to the mainland by a short bridge over the Achill Sound). It’s a beautiful and dramatic spot with an amazingly diverse landscape that features sheer cliffs, a heather-filled highlands, and sandy beaches. If you’re trying to get off the beaten path in Ireland, you couldn’t do better than exploring the rugged beauty of this enchanting island.
#13: Wander the Salthill promenade
Salthill is one of Ireland’s premier seaside resorts, and exploring its promenade is among the best things to do in Galway. Situated on Galway Bay, Salthill promenade winds along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, offering unparalleled views of the Aran Islands and Galway City. Salthill has drawn admirers for hundreds of years and is a hugely popular vacation spot during the summer months.
#14: Get lost in the beauty of Killarney National Park
Yes, another national park! (What can we say, Ireland’s nature is out-of-this-world beautiful.) Killarney itself is home to 26,000 acres of lush mountains, native forests, rivers, castles, and stately homes. And Killarney National Park has something for all you adventure junkies (hiking, biking, and kayaking)—as well as nature enthusiasts (garden and farm walks). History buffs will love touring Ross Castle and the grand Victorian Muckross House and gardens.
#15: Visit the hangout of Ireland’s literary elite at Dunguaire Castle
At the end of a coastal road, the 16th-century Dunguaire Castle appears like an image from a myth. The castle sits on an outcrop jutting into Galway Bay and housed prominent local clans for centuries before famous Irish surgeon, poet, and playwright Oliver St. John Gogarty bought it in 1924. He turned it into a hangout for Ireland’s literary elite like W.B. Yeats, Seán O'Casey, and George Bernard Shaw.
Pro tip: Enjoy a medieval banquet at Dunguaire Castle complete with fine wines and fascinating stories of the castle’s history. Your local trip planner can help set this up.
With this list of 15 things to do in the west of Ireland, you’re almost ready to start exploring this stunning Irish county. But for a unique, 100% authentic trip to the west of Ireland that leaves the tourist path behind, connect with a local to plan your trip. Not only will they design a unique itinerary customized to your interests and style, but they’ll let you in on the west of Ireland’s secrets that only locals know. Why see Ireland like a tourist when you could see it like a local? Questions? Send us a message
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