24 Memorable Things to See & Do in Connemara, Ireland

connemara beauty

A someone who has travelled the length a breadth of Connemara, I am delighted to present to you some of the best and most unique things to do in this beautiful region of Ireland.

Nestled in the heart of the West of Ireland, the enchanting region of Connemara is a place where unrivalled beauty meets tradition and history.

It’s a place that has to be seen to believed. From the pristine beaches of Ballyconneely to the high peaks of the Twelve Bens, are there many places that offer such a variety of breathtaking vistas?

Connemara is a must-visit location along the Wild Atlantic Way. You’ll be spoilt with a plethora a things to do, from hikes to world-famous castles, Connemara Pony shows to prehistoric cliff-top forts.

It’s one of my own very favourite regions anywhere in the world and that’s why I firmly believe you should prioritise visiting the region on your trip to Ireland.

In our guide, we will provide you with a comprehensive list of the best things to do in Connemara, many of which you will not have come across in any guide book, but experiences we believe will offer a totally authentic Irish experience.

Fáilte go Conamara!

Where is Connemara?

Connemara is located in western County Galway in the west of Ireland. To the north lies the county of Mayo and the southern portion of the region lies along the coast of Galway Bay. To the west lies the Atlantic ocean, as illustrated below.

Map of the Connemara Region

map of connemara
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What does the name ‘Connemara’ mean?

The name is believed to have originated from the Irish words “Conmhaicne Mara,” which roughly translates to “Inlets of the Sea”.

The name reflects the coastal geography of the region, with its countless and intricate network of bays, inlets and rocky coastlines. The word is spelt ‘Conamara’ in Irish. When entering the region, you’ll be greeted with the sign ‘Fáilte go Conamara’, which translates as ‘Welcome to Connemara’.

Why is it famous?

Connemara’s allure lies in its untamed beauty and the sense of timelessness its landscapes possess, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers and those eager to explore the heart and soul of Ireland.

Connemara conjures up images of high, barren hills and open, uninhabited valleys, hundreds of lakes in varying sizes, many linked by streams and rivers, intricate coastlines and almost paradise-like beaches.

One of the last remaining strongholds of the Irish language, Connemara still holds on to its rich linguistic and cultural heritage. You’ll experience the locals conversing in our native tongue in many of the small villages and towns dotted around the region.

spiddal
The village of Spiddal /via Failte Ireland

Many artists, writers and musicians have been inspired by their visit to Connemara. Oscar Wilde summed up Connemara beautifully as he famously quoted, ‘A savage beauty, wild mountainous country, in every way magnificent’

French singer Michel Sardou famously chanted about ‘Les lacs du Connemara’, his minimalistic lyrics summing up its landscapes perfectly:

Scorched earth in the wind,

Stone moorlands

Around lakes,

It is for the living

A bit of hell (A bit of a blast)

How to get to there

By car

From Galway by car it is a very straight forward affair. Drive west out of the city along the R336 and within half an hour you’ll notice that the signage is in Irish, letting you know where you are!

Driving north of Galway along the N59 will also bring you to Oughterard. Continuing west along this road will bring you to Maam Cross, where you’ll be well and truly in the wilds of Connemara.

maam cross
Pedro Souza Photography

From Westport town, follow the N59 south to Leenaun, the gateway to Connemara.

From Dublin, you’ll have to make your way across the country along the M6 to Galway and continue on from the city, a journey of 3-4 hours one way. This is a journey we can’t recommend!

By bus

The Bus Eireann 419 service runs multiple times daily from Galway to Clifden via Ougtherard. Timetable is here.

Citylink also runs a service on the same route. Details of which you’ll find here.

To reach the southern areas of Connemara, such as Spiddal and Carraroe, take the Bus Éireann Route 424, Galway – Carraroe – Lettermullen/Carna. Timetable for this route is here.

How to get around

The best way to get make the most of your trip is by travelling by car.

Due to the rural nature of Connemara, many of the main sights are located away from any significant areas of civilization. Take for example the beaches of west of Ballyconneely. While the village is serviced by a bus route, you’ll need some sort of transport to get anywhere near the beaches.

Car rental in general has gone up in price everywhere, and Ireland is no exception. In saying this, it is still easily the best way of exploring Ireland and especially its hidden gems.

Many people are choosing to mix and match means of transport on their trip to Ireland. Here’s a scenario which I think could save money, but still allow you freedom of travel.

If flying in to Dublin and wishing to spend a few nights in Galway, there is no need whatsoever to rent in Dublin. Galway is serviced by multiple train and bus services from the capital.

Then in Galway, you could rent a car for a day or 2 and visit any other places of interest by bus. There are countless tours that run from Galway. Here are the ones I recommend:

You’ll find these tours are very reasonably priced and allow you to enjoy the comfort of not having to drive (especially on the west of Ireland roads!)

When renting a car, there are car rental companies in the city of Galway. Renting a small vehicle is the way to go, if you choose to rent for a day or 2. By the way, if visiting in the off season, you’ll get some great deals.

Rental cars will compare all major rental car companies, finding you the best deal.

Where to stay in Connemara

connemara mountains
The stunning Ballynahinch Castle

Being a very large area, there are plenty of places to choose from, both in terms of hotels or bed and breakfasts.

Clifden is the largest town in the region and therefore offers the most in terms of places to eat, drink and stay. It’s also very picturesque and a great base, located near some well known sights, such as the Sky Road. Kylemore Abbey is also 15 minutes away.

My recommendations for Clifden are:

Abbeyglen Castle

This is at the higher price point but I highly recommend. On a recent visit there, we were treated to live piano during dinner and the following night, traditional Irish music.

Clifden Station House

A hotel I can also highly recommend. The Station House is also a great spot for food and drinks, with the old red-brick walls adding some history and flair to the dining experience.

Outside of Clifden, a family favourite is the Connemara Coast Hotel. There are great facilities here, along with an indoor pool, for those inclement days in Connemara.

At the end of the day, it depends where you would like to stay. Some prefer to be based in a town like Clifden, whereas others prefer the peace and quiet of the countryside or a coastal location.

In any case, we have a full rundown of our favourite 11 hotels in Connemara here.

Things to know before you go

While a visit to Connemara is a straight forward affair, here are some things that you may not be aware of before you visit.

  • The roads through the region can be challenging if you are not used to Irish roads. It’s mainly a boggy area, so the roads tend to be bumpy and in some places, quite narrow. Drive at whatever pace you feel comfortable.
  • You’ll find sheep rambling the roads in Connemara, so take care. It’s not unusual for them to stop traffic and they are far too stubborn to get out of the way!
  • In the summer months, and especially towards evening time, you may come across the ‘midgies’. These are small mosquitos (not poisonous) but can be a pain in the …. and often bite. They are usually out during calm, wind still evenings, so the windy weather may be your friend rather than foe!
  • If planning to visit the beaches, the vast majority have no facilities, food or drinks. Prepare in advance.
  • Most beaches also don’t have lifeguards on duty, so if venturing into the water, take care.
  • Connemara National Park gets very busy on a fine day in summer, as I witnessed in summer 2023. Arrive very early in the morning to get parking close to visitors’ centre.
  • Check the weather in advance. This almost goes without saying, but don’t go near any exposed coasts or mountains if there is a storm on the way, which can be quite common in winter. Met.ie will provide you will up-to-date wind warnings.

Visitors’ Map of Connemara

Connemara Map

The Best Things to do in Connemara: A Quick Overview

Discover Its Natural Beauty

The draw of Connemara lies in its wild-romantic beauty, which seems to change at the turn of every corner. Inland lies one of Ireland’s last real wilderness areas: the Twelve Bens mountains, along with vast areas of open bogland, which transform into a beautiful array of colour in the summer.

As this raw landscape sweeps down to the Atlantic ocean, it makes way to pristine white-sand beaches, most of which are almost empty the whole year round.

Scattered around the whole region are, what seems like, thousands of lakes, many of which are interlinked by streams. The unique and varied beauty of Connemara is, in my eyes, it’s strongest quality.

Discover Lovely Towns & Villages

Roundstone Village & Harbour/image via Failte Ireland/George Munday

The main town is Clifden, a lively spot from the months of April to September and a great base to explore the nearby beautiful surroundings.

There are really only a scattering of smaller villages around Connemara such as idyllic Roundstone, Letterfrack, Carraroe, Tully Cross, Ballyconneely and the coastal villages along Galway Bay namely Spiddal, Furbo and Barna.

All of these villages have their own character and you’ll notice many of the shops’, pubs’ names are in Irish. Have a listen to the locals as they converse in our native Irish language.

Magnificent beaches

image via Failte Ireland

Be it the sheltered shores of Glassilaun or the wilds of Renvyle, the beaches in Connemara are staggeringly beautiful on a fine day.

You’ll hear the words ‘idyllic’ and ‘clear turquoise waters’ been used by anyone who has visited the beaches around Roundstone, such as Dog’s Bay and Gurteen. We’ll look at some of these beaches a little later on in the post.

Related Read: The most beautiful beaches in Connemara

Special Islands

Inisheer/image copyright: sweetisleofmine.com

The islands off the coast of Connemara are something you must add to your itinerary. There are 4 you can visit namely the 3 Aran Islands and Inishbofin.

Visiting these wild and rugged places will not only provide you with beautiful scenery, but give you an insight into the Ireland of old, even if only for a day.

The Stonghold of Irish Language & Culture

Most of Connemara is a Gaeltacht region, meaning the spoken language on a daily basis is Irish. 50% of Irish speakers in Ireland live in Connemara. This is turn ensures that Irish traditions are still strongly rooted in the locals here.

You’ll hear plenty of Irish music in the pubs of Clifden. The old tradition of story-telling, although nowhere as prevalent as before, is still part and parcel of the culture. Nowadays it is possible to enjoy the art of story-telling in the form of the person visiting your hotel. Details of which are here.

Our Favourite things to do in Connemara

Having visited countless times, these are the places, sights and attractions I am always drawn to. This list is of course subjective, but they are things I highly recommend doing on your visit to Connemara.

Explore Connemara National Park & take on the Diamond Hill hike

diamond hill
images: sweetisleofmine.com/Gareth McCormack

Covering an area of 2,957 hectares, Connemara National Park is a great place to get a feel for the wild beauty of the west of Ireland. All around you, you’ll enjoy views of the peaks of the 12 Bens, the Maumturks and the vast open bogland Connemara is synonymous with.

Located near the village of Letterfrack and within a stone’s throw of Kylemore Abbey, the park has a visitor’s centre, a small cafe and a playground. It’s open year round and in the surrounding meadows, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of those beautiful Connemara Ponies.

The park offers some excellent trails, from the relatively easy Lower Diamond Hill to the more challenging Upper Trail. If up for it and you have the time, we highly recommend taking on the Upper Diamond Hill trail. The views from the summit are out of this world.

We have this trail covered in great detail here.

Take a step back in time at Kylemore Abbey & Gardens

kylemore
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The magnificent Kylemore Abbey is regarded by many as Ireland’s most beautiful building. The stunning Victorian style castle is nestled perfectly along the shores of Pollacapall Lough and backed by lush green mountains. It certainly has a strong case for this accolade.

Built in the year 1868 by local businessman Mitchell Henry as a gift to his beloved, the castle is now open to the public. From the years 1923 to 2010 the Abbey was run by the Benedictine order of nuns, many of who still live and work on the estate.

A visit here is a wonderful experience. Your admission fee of 16 € will give you access to the interior of the house, along with the stunning Gothic chapel located on the east side of the lake. By the way, this is my favourite church in all of Ireland.

You’ll also have access to the famous Victorian Walled gardens, a sight to behold in the late spring, summer months. All in all, a highly worthwhile day out and one you could combine with the National Park, only 5 minutes away.

Marvel at the stunning beauty of Killary Fjord

killary

Ireland’s only true fjord. Killary is located in north Connemara and forms the natural border to County Mayo. It’s a place where the landscape is truly dramatic, the mountains looming over the 16 km glacially-formed inlet.

Killary is, in our eyes, a true hidden gem along the west coast of Ireland. It won’t get the same amount of visitors as many of the more iconic sights, but don’t let that put you off.

You can drive along the fjord on both sides and marvel at the stunning mountain scenery around you and then stretch the legs in the village of Leenaun, made famous by the iconic Irish film ‘The Field’.

Or why not get adventurous and take part in the countless outdoor activities offered by Killary Adventure Centre. There’s a well worth while walk along the fjord also, which we highly recommend. We love this location so much, we put together a dedicated visitors’ guide here.

Take a sunset drive along the ‘Sky Road’

sky road
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Well, it doesn’t have to be a sunset drive, but if you are lucky enough to witness a sunset along the west of Ireland, this has to be one of the best places to do it.

The drive starts west of Clifden and takes you alongside the ruins of Clifden castle and along some good ol’ narrow Irish roads to a viewpoint with almighty vistas over the western Connemara coastline and the wild Atlantic Ocean.

There is a point where the road gets steeper and all you’ll see on the horizon is the sky. As scary as this sounds, it’s in no way dangerous, and you’ll find anyone on this road will be taking their time.

During the summer months, heather and gorse will be in full bloom, making your job as a photographer very easy. Take you time here and take it all in. Although a relatively short road, it provides some beautiful scenery.

Spend a sunny day at the glorious beaches of Dog’s Bay and Gurteen

dogs bay
image via Failte Ireland

The beaches west of the village of Roundstone are to be seen to be believed. If you are lucky enough to experience warm, sunny weather in Ireland (it’s pretty rare, but does happen!) then a trip to these spectacular beaches is a must.

If you think the photos look beautiful, seeing the in person is a whole different experience. We recommend spending most of the day here as there are at least 3 beaches to explore.

The one next to the carpark is Gurteen, which is the busiest, but take a walk behind the dunes to Dog’s bay or even further again to the smaller cove of Umur strand. On a clear day, the white sands are almost blinding and you’d be forgiven for thinking you are in the Caribbean.

Then a quick dip in the cool waters of the North Atlantic will soon bring you back to earth! Have a look around you at the stunning greenery contrasting with the white sands. This is the west of Ireland at its very best!

Practical info for Gurteen & Dog’s Bay

Location: Click here for directions to Gurteen Beach
Parking: Yes, space for up to 50 cars, but gets very busy on a fine day
Blue Flag: As of 2023, no
Toilets: No
Lifeguards: Yes, in summer months

Or pay a visit to any of the other stunning beaches in the region

connemara best beaches
images: sweetisleofmine.com/Failte Ireland

Connemara is a hotspot for beautiful beaches. The northern shores are home to some fabulous long strands, such as the mesmerizing Glassilaun. Nearby, you’ll discover other beauties, such as Renvyle and Lettergesh.

The backdrop of the mountains of Mayo add a special feel to these places, as well as the open vistas over the Atlantic Ocean. These beaches are never particularly busy, but parking is generally quite limited, so arrive early on a fine day.

Then there’s more beauty to be discovered west of Ballyconneely, where one beach is more beautiful than the next. Take, for example, the beaches of Mannin Bay, known for it’s glass-clear waters and a popular spot for kayaking.

Further down the peninsula, you’ll come across countless other lesser known beaches that will take your breath away. ‘If we only had the weather for them’, you’ll hear the Irish say. Well, these beaches are so pristine, that if we did have the weather for them, there’s no way they would be in their current wild and untouched state.

If you’re already planning to visit any of the best beaches in Connemara, we have a full guide with practical info here.

Spoil yourself with a special seafood meal at Mitchell’s

seafood
image via website

No trip to the west of Ireland is complete without sampling our locally sourced seafood. One of my favourite restaurants anywhere is Mitchell’s of Clifden. We have Mitchell’s listed as a hot tip on our best restaurants in the west of Ireland post.

Having visited more times than I can count, I’ve tried pretty much everything on the menu. What stood out? For me, the go to is the seafood chowder, mussels and seabass.

For those of you not inclined towards seafood, no hassle, there are plenty of other dishes. Recently I had the shepherd’s pie, which I highly recommend. Others had the seafood platter which they described as ‘epic’.

If passing through Clifden, we recommend making a reservation beforehand, especially during the summer months.

Treat yourself to a night in an Irish castle

castle connemara
image via Big Smoke media

There is something special about staying in an old Irish castle, especially in winter. Luckily I have had the privilege of doing just that a few years back. The castle in question is Ballynahinch, located in the beautiful wilderness of Connemara.

Upon arrival, we decided to take a walk on the trails that surround the castle. The receptionist informed us they have wellies (gum boots for our US friends) we can borrow and so off we set. The grounds are surrounding landscapes were magical.

The castle is located on the Owenmore River which flows into the nearby Ballynahinch lake, and are renowned for fishing. In fact, you’ll definitely come across fishers in the hotel and you’ll notice lots of outdoor gear which can be used by any guests.

castle connemara

The food and dining experience was second to none and the views over the river and mountains in the

Owenmore restaurant will make it hard to leave. For many who visit, this is a once in a lifetime experience, as it is in the higher price category. In saying that, it’s an experience you won’t forget for a long time.

Check rates and photos here.

Take in the stunning scenery by car

lough inagh
image via Failte Ireland

One of the best ways to experience the wild beauty of Connemara is by exploring its many scenic drives. For this we recommend at least a full day, preferably 2. Also, don’t just stick to the Wild Atlantic Way. Inland is just as spectacular.

If based in Galway there are many ways to approach a road trip to Connemara. The route I have completed numerous times is the one I believe offers the most scenic variety, cultural highlights and an all-round excellent overview of both Connemara and the west of Ireland.

Highlights include: the coastal road through An Spideal, the beaches of Dog’s Bay and Gurteen, the village of Roundstone, Clifden, the Sky Road, Connemara National Park, Kylemore Abbey, the spectacular Inagh Valley, Pine Lake, Maam Cross and finishing up with Oughterard and a lakeshore drive along Lough Corrib.

Just writing these locations above conjures up images and experiences etched in my memory. If possible, make this route a 2-day affair and grab a bed and breakfast en route in or near Clifden.

Here is a snapshot of the route below, click on the image to view the detailed route.

However, there are many other wonderfully scenic drives in Connemara. Last year, I completed the Connemara Loop, a relatively short drive near the village of Tully Cross. This route will take you along the Wild Atlantic Way with supreme view over the beaches of Renvyle, Lettergesh and Glassilaun.

Then there’s the scenic drive from Kylemore and along Killary Fjord to Leenaun. Another uniquely beautiful stretch. The choices are endless really. I guess now it makes sense why we recommend prioritising Connemara on your vacation!

Drive across the sand causeway to Omey Island

omey
image via Declan Surpless/Failte Ireland

Located approximately 1 km off the Connemara coast, you can drive or walk out over the sandbanks and on to the island. This is only possible during low tide and if you want to explore the island, you’ll have to be aware of the tides for that day!

You’ll find the tide times here.

The ‘road’ out to the island is signposted, so don’t worry about veering into some soft sand and getting stuck. It then continues through the small island and eventually takes you to Omey Strand. We recommend parking up here and getting out to explore the island by foot.

Certainly a unique experience and a special photo memory to bring home with you from Ireland. Just watch the tides and plan in advance!

Hop on the boat to the Aran Islands

ininsheer
sweetisleofmine.com

While technically off the coast of Connemara, the Aran Islands is a Gaeltacht area, meaning the native tongue is Irish for the locals who live on these 3 magnificent islands.

They are located at the entrance to Galway Bay and are named Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer. Translated in order of appearance, they are: ‘The Big Island’, ‘The Middle Island’ and ‘The Eastern Island’.

Here, you get to experience life at a far slower pace. Expect a myriad of stone walls, spectacular beaches and ancient clifftop forts that will leave you in awe.

We have visited all islands numerous times and I can’t decide which one I prefer! Inisheer is the smallest and because of this, you can easily explore the whole island in one day.

On the other hand, Inishmore has the world-renowned Dun Aonghasa fort, a truly unique historic sight and also a must-see. In fact maybe you already have, as it hit the big screen in the recent Irish film, The Banshees of Inisherin.

How to get to the Aran Islands

  • From Rossaveel: If you’ve access to a car, the nearest port is Rossaveel, about an hour from Galway. You’ll definitely have to book the ferry in advance if it’s during the summer. Tickets are here for Inishmore and here for Inisheer.
  • From Doolin: Doolin is located about 1 hour 40 minutes from Galway city and offers ferry transfers to all islands. When we visited last year in the middle of summer, the carpark was full about 45 minutes before departure. Arrive extra early! Details are here.

Unique (& maybe unusual!) Things to Do in Connemara

While the sights above are without doubt worth seeing, we have come up with some truly unique experiences to try, many of which are only possible in Connemara. Immersing yourself completely in Connemara is, after all, the best way to experience the region.

Pay a visit to the Annual Connemara Pony Festival

connemara pony
image via wikiCommons/sophiesl

There are not many horses as iconic as the Connemara Pony.

The Connemara is a very sturdy and versatile breed native to the region. Known for its intelligence, agility, and gentle temperament, it is often used for various equestrian activities, including riding, jumping, and driving.

You’ll see them on the grounds of Connemara National Park, and kids will be drawn to their gentle nature. It’s quite amazing and somewhat ironic that such a beautiful pure white specimen is native to such a harsh environment.

Every year at the Showgrounds in Clifden, the Connemara Pony festival takes place. It’s a big event which showcases the versatility and athleticism of the ponies through various events such as show jumping and racing.

connemara pony
image copyright: The Farmer’s Journal

You’ll find breeders, horse enthusiasts and riders alike, all congregating to celebrate the importance of the Connemara Pony in the equestrian world and the town comes alive for the festival. There’s a great buzz around the place, with both Irish and international guests enjoying the summer festival.

Details and dates of the event can be found here.

Take a beginner’s Irish course

While this is certainly left of field and reserved for those wishing to spend a longer spell of time in Connemara, it’s definitely the most immersive activity to partake in in Connemara!

The beginner’s course takes place in the village of Carraroe, located smack down in the middle of Connemara. It take 3 weeks to complete and is very hands on, with extra activities such as Irish dancing and singing included in the package.

Should you be studying in Ireland or just wish to learn our native language, there are many courses on offer, from beginner to intermediate. By the way, no prior knowledge is needed for the beginner course.

For the finer details, have a look here.

Get lost in the melodies of Irish music at the Clifden Music Festival

clifden music
image copyright: Galway Tourism

Every year in the month of April, Clifden hosts the annual Clifden Trad Fest. This event offers a huge amount of activities over 4 days.

Some include live performances and workshops, busking competitions, a traditional mass, a 5k run and many activities for the kids. The festival has been running for 12 years and continues to gain popularity.

Once again, this is a truly unique Irish experience and is an opportunity to witness something that is at the core of Irish culture. Additionally to this, Irish trad sessions and festivals are tremendous fun and the pubs will be hopping in the evenings!

All in all, an event we highly recommend visiting. Here is an outline of last year’s program.

Visit a working sheep farm

sheep farm west of ireland
image copyright: https://killarysheepfarm.com/

Recently I found out that one of the many reasons people visit the west of Ireland is to see sheep! While this sounded quite comical at first, I guess the more I thought about it the more it made sense.

Driving through the countryside, especially the more remote regions of Connemara and Achill, it is quite common to witness sheep just lying in the middle of the road or just grazing along the side. This is not a very common occurrence in many other countries, so I guess what’s seldom is beautiful!

In any case, sheep fans will be massively impressed by a visit to an actual real working sheep farm. The one I have in mind is located on the shores of spectacular Killary Fjord.

Killary Sheep Farm could certainly lay claim to being Ireland’s most beautiful farm. In terms of wonderful scenery, there are few farmsteads to match it.

It’s actually quite funny to see the hundreds of sheep just roaming around every nook and cranny of the farm, until being rudely interrupted by Tom’s highly skilled sheepdogs. On top of this, you’ll get a sheep-shearing and turf-cutting demonstration.

Is there really a more authentic Irish farm experience? Check out the farm here.

Learn about local life at Connemara Heritage Centre

image copyright: Martin Walsh


The Connemara Heritage Centre is a cultural gem that offers visitors the chance to explore the rich history and traditions of the area. Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Twelve Bens mountain range, the centre is located a few miles outside the town of Clifden.

The centre offers a fascinating journey through time, showcasing exhibits and displays that focus on the region’s geological, archaeological, and cultural past. You’ll also get to hear about the heart breaking story of Dan O’Hara, whose cottage stands on the grounds.

You can immerse yourself in the stories of the people who have shaped Connemara, from ancient times to the present day. The displays often include artefacts, interactive exhibits, and multimedia presentations.

Martin will also keep you enthralled in his singing and storytelling, offering a very personal and authentic experience.

One of the highlights of the Connemara Heritage Centre is its emphasis on traditional Irish crafts and skills. There are many workshops and demonstrations you can experience and even participate in. These include weaving, pottery and traditional music.

A brilliant experience and one we highly recommend. More details are here.

Pay a visit to a traditional Irish musical instrument workshop

roundstone
Malachy Kearns,Bodhran Maker,Roundstone,Co. Galway/Failte Ireland

Roundstone Music and Crafts is a charming establishment nestled in the heart of Roundstone village. It’s run by Malachy Kearns, a renowned bodhrán maker.

What’s a bodhrán? Well firstly it’s pronounced ‘bow-rawn’ and it’s one of the oldest Irish instruments. It’s a one sided hand held drum, made from treated goatskin on a birch frame. It makes a beautifully distinctive sound, and is at the core of many well known traditional Irish music pieces.

bodhran

The shop is definitely unique and interesting as you’ll be able to see the many sizes and designs of the drum, such as family crests and names. Certainly one of the more authentic and insightful experiences in Connemara.

Pay a visit to the Alcock and Brown Memorial

things to do connemara
image via Wikicommons/Smb1001

The Alcock and Brown Memorial, just 2 miles outside Clifden, stands as a poignant tribute to aviation history and human achievement.

Erected to honour the pioneering transatlantic flight of British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown in 1919, this monument is 2km from the exact spot where their Vickers Vimy biplane touched down after completing the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. It took them exactly 15 hours, 58 minutes.

Visiting this site offers a unique opportunity to stand in the spot where this iconic moment in aviation history occurred. The memorial is situated against the beautiful backdrop of the 12 Bens mountains and there are numerous picnic benches, info-boards and a 5km boardwalk to help you make the most of your visit and take in the surrounding scenery.

Having visited during bad weather I can advise that this certainly is a bleak spot, but on a fine day the views open up beautifully with the Atlantic ocean to the west and 12 Bens to your east. For those who appreciate historic milestones and aviation, it is certainly worth visiting this unique cone-shaped monument.

Things to do in Connemara in the rain

Connemara Seaweed Baths

An experience we highly recommend for those cold and damp days. Visiting a seaweed bath in the west of Ireland is the ultimate in relaxation and is proven to have countless health benefits.

Connemara Seaweed Baths is located in the town of Clifden and provides a great selection of facilities, from the standard hot seaweed baths to a sauna, steam room and plungepool.

An hour in the bath causes 50 € and a 2 – hour combined with the thermal suite costs 80 €. More details here.

Glengowla Mines

caves connemara
image via Failte Ireland

Glengowla Mines, located near Oughterard offer a fascinating glimpse into Connemara’s mining history. Operating from the 19th century until 1865, these historic mines showcase Ireland’s rich lead and silver mining heritage.

You can explore the underground tunnels and mineral formations, and gain insight into the harsh conditions faced by miners during this bygone era.

Gold-panning is also available on-site, which is a big hit for the kids. There’s also a sheep herding display, as well as a turf-cutting demonstration. A great day out for young and old! Details here.

Get active at Killary Adventure

killary

Killary Adventure Centre, located on the southern shores of Killary fjord is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Offering a wide array of activities on land and water such as kayaking, zip-lining, rock climbing and more, the centre is well worth checking out.

You can take part in each of the adrenaline packed activities or as part of a half-day or full-day package. There are tons of options here to suit most people. We are of the opinion that if it’s raining, going to an adventure centre just adds to the fun!

For a look at all the activities available and pricing, have a look here.

Explore Clifden

clifden
Image: Sonder Visuals

Clifden has developed into a bustling little town in recent years and is home to some great little shops, cafes, pubs and galleries.

Why not have a browse around the Whitethorn or Lavelle art galleries? You’ll find a fine selection of some beautiful paintings, including some eye-catching scenes from the local Connemara landscapes.

There is also a tasteful selection of sculptures and ceramics on display, and who knows maybe you’ll come across a unique Irish gift to bring home with you from Connemara.

O`Dalaigh Jewellers will also catch your eye when walking through the town and a gander in here is also worth your while. Keep an eye out for the countless beautifully crafted Celtic design pieces, many of which contain the local Connemara marble.

marble connemara

This is one of the places where you can buy a gift that is truly unique to the local area.

Another gift shop you can’t miss is Lowry’s. Here you can find anything and everything you need in terms of Irish goods, from cosy Aran sweaters to Irish caps and Guinness products.

Grab a coffee and a rhubarb crumble in the lovely Blooming Gorse café to top off a soft day in the heart of Connemara!

Dodge the rain at Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore is also a great rainy day activity as I have personally found out numerous times. Here is a suggestion on how to spend a rainy day in Kylemore:

Have lunch in the lovely Kylemore cafe and then browse around the adjoining gift shop. Pop into the very informative visitor centre before taking the taking a tour of the Abbey itself.

Then get that umbrella out and take a stroll down to the Gothic church. After that make your way back to the Abbey and jump on the complimentary shuttle to the walled gardens. Get that trustee umbrella out again and take as long as you need to explore your beautiful surroundings.

kylemore chapel

After that get the shuttle back again and finish up with a coffee and an homemade apple pie in the cafe. A great day out in the Connemara rain!

Pay a visit to The Sheep & Wool Centre

If making a trip to Leenaun, we recommend visiting the Sheep & Wool centre. It’s located right across from the main carpark in the village.

Here, you’ll learn about the history of the local woollen industry and witness the process of how sheep’s fleece is made through demonstrations. There’s an adjoining cafe, serving some fantastic daily specials with a gorgeous view over the fjord.

The gif shop also sells some great high quality goods, as well as tasteful souvenirs. You could easily pass a few hours in the rain in this great attraction.

Conclusion

That wraps up our list of things to do in the must-see region of Connemara. I hope we have shown you the unique variety of activities on offer in the west of Ireland region.

We do highly recommend renting a car and spending as long as you can in the region. It certainly is one of the more authentic and untouched places on our planet, a place you can tell we are very fond of.

If you need any more insider tips on where to stay or what other specialized activities may be on offer, drop us a line or leave a comment below. Is Connemara on your Ireland bucketlist?

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