Six Amazing Places To Visit In Western Ireland
Places to Visit In The West of Ireland: County Galway, County Clare, The Burren And Connemara
In the autumn of 2004 I had the privilege to spend a few weeks
around Ireland, and some of the most remarkable areas I toured were
in the west of Ireland: "the Burren" and the Connemara region
in County Galway. This trip was the second leg in what would turn out
to be a nine-month long journey around the world, so I was pretty
"green" when it came to traveling on my own. Sadly, since it was
November, Ireland wasn't very green - mostly
brown and wet! None the less, the Emerald Isle remains at the top of my
list of places to make a return visit - next time in the spring or
Among the amazing sights I saw on this particular bus tour of Ireland were:
- Dunguaire Castle
- Poulnabrone Dolmen
- Cliffs of Moher
- Kylemore Abbey
All of these amazing places were part of two day-long bus tours, and of all the bus tours I've taken around the world, I found the Ireland bus tours to have the friendliest, funnest and most knowledgeable tour guides anywhere! They were well worth the 20 or so Euros I spent, and there's really no other way I could have seen all of this on my own. Here are some of the highlights of those bus tour of Ireland...
Learn more about Dunguaire Castle
Thought to be the most photographed castle in all of Ireland, Dunguaire Castle is a 16th century tower house built on the shores of Galway Bay in 1520 by the O’Hynes clan. In the early 17th century it became property of the Martyn family, who owned it until the 1920s. During the twentieth century, the castle became the location for meetings of W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, and other literary greats during the revival of Irish literature.
Today the grounds of this restored castle are open to the public in the summer months, and nightly medieval themed banquets are held there.
The Burren's Poulnabrone Dolmen
The Burren, or "great rock", region of Western Ireland is a foreboding landscape.
In the 17th century, following Cromwell's conquest of Ireland, English parliamentarian Edmund Ludlow said of the Burren, "that it is a country where there is not water enough to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him; which last is so scarce, that the inhabitants steal it from one another, and yet their cattle are very fat; for the grass growing in tufts of earth, of two or three foot square, that lie between the rocks, which are of limestone, is very sweet and nourishing"
The landscape consists of rolling hills covered with plates of limestone, with narrow cracks between the rocks where vegetation is able to grow. The limestone was broken up by hand to clear the land for agriculture, and the excavated rocks were used to create great limestone dividing walls to separate plots of land. These walls, made without mortar, have stood for centuries and dominate the landscape.
The area seems an unlikely area for humans to thrive, but it has been inhabited and even farmed for centuries. There are over 90 ancient tomb sites, or dolmen, in the area, the most well-known probably being the iconic Poulnabrone Dolmen. The name "Poulnabrone" translates to "the hole of sorrows". This Neolithic burial site was excavated in 1986, and the remains of 22 people were found beneath it, some dating back more than 5,000 years.
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher offer some of the most stunning scenery in the west of Ireland, if not the world. Rising up to 700 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, the Cliffs of Moher stretch across 5 miles of coast line, and on a clear day (which I wasn't lucky enough to have!), the Aran Islands and the hills of Connemara can be seen. The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland's most visited sites, and in 2006 attracted over 1 million visitors.
Near the midpoint of the cliffs stands O'Brien's Tower, a round stone tower at the highest point along the cliffs. The tower was built in 1835 by Sir Cornelius O'Brien to impress the ladies who visited the site.
Surprisingly to me as an American tourist, there were no walls or gates or any other sort of barrier along the cliff's edge, but instead a large cement pad where visitors lay on their bellies and look right over the edge! I'm not sure if this is still possible with the development of the new visitor center at the cliffs...
In 2007, the "Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience" was opened to provide an interactive visitor center. Built into a hillside to minimize its impact on the scenery, admission to the underground center is included in the entry fee.
For more info about the Cliffs of Moher
More about Leamanagh Castle
Leamanagh Castle is a 15th century tower house in County Clare, with a 17th century manor house attached. Currently in ruins and housed on private property, the castle is only visible from the road and can't be visited in depth.
The manor house built in the 17th century was the home of "Mary the Red," and infamous alleged husband-killer! The legend has it that she either threw her third husband from the window of the castle, or forced him to ride his horse off the Cliffs of Moher.
Legends aside, she did marry a Cromwellian soldier following her second husband's death in order to maintain control of the estate and land she had inherited from her first husband's death.
More about Kylemore Abbey
- Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden Visitor Centre located in Connemara, Co. Galway
Kylemore Abbey is a Benedictine monastery on the grounds of the late 19th century Kylemore Castle. The castle was built in the 1860s as the private residence of Galway's MP Mitchell Henry.
The estate was purchased by the Irish Benedictine Nuns in 1920, and the grounds are open to the public. Within the grounds are a beautiful miniature Gothic church and numerous gardens and walking trails.
The Benedictine nuns who now run the Abbey also operate a girls' school and a shop that sells pottery and jams made by the nuns themselves, as well as other Irish souvenirs.
The Connemara region of County Galway resides on a braod peninsula in the west of Ireland surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean.
The John Wayne film "The Quiet Man" was filmed in this area, and there's even a replica of the house used in the movie.
A drive through the Connemara is filled with photogenic lakes and the Maam Turks and the Twelve Ben Mountain Ranges. Much of the area is still Irish-speaking, and the culture and traditions of old Ireland dominate.
Connemara Tourism Video
Learn more about Connemara
- Connemara Ireland
Connemara Galway Ireland
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