Bays and beaches
Welcome to the coastline of Mayo and Galway, a destination of wild landscapes where land and sea collide
From the wilds of Erris Head to the bohemian buzz of Galway city, this trip takes you on a spectacular journey. The coastline moves from inland to island, presenting you with awesome coastal views, compelling history, and a few delicious meals along the way. Get ready for beauty that is out of this world…
Journey along the Mayo coastline, a trip packed with stunning cliff views and an epic island adventure.Explore Day 1
Dramatic cliffs and incredible vistas
With only the sheep for company, take a walk to the edge of the world along the 5km Erris Head Loop. Your reward? Incredible views that change like the weather. At the very tip of the head, a railed viewing point boasts great views of Illandavuck island, sea arches and crashing Atlantic waves. Along the way, keep your eye out for the large stone markings of EIRÉ – one of the many navigational aids placed during World War II to help pilots identify the land below as Ireland.
If you have more time, settle down in front of the fire for some traditional music in the cosy surrounds of McDonnell’s Pub (& Undertaker!) in Belmullet.
Otherworldly beauty on Ireland’s largest island
Such is the remoteness of this spellbinding island that, when the German writer, Heinrich Böll came here in the 1950s, he said that sitting by the fire in his cottage, “it is possible to play truant from Europe.” Driving through the Mayo landscapes on your way here, Achill still feels out of this world, but the island is one of the few in Ireland that can be accessed by a landbridge. Once here, drive up the coastal road around cliff edges and you’ll get to Achill’s showstopper – Keem Bay, frequently cited as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Feeling adventurous? Call up the folks at Achill Surf Adventure, for a kayking tour of the Blueway – a network of water trails that weave between Achill’s towering sea cliffs.
If you have more time, have cake and coffee, then browse crafts in the adorable Beehive Café in Keel.
Go wild on Ireland’s longest off-road cycling route, before exploring the home of a fearsome pirate queen…Explore Day 2
If you fancy taking to two wheels, then get to know the Great Western Greenway – Ireland’s longest off-road cycling and walking trail. This traffic-free pathway is packed with some of Ireland’s best scenery and follows the route of the old Westport to Achill railway, which closed in 1937. Hire some bikes in Achill, Mulranny, Newport or Westport and make your way as quickly or as leisurely as you like!
Discover this stately home’s pirate history
Westport House looks like a sedate old country house, but it has a fascinating history – its current owners are descendants of the fearsome pirate queen Grace O’Malley. Take a walk in the grounds and discover more about the life of “the original Wild Atlantic Woman”. The house itself is well worth exploring, too, but for families a trip to the Pirate Adventure Park is not to be missed, with “rides, slides, boats and trains”. For a real treat, try a Hawk Walk, where you can stroll through the beautiful woodlands surrounding the house in the company of a bird of prey. The moment when one of these magnificent creatures lands on your gloved hand is genuinely thrilling.
If you have more time, head into the lovely town of Westport for a taste of Clew Bay lobster, prepared by the careful hands of Frankie St Mallon at An Port Mór restaurant.
A bay with an island for every day of the year, views from atop a holy mountain, and a taste of the traditional. Enjoy.Explore Day 3
A holy mountain with sublime views
On "Reek" Sunday, the last Sunday in July, you’ll find pilgrims climbing this holy mountain in their droves, but Croagh Patrick is a rewarding climb whenever you decide to do it. It’s a fairly tough hike (taking about three and a half hours there and back), and can be steep in places, but the view from the top comes with rich rewards. From 764m (2,500 feet) above sea level, look out to Clew Bay, a bright blue vista studded with, they say, 365 islands – one for every day of the year. Not up for a climb? Don’t worry, Old Head Beach is a short drive away and makes for a lovely walk with blasts of fresh Atlantic air.
If you have more time, learn to shear sheep, cut turf, and shepherd your own flock! Experience it all at Glen Keen Farm.
From sacred mountains to the sea
The drive through the Doolough Valley is a special experience with soaring mountains, steams, lakes and sheep. It weaves along beautiful winding roads to Killary Fjord, a spectacular glacial fjord that forms a natural border between counties Mayo and Galway. As you head towards the village of Leenane, stop off for a look at the pretty Aasleagh Falls on the River Erriff. Cruises on the fjord are a great way to enjoy the surrounding landscape, and you might just spot dolphins swimming in the inky waters.
A mansion built with love
Before Hollywood glistened in anyone’s eye, Kylemore Abbey in Connemara set the scene for one of the greatest love stories of all time. A visit here charts the tale of Henry and his beloved wife Margaret, who fell in love with this picturesque spot. Their castle rose beside the lake, gardens blossomed and for almost 10 years, Mitchell, Margaret and their nine children lived here, in what sounds like a state of bliss. But tragedy struck when Margaret fell ill and died. The neo-Gothic church is Henry’s final tribute to his dear wife.
The savage beauty of Connemara
The Connemara National Park close to Kylemore serves up a number of breath-taking walks, including the modest Diamond Hill Loop, which suits most fitness levels. The views afforded for the effort are nothing short of spectacular. Afterwards, rest awhile in the beating heart of Connemara’s capital, Clifden, which was once a media hotspot when the inventor of radio, Guglielmo Marconi, built a transatlantic wireless telegraphy station just outside the town. Once you’ve soaked up its history, browse the craft shops and galleries, before dinner in Mitchell’s Restaurant in the centre of town.
If you’re visiting in August, don’t miss the annual Connemara Pony Festival in August which has been showing the best of this native breed since 1924.
Discover aviation history, great seafood, and home of the “Man of Aran”.Explore Day 4
Beautiful bogland with a history
Shimmering lakes, miles of bogland and dry stone walls are classic Connemara – and Derrigimlagh is no exception. Take a bike and cycle along bog roads, highlights include the unintended landing spot for transatlantic pilots, Alcock and Brown, when they crashed (safely) here in 1919. You'll also come across another, far less celebrated spot: the ruins of an 18th century inn called The Halfway House. Legend has it that those unfortunate enough to frequent this hostelry met a grisly end, for the inhabitants would murder them at midnight.
If you have more time, stretch your legs on Mannin Bay: on close inspection, the “sand” is made of finely ground shells that twinkle pink and yellow in the sun.
A tiny harbour full of big tastes
At picturesque Roundstone, turn your hand to making tunes at Roundstone Music and Crafts, where Malachy, one of the only dedicated, full-time bodhrán (Irish drum) players in the world, will reveal all about this indigenous instrument. Fancy a fish lunch? Well, in Roundstone, you can catch it yourself, with angling trips taking you out around the islands. Don’t fancy eating DIY? Then tuck into some deliciously prepared shellfish at O’Dowds, instead.
Nearby, there are two beautiful golden sand bays: take a dip or simply stroll along Gurteen or Dog’s Bay.
Quirky cool in the City of Tribes
From the stark wilderness of Connemara, Galway city eases you gently into its urban surrounds. Once dominated by 14 merchant families between the 13th and 19th centuries, Galway is full of history, from the distinctive Spanish Arch, to the cobbled little alleys. The home of the Claddagh Ring at Thomas Dillon’s Jewellers is always a must-visit, while cutting-edge restaurants such as Michelin-starred Aniar and Loam reveal exciting culinary flair. Prefer a quick dish? Head to Quay Street Kitchen for the best fish and chips this side of the Atlantic…
Every September, celebrate more than just shellfish at the Galway International Oyster & Seafood festival!
Have a day to spare? The Aran Islands are calling
The choice is yours at Rossaveal, with three Aran Islands – Inis Mór, Inis Oírr and Inis Meáin – beckoning you to take a ferry trip back in time. Head to Inis Mór where Dún Aonghasa, an ancient stone fort, clings to the cliffs high above the crashing Atlantic waves; Inis Meáin, the often overlooked middle island with its cosy B&Bs and age old traditions; and Inis Oírr, renowned for its upbeat traditional music sessions!