The Wild Atlantic Way conjures up images of crashing surf over jagged rocks, rugged mountains and landscapes with changing hues. But, it’s so much more than that. It’s also about the culture of local music and literary festivals, museums and historical sites. And don’t forget those beautiful white sandy beaches in hidden away coves and the hospitality that comes with a good old fashioned Irish pub. You’ll find all these things anywhere along the Way, but none more so than in the western and north western counties of Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.
In the first of our series, we start at the city of Galway and head out to the lacey shoreline and the savage beauty of Connemara.
It would be a shame to go to County Galway and not visit the wonderfully youthful city of Galway. It is abuzz with cafes and bars and it seems there’s always some live music to be found around a corner. The medieval city is jam packed with things-to-do, full of friendly people and is very easy to get around, particularly on foot. The city heaves in late summer as the population triples with the arrival of the Galway Arts Festival followed by the Galway Races. Galway provides an excellent city break for all ages and is the perfect starting point to explore the west coast.
Once you leave the craic agus ceol of Galway, everything changes. Dramatically. You are presented with the ‘savage beauty’ of the Connemara wilderness where the hues of the landscape change as the light varies with the time of day and the overhead clouds. If you zoom into Connemara on google maps you’ll notice that it’s pockmarked with lakes like a Jackson Pollock painting.
If you head north west out of the city along the Clifden Road you’ll travel into the heart of the Ghaeltacht along the western shore of Lough Corrib. Visit the picturesque villages of Moycullen and Oughterard with stunning elevated views over the Lough. As you leave Oughterard the Twelve Bens mountain range rear up ahead. When you get to Clifden, take the Sky Road out of town to Monument Hill. Take a look back down the hill and the view is nothing short of spellbinding. Clifden nestles atop the Connemara landscape with the Twelve Bens standing guard in the background. Further along the road there are jaw-dropping views of the islands of Clifden Bay.
Of course, you could choose to head west out of the city on your venture into Connemara. This route goes along the coast and is where the ferry to the Aran Islands departs from Rossaveel. The road twists and turns and sometimes goes back on itself. Visit the villages of Spiddal, Carraroe and Kilkieran as you make your way to the stunning village of Roundstone. The coast road is truly long and winding so make sure you don’t spend too long before you need to get to your accommodation.
In the northwest of Connemara lies the village of Letterfrack and the Connemara National Park. The park has 2,957 hectares of mountains, bogs, grasslands, heaths and forest and has some awe-inspiring views. Kylemore Abbey donated much of the lands to the national park and is well worth a visit for its stunning setting and restored Victorian gardens. The Abbey was originally built as a luxury Castle in the 19th Century before it was sold to Benedictine nuns after World War 1. After travelling through the wilderness of Connemara and all its quaint villages and cottages, it’s truly startling to come across the Abbey.
Next, we’ll travel up through Mayo and Clew Bay’s 365 islands.
Before you hit the road check out our car safety tips blog, and don’t forget, with Liberty Insurance you can get a car insurance quote online in as little as two minutes. Terms and conditions apply.