Galway City and Inishmore are just the tip of the iceberg when seeing Galway County … the best part, but just the tip. This blog talks about some Galway County sightseeing options that can be added to your itinerary if your holiday schedule allows additional time and the options match your interests. Some of them may even be on the way to your next destination.
The complete list of additional Galway County sights would be extensive, but I’ve tried to limit the list to my top 4 or 5. As I have done before, I’ll try giving you the background info for visiting these sights and links for more info.
My favorite for this list is Kylemore Abbey, one of the mostly widely photographed sights in Ireland. The center piece is a family country house (think Downton Abbey) surrounded by beautiful grounds and a walled Victorian Garden. Depending on your interest, Kylemore Abbey is a great way to spend an hour or a day.
Tours are held every few hours and occasionally free concerts are held in the mausoleum chapel. The tea room is a great place for lunch or an early dinner and serves some of the produce and jams from the grounds.
Killary Fjord Mussel Farm
The Abbey has no accommodations, so you would need to stay in Letterfrack or Leenane if you wanted to stay nearby although there are a few B&B’s along the way to each.
Leenane and Killary Fjord are a special place for Irish History and culture; and is a great place for experiencing the Irish outdoors. A fascinating boat tour of the Fjord is run a few times a day during the “season” (April to the October bank holiday) that provides stunning views, a close up look at salmon and muscle farms, and a little pre-famine history. There are several festivals each year including the walking festival. Kayak’s and bikes can be locally rented.
When looking for information online, you will need to deal with the inconsistency of Irish spelling. It’s either Leenane or Leenaun, and there may be other spellings.
My favorite places to stay in Leenane are:
The Convent - A quaint converted convent with the breakfast room in the old chapel. A great B&B experience.
Leenane Hotel - Typical Irish country hotel. A good restaurant and a great pub with weekend music.
Rooms with a great view of the Fjord are available.
My favorite place to eat in Leenane is the Blackberry Restaurant; IMHO the mussels are the best in Ireland.
Connemara National Park and the whole Connemara region are known for the scenery, the views, and the hiking and cycling. The park has several hiking trails that are of various difficulties and lengths.
Cong is a small little village that is best know as the location of several scenes in the Quiet Man Movie of the 60’s. In addition Cong contains the Cong Abbey and Ashford Castle. For those with a few extra … maybe a lot of extra euros, Ashford Castle is a great place to stay. Don’t have the extra Euros, there are plenty of B&B's in the area. The Cong Abbey is sprawling abbey ruins that are well worth the time to explore.
Cong Abbey Cooking/Fishing House
There are also the towns surrounding Galway City: Oranmore and Athenry.
Oranmore is located 6 or 7 miles from Galway City. You can walk up to the Oranmore Castle and view it and a great view of Galway bay. It is privately owned and occasionally open during the summer for tours. The town also has a thatched pub and another location for my favorite restaurant, Péarla na Mara. Renmore Park just south of town is a pleasant walk with views of Galway Bay.
Oranmore is a viable location for lodging, especially during festivals.
Oranmore Swans at Sunset
Athenry has a castle that has been renovated by the Office of Public Works (OPW). It can be toured daily throughout the year. Athenry also has a Cromwellian era abbey that can be toured, just ask where you can get the key and/or a tour of the abbey while visiting the castle. There are several pubs in Athenry and my favorite restaurants are The Barracks (a converted military barracks) and Town Cafe.
Athenry Castle on St. Patrick's Day
Bus transportation can be a little tricky to some of these places. For definitive and up to date information go to the Bus Éireann website.
Some Bus 419’s from Galway can get you to Letterfrack(Connemara National Park), Kylemore Abbey, and Leenane.
You can get to Cong by way of Bus 52 and 456 from Galway.
Athenry is available by train or a private bus from Eyre square. Your can get to Oranmore by taxi for €15-20 Euros or with several Bus Éireann bus options. Irish Rail trains stop at both Oranmore and Athenry.
If you are visiting North Galway County on your way North then car may be your best best. The roads are not particularly great, but they are relatively lightly traveled and do not have rock walls impinging on your lane. North Galway County is on the way for a trip to Mayo and/or Sligo.
You can also see many of these places via a 1-day bus tour. With a short google search you can find many 1-day bus tour options from Galway that include most if not all of the locations I’ve mentioned above (except Oranmore and Athenry). You may want to check out DayTrip.ie for some of their tours(call +353 91 450 475). For a group of 4 to 8, you may be able to book a boat ride to Leenane from Galway and have a personalized tour of Killary Fjord.
Northern County Galway is a great place to explore, either as part of an extended stay in Galway, or on your way to other places in Ireland.
See You In The Pub!
Jet Lag Jack