Connemara On a BudgetThe Connemara Region is located on a peninsula on the west coast of Ireland with stunning views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The area is known for its rolling meadows, beautiful beaches, and sumptuous green mountains, which have attracted adventure enthusiasts, writers, and even film makers over the years. The majority of residents here speak both English and Irish, with many road signs and buildings being labeled in both English and Irish.
Being right on the Atlantic brings a fair amount of strong winds and rain to Connemara, although the temperature in general stays fairly average throughout the year. Connemara sees highs of around 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months, May through early September. From October to April, temperatures drop to the 40's and even lowering to the high 20's (F) with wind chill. Snow is rare for the area, with the exception of the mountain tops during the winter.
SightsFor incredible views of Western Ireland, hike the Twelve Bens, the mountain range in Connemara consisting of twelve quartzite mountains. Some people even attempt to hike all twelve in one day! The Twelve Bens are located in the Connemara National Park, where you can not only explore the varying terrains, but also find 4,000-year-old megalithic tombs.
From the park, head to the Kylemore Abbey estate to explore the Gothic Cathedral and go inside the Abbey to explore rooms that display items from when the house was built in the 1870's. Just outside the Abbey is the Victorian walled garden, which has been fully restored thanks to the generous donations of visitors and the help of local artisans.
NeighborhoodsThere are two islands and six cities that make up the Connemara Region: Inishbofin Island, Omey Island, Carraroe, Claddaghduff, Cleggan, Clifden, Leenane, and Spiddal. Each city boasts their own unique restaurants, shops, and accommodations. Clifden is known as the capital city of Connemara; they're known for hosting the longest community arts festival every September and for their overall friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Go to Inishbofin Island, known as the "Island of the White Cow", to explore the rich beauty and history of Connemara. Here, you'll find Bronze Age landscapes, Cromewell's 17th century fort, and even ancient burial grounds.
ActivitiesFor adventure seekers, there's the Killary Adventure center that provides a wide range of options, from kayaking to gorge walking. Take a horseback ride on the beach at Cleggan Beach Riding Center or go deep-sea fishing in the Atlantic aboard the Celtic Queen. For something more relaxed, take a glass bottomed boat tour for beautiful views of the ocean floor and to take in the scenery of the Connemara above the water.
If golf is your game, check out the Connemara Championship Golf Links for gorgeous views on a great course. While golfing, you'll catch glimpses of Slyne Head Lighthouse, Grainne O'Malley's Castle, and the Twelve Bens Mountain Range. Don't forget to take a ferry ride to Omey Island where you can do the Omey Island walking trail. The trail takes you around the entire island: from the rocky shoreline to the buried medieval church of Teampaill Feichin ending with a panoramic view of Inishturk and Turbot with the Twelve Bens in the background.
Food and DiningNo matter where you are in Connemara, you'll find fantastic traditional Irish fare with a lot of great seafood options. When in Clifden, head to Derryclare Restaurant for local Connemara smoke salmon and Atlantic sea bass. Or go to Sweeney's Strand Bar and Shop in Claddaghduff for delicious seafood while enjoying the view of Omey Island in the distance.
For a fun night out full of good 'craic', Clifden is the place to be! Lowry's Bar is a traditional Irish pub that's famous for it's friendly atmosphere and traditional trad music. If you love live music, go to Mullarkey's Bar which features both international and national music. They host an open-mic night every Thursday and often have impromptu shows, so no matter what night you go, you're in for good fun!
TransportationThe closest airport to Connemara is Shannon Airport, about a two-hour drive to Clifden. You can hire a coach service or take Bus Eireann to Galway, then the CityLink bus from Galway to Clifden.
With Connemara being rural and spread out, the best option for traveling between destinations is by car. Renting a car is fairly easy in Ireland; all you need is a valid driver's license and to purchase insurance from the dealer. Most cars in Ireland are manual-aka stick shift-so call ahead if you need to get an automatic.
If you prefer not to drive, the CityLink buses take you to the larger cities: Cleggan, Letterfrack, Clifden, and Galway. There are also many day tour trips that will take you to the major sites without you having to worry about transport.