West Ireland Visitors' Guide - Irish Travel | My Ireland Tour.
Horses on Aran Islands, on Ireland's West CoastHorses on Aran Islands, on Ireland's West Coast

West IrelandTravel Guide

West Ireland

The West of Ireland - home of Galway, Connemara, Mayo, Clare and the revered Croagh Patrick. A rugged coastline, splintered by the Atlantic's timeless persistence, is peppered with peninsulas, ports and tiny islands.

Visitors to the West of Ireland will marvel at its natural beauty, and will cherish its memories as fondly as they do the friendliness of the locals. Come here to find some of Ireland's best evening entertainments and folk sessions, perhaps a little more authentic than you might find in the most tourist-friendly haunts of Dublin and Killarney. Before you know it, you'll be singing along!

Know where you're going? Skip to what interests you most

Dive straight into the attractions and destinations, that interest you most, in the West of Ireland using these quick links.

Top Attractions in West Ireland

Ireland's west coast hold some of Ireland's most loved attractions.

1 The Cliffs of Moher

Top Attraction
Bring your Camera

They are one of the most popular and frequently most hyped attractions on any of our Ireland Tours, and the views will not disappoint. Rising to a height of 203 metres, these sheer vertical cliffs hold a steady, undulating line against the tireless advance of the Atlantic below. A better view of the sea and setting sun on any Ireland tour you will not find.

The Cliffs of Moher
1

Another thing you will not find is the visitor centre; at least, until you get close, you won't find it. Designed very cleverly to blend into the local landscape, this extensive attraction is all but invisible as you approach the cliffs themselves. Inside, it is large, modern and informative.

Insider Tips

To get the most out of this incredible experience, wrap up warm and allow enough time for a good walk about on the clifftops. Turn right and head toward O'Brien's Tower, then continue along the Burren Way footpath for one mile to reach the Viewing Point. From here, you will get some of the best angles for your photographs, but be warned that you will have competition from many other happy snappers.

2 Kylemore Abbey

Top Attraction
History & Culture

Kylemore Abbey is not only one of Ireland's most attractive buildings, since 1920, it has also been home to the Sisters of the Benedictine Order in Ireland. Even today, Kylemore continues to operate as a working Abbey: here, the sisters live, work and pray, as well as welcoming visitors from across the globe.

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Country Galway
2

Among Kylemore's many notable attractions are the unmistakable Victorian Walled Gardens, restored in 2000 and now open to the public. As a heritage garden, this beautiful space only uses Victorian gardening methods. Only seeds and strains from the 1800s are ever planted here.

The building of Kylmore Castle was inspired by Margaret Henry, to whom the Gothic Church still stands in tribute, serenely secluded in Kylemore's woods. It was Margaret's husband Mitchell Henry who produced, from little more than desolate bog land, the beautiful attraction we now know as Kylemore Abbey. Following Margaret's death in 1874, Henry returned to Kylemore to live, and he remained here until his passing in 1903.

Insider Tips

If time, mobility and weather allow, skip the shuttle bus to the garden and make your way on foot. There is so much to see along the way, you will be glad you did.

3 Galway City

Top Attraction
Shopping & Souvenirs

Galway, City of the Tribes, is one of Ireland's most popular tourist destinations, known for its charming cobbled streets, its friendly residents, and its pervasive sense of history. Visitors are drawn to the brightly-painted pubs, teeming with activity and traditional Irish folk music; the legendary street performers, enchanting the crowds; and the countless festivals which take place in Galway every year.

Galway City
3
Insider Tips

If you're visiting on a Saturday or a bank holiday, head to Church Lane by St Nicholas' Church in the centre of the city. Here you will find the local farmers' market, loved by locals and visitors alike for its vibrant atmosphere and its alluring mix of crafts and foodie treats.

4 Westport

Top Attraction
Good for Families

Westport is a charming town in County Mayo. Located about 1hr 30 mins from Galway, this remote area of Ireland retains all of its rugged beauty. There's plenty to see and do around Westport including the Great Western Greenway, Achill Island, Clare Island, Clew Bay with its 365 Islands, Westport House and Croagh Patrick.

Westport, County Mayo
4

Westport is a charming town in County Mayo. Located about 1hr 30 mins from Galway, this remote area of Ireland retains all of its rugged beauty. There's plenty to see and do around Westport including the Great Western Greenway, Achill Island, Clare Island, Clew Bay with its 365 Islands, Westport House and Croagh Patrick.

Insider Tips

If you have a car with you, be aware that you will need to purchase a parking disc from any of the local shops. The first hour is free of charge.

Our own Visit

We headed to Westport ourselves for a fun few days of activities and adventure. Click here to find out about our Weekend in Westport

5 Clonmacnoise

Top Attraction
History & Culture

Perched on the banks of the River Shannon, Clonmacnoise is perhaps the foremost of Ireland's many monastic cities. For those interested in early Christianity, it is a must-see destination. Enclosed within the ancient city walls are various ecclesiastical ruins including a cathedral, seven ancient churches, three high crosses, round towers and the largest collection of Early Christian graveslabs in Western Europe - all remarkably well preserved and fascinating to anyone, not just those with a special interest in Ireland's religious history.

Clonmacnoise, County Offaly
5

The cathedral is perhaps the most logical starting point after the museum. Built in 909AD, it has been significantly altered over the years. The 15th Century Gothic doorway with carvings of St Francis is worth a few minutes of closer scrutiny.

Clonmacnoise's small churches are known as temples; a derivation from the gaelic teampall. Each has its own distinctive character, and states of preservation vary significantly. Giving each of these sites the attention they deserve, not to mention the many sites outside the city walls, will not be easy for those bringing young families. But, for grown-ups interested in history, Clonmacnoise is a fascinating and vivid realisation of Ireland's past.

Insider Tips

Head first for the museum, an interactive multimedia experience housed in three conical huts designed to mirror the early dwellings of the region. The audiovisual presentation lasts 20 minutes but will provide important context for the rest of your time in Clonmacnoise.

6 Flaggy Shore

Great for Returners
Great Outdoors

Found in one of the most northerly parts of County Clare, Flaggy Shore is a geologist's dream. Made up of mainly grey limestone there are also the remnants of glacial rock from the last ice age, over 12,000 years ago, in the form of granite and limestone. Fossils of creatures from over 330 million years ago have also been found in the limestone. For us non-geologists of the world, Flaggy Shore is also just a simply beautiful sight.

Flaggy Shore, on the coast of County Clare
6

Insider Tips

Be advised that perhaps the biggest attraction of Flaggy Shore could also be seen by some as its biggest downside. Namely, there is nothing there but nature and peaceful solitude. Bring everything you need to this very isolated spot.

7 Kilmacduagh Monastery

Great for Returners
Religion & Spirituality

Kilmacduagh Monastery is located just outside the town of Gort in south west County Galway. Today only the ruins remain. Saint Colman is said to have founded the monastery in the 7th century. Legend has it that as Saint Colman was walking through the woods of the Burren when the belt from his robe fell to the ground. Saint Colman took this as a sign that this was to be the location of his monastery.

Kilmacduagh Monastery, County Galway
7

It was also said that in the village of Kilmacduagh, no man will die from lightning. This myth was tested when a man was struck by lightning and send over a ditch, into the neighbouring County Clare, where he was declared dead. It is not known if he died when he was stuck or after he crossed the border, so the myth lives on.

Insider Tips

An ideal detour en route to the Cliffs of Moher. Just an hour's drive will take you from this most peace retreat to the much busier tourist hotspot to the West.

8 Keem Bay

Great for Returners
Great Outdoors

Another of Ireland's best kept secret beaches, found on the western shores of Achill Island in County Mayo. Framed by such an enchanted landscape, many visitors will find the journey here just as rewarding as the day out itself. A truly stunning location.

Keem Bay in County Mayo
8

See our page on Irish Islands for more hidden treasures like this one.

Insider Tips

Visitors are advised only to swim if there is a lifeguard as there is a very strong riptide.

9 Downpatrick Head

Great for Returners
Religion & Spirituality

Located just north of the village of Ballycastle in County Mayo, Downpatrick Head is a heritage site which gives visitors a unique view of the Atlantic ocean. The Dún Briste sea stack lies close by, which looks like a chunk of Downpartick Head that has been cut away from the mainland. Also found on Downpartick Head are the ruins of a church founded by Ireland's patron saint Patrick, a holy well, a stone circle and nesting sea birds.

Downpatrick Head, off the coast of County Mayo
9

Insider Tips

Photographers will remember this visit forever, but watch your step and follow the signage on these treacherously high cliffs.

10 Bluebell Woods

Great for Returners
Great Outdoors

Dereen Woods, also known as Bluebell Woods, is located outside the town of Boyle in County Roscommon. A magical setting throughout the year, the woods become even more special during the spring when they are carpeted with Bluebells. On a clear spring morning, Bluebell Wood is one of the most unique sights in Ireland.

Bluebell Wood, County Roscommon
10

Insider Tips

Visit mid-April to late May to get the full effect of the bluebells in bloom. Be advised that there is limited parking,especially during this more popular time.

11 The Spanish Arch

Great for Returners
History & Culture

The Spanish Arch arguably stands out more because of the vibrant atmosphere which pervades the surrounding area, particularly in summer when visitors and locals mingle together, eating out in the sun and enjoying the buskers and street performers. The arch itself is thought to be part of the original medieval city walls.

The Spanish Arch, Galway City
11

The Spanish Arch arguably stands out more because of the vibrant atmosphere which pervades the surrounding area, particularly in summer when visitors and locals mingle together, eating out in the sun and enjoying the buskers and street performers. The arch itself is thought to be part of the original medieval city walls.

Insider Tips

This is a great spot to sit and eat outdoors. But keep an eye on your lunch: there are many seagulls here and they'll be very grateful if you leave a tasty snack unguarded.

12 Cong

Great for Returners
History & Culture

The location of the 1951 John Ford film The Quiet Man (starring John Wayne), Cong offers a step back in time. Those who are less interested in The Quiet Man Museum should head for the more historical attractions of Cong Abbey and Ashford Castle.

Cong Abbey, County Galway
12

Insider Tips

For a truly luxurious experience, you might consider an overnight stay in nearby Ashford Castle - arguably Ireland's most opulant castle hotel. Ideal if you're looking to treat yourself on one or two nights of your stay in Ireland.

13 Killaloe & Ballina

Great for Returners
Bring your Camera

Situated on the Clare and Tipperary banks of Loch Deirgeirt respectively, Killaloe and Ballina offer a tale of two cities ... well, two villages, perhaps. Close enough to be considered one destination, they have quite distinctive and different characteristics. Pack your camera before you head to Killaloe, the epitome of beautiful County Clare; then use it to get some foodie snaps over dinner in Ballina, where you will find fantastic pubs and restaurants.

Killaloe, County Clare
13

Insider Tips

Be sure to stop here if you are into watersports, if you enjoy a good day's fishing, or if you're tempted by a boat cruise up the River Shannon to Lough Derg.

14 Connemara National Park

Great for Returners
Great Outdoors

Comprising three thousand hectares of mountains, bogs, heaths, grasslands and woods, Connemara National Park is a nature-lover's paradise; home to countless native species including red deer, wild ponies and peacock butterflies. The park is also home to several of the famous Twelve Bens, the unmistakeable range of mountains which gives such character to the landscape of this part of Ireland. Dedicated walkers will find plenty of challenge here, but easier strolls can also be found on nearby Diamond Hill.

Connemara National Park, County Galway
14

Insider Tips

Head to the northern reaches of the park, near Letterfrack village, to find the Connemara National Park Visitor Centre and tea rooms.

15 Trad on the Prom

Music & Show
Great for Returners

If Riverdance did festivals..? This showcase of Irish traditional folk music and dance combines the best of Irish trad culture with a great open air festival atmosphere. Featuring world-champion dancers, as well as some of the Riverdance cast, the show has met with near-unanimity in its positive reception among visitors. The price tag might rule it out for some, especially larger families, but those who go are in for a treat. Be sure to book well in advance: shows sell out months ahead.

Trad on the Prom
15

Insider Tips

Be advised that this show is only available during the summer months. Check www.tradontheprom.com for the most up-to-date information about performance times and location.

Where to stay

Hotels

Bed & Breakfasts

Hostels

Go Explore

Barnacles Hostel

Food and Drink

Restaurants

Cava Bodega Galway

Kai Restaurant Galway

Temple Cafe Galway

An Port Mór Mayo

The Pantry and Corkscrew Mayo

Roadford House Restaurant Clare

Dromoland Castle Clare

Red Cliff Lodge Clare

Irish Pubs

Tig Coili Galway

An Púcán Galway

Bierhaus Galway

Monroe's Galway

O'ConnellsGalway

Róisín DubhGalway

Dunning's Bar Mayo

Matt Molloy's Mayo

The Merry Monk Mayo

Johnny Burke's Clare

The Half Barrel Clare

Setrights Tavern Clare

Traditional Fish and Chips

McDonagh's Galway

Jack Jordans Galway

Vinnies Take Away Galway

Cafollas Mayo

Danolla's Mayo

The Ivy Cottage Clare

Monks Clare

Tasty Station Clare

Other Regions of Ireland

Find the attractions and destinations of the other regions of Ireland here.

Guinness Barrels
Dublin
  • Visit here for:
  • Guiness Storehouse
  • Christ Church Cathedral
  • Trinity College
East Ireland
East
  • Visit here for:
  • Glendalough Monastic Site
  • Castletown House
  • Brú na Bóinne
Kilkenny Castle
South East
  • Visit here for:
  • Kilkenny City
  • Rock of Cashel
  • Tintern Abbey
St Colmans Cathedral
South West
  • Visit here for:
  • Cork City
  • Blarney Castle
  • Ring of Kerry
Giant's Causeway
Northern Ireland
  • Visit here for:
  • Belfast City
  • Titanic
  • Giant's Causeway
Irish Music
North West
  • Visit here for:
  • Belfast City
  • Titanic
  • Giant's Causeway