Before visiting Connemara for the first time I found myself asking: how can bogs be sexy? It is indeed difficult to imagine how peat bogs can look pretty until you experience the views.
Connemara is a beautiful multi-coloured land of lakes, bogs and marble. The contrasting, almost sepia hues of green and brown, the dark blue lakes that dot every landscape and the grey of the native marble combine to create incredible scene after incredible scene.
Connemara is basically book-ended by Galway City in the south and popular coastal town of Westport in the north and is easily explored as a daytrip from either one or as a slow meander from one to the other. There’s one main road which provides fantastic enough views but for an extra adventure one can move off the beaten track and take the Sky Road to experience more of the Wild Atlantic Way.
The first meaningful stop on the way out of Galway is Dan O’Hara’s Homestead. At the heart of this family owned farm is a cottage which was abandoned during the tragic famines of the 19th century and is typical in an area that was hit very hard. With an interesting homestead tour, genial hosts, lovely scones, amazing views and a chance to ride behind a tractor, this is a lot less depressing than the summary paints it to be.
Arguably the jewel in the crown of this region is Kylemore Abbey. Nestled between a wooded hillside and a mirror-like lake, this stately home-turned-convent is the perfect fusion of nature and man-made architecture. For Ireland, this attraction carries a fairly hefty entrance fee but the short-and-sweet house tour, adorable little gothic church and colourful gardens – not to mention the amazing photo opportunities – are well worth it.
For a lunch stop, preferable to the always busy and expensive on-site café at Kylemore Abbey, is the town of Clifden. The main town around these parts offers a good selection of pubs, cafes and little shops. It’s a poor show if you can’t find good seafood in this town.
Connemara is also home to the country’s only fjord (inland lake) at Killary. Cruises leave from Portafin and offer a different take on the Connemara landscapes. The Portafin Lodge also stands out as a great spot for lunch with a view.
Do all of this, or do nothing but drive and you’ll enjoy one of the most scenic days imaginable.