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The stark, moody nature of Connemara’s landscape is captured in its brooding mountains, sweeping valleys and inky lakes. Labyrinthine stone walls creep up the slopes of quartzite peaks, trees are bent double by the wind and a ribbon of white-sand beaches, sheltered coves and rocky headlands skirt the coast.

The region has remained doggedly isolated from the rest of the country and has managed to retain a stronger grip on traditional culture than elsewhere. It’s Ireland's largest Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) area, and the traditional music here is some of the finest in the country.

Connemara is an example of the rugged Irish landscape that I didn’t know existed, with glacial-carved valleys, and mountains and rivers. There’s not much around in terms of shops, bars, and restaurants, but you’re really here to lose yourself in nature.

UK & Ireland specialist Andea

Things to see and do in Connemara

Connemara scenery

Connemara sceneryIn the words of Oscar Wilde, ‘Connemara is a savage beauty.’ The raw, untouched landscape is moody and unforgiving with dense but low vegetation, gurgling streams, thunderous waterfalls and mountains that sweep abruptly down to dark lakes pitted with craggy islands. The coastline is equally dramatic, offering walkers and cyclists, divers and kayakers plenty of opportunity to explore.

A large swathe of Connemara is protected by a national park of the same name, where you can take guided walks and follow way-marked trails up the Twelve Bens mountain range. Whether you choose to drive, walk or cycle in the region you'll also come across little villages, traditional pubs and cottages reminiscent of a time well past in other parts of the country.

Connemara ponies

Ireland has always had a great love for horses, and in Connemara you see the native breed, the hardy Connemara pony, roaming across the stark terrain. There are many legends about the origin of these horses, from Viking stock to a cross-breed of Andalusians that arrived with the Spanish Armada. Whatever the truth, Connemara ponies are much loved for their intelligence, gentle nature and endurance.

Kylemore Abbey

Built by wealthy surgeon and businessman Mitchell Henry, Kylemore Abbey is a 19th-century neo-Gothic mansion on the shores of Lough Pollacappul. The 33-bedroom family home became a country retreat until Henry's wife, Margaret, was taken ill and died. He commissioned an elaborate chapel to house her remains, although she and Henry are both interred at a more modest mausoleum in the woods.

In 1920, a group of Benedictine nuns moved here, and their order still cares for the house and its Victorian walled gardens. The ground floor of the abbey is open to visitors and the lake walk and woodlands offer a wonderful place to stroll and admire the surrounding mountains.

Dramatic coastline

Connemara's Atlantic seaboard is a patchwork of rugged cliffs, sheltered coves and deserted beaches where lobster pots, currachs (traditional tarred rowing boats) and Galway hookers (traditional boats with deep-red sails) are common sights. The beaches are often deserted despite their soft-white sands and turquoise waters.

Legends of pirates and privateers abound, ruins of castles lie on now-isolated headlands and fishing villages shelter the trawlers that still ply the waters. At Dog's Bay, a tranquil walking spot near Roundstone, the beach and its waters are tropical in their perfection. You'll find coral strands at Ballyconneely and another crescent of golden sands at Glassilaun near Renvyle.

Killary Harbour

Hailed as Ireland's only fjord (though there's debate if that title is technically correct), Killary Harbour marks the northern limits of Connemara. The steep-sided inlet slices 16 km (10 miles) inland from the sea and is littered with mussel rafts. Dolphins often play in the water, while otters sun themselves on the rocks.

You can take a cruise from sleepy little Leenane at the head of the bay, visit the Sheep and Wool Museum, which explains local spinning, weaving and dyeing techniques, or explore the landscape while walking or kayaking. One short walk leads to Aasleagh Waterfall, a low, peaty cascade tumbling over rocks on the river's way to the sea.

Arts and crafts

The landscapes and ethereal light of Connemara have attracted artists and craftspeople over the years. In many of the small towns you encounter, you'll find the galleries of painters, sculptors and photographers lining the streets.

Clifden, the region's largest town, has the best selection, but little Roundstone is also worth seeking out. Along with several galleries, it’s home to Roundstone Musical Instruments where you can see traditional bodhráns (goat-skin drums) being handcrafted.

On top of this, you'll come across artisan cheese producers, chocolate makers and traditional salmon smokeries across the region, as well as some of the finest seafood, simply cooked in markets or on food trailers parked in scenic spots.

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Suggested itineraries featuring Connemara

This sample itinerary will give you an idea of what is possible when you travel in Connemara, and showcases routes we know work particularly well. Treat this as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Connemara

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near Connemara

    Accommodation choices for Connemara

    We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Connemara. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    • Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara

      Ballynahinch Castle

      Deluxe

      Offering guests the opportunity to relax in true luxury while fully immersed in the wild countryside, Ballynahinch Castle is ideal for guests looking for a tranquil getaway and the chance to explore Ireland’s natural beauty.

    • Delphi Lodge, Connemara

      Delphi Lodge

      First Class

      Beautiful, historic and remote, Delphi Lodge is a divine country house surrounded by mountains at the gateway to Connemara. Designed to enable guests to relax in a welcoming, homelike setting, it has the luxury of exquisite dining and helpful staff.

    • Screebe House, Rosmuck, Connemara

      Screebe House

      First Class

      Offering sweeping views over the wilds of Connemara, Screebe House sits between dense forest and a sheltered bay and prides itself on providing opportunities for both exploration and pampering amid the peaceful Irish landscape.

    Ideas for experiencing Connemara

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Connemara, and which use the best local guides.

    • Sheep in Ireland

      Connemara seafood farm tour

      Connemara

      Explore Connemara's dramatic landscapes on a full-day tour that takes in the gloriously moody Killary harbor as well as visits to lobster, oyster and mussel farms and a traditional mountain sheep farm to learn about local life.