Many visitors to Connemara are there to seek out the scenic Ireland that they have come to expect from movies and TV. In Connemara, they won’t be disappointed. The ideal option is to base yourself at one of Clifden’s hotels or B&B’s and circulate out from the town on day trips along the west coast of Ireland and inland around the Maumturk mountains and Connemara National Park by car, by bike or on foot.
Connemara consists of a wild and barren region of countryside to the north west of Galway city. This area encompasses boglands, secluded valleys, the grey Maumturk mountain range and a multitude of small lakes. Its remote tranquil location has in a recent times become a hive of small holiday homes for those seeking seclusion from the bigger towns around Ireland.
From Clifden, you are ideally situated to head east inland into the heart of the Maumturk Mountains. This grey and green mountain range and its wonderful Twelve Bens peaks (or pins, as the locals refer to them) offer a range of outdoor activities.
The mountains run north to south and the views across the valleys offer excellent vantage points to the ocean and the many small lakes that dot the landscape of Connemara. The range is ideal for rambling or mountaineering routes that can all be achieved within a day, but you would be better advised to savor the area by taking a few days to discover the valleys and mountain ranges at a relaxed pace.
For the energetic, and those wishing to walk off a hearty lunch, try taking the short trip east from Clifden to the Twelve Bens and follow the road north along the Lough Inagh valley. This route affords some truly wonderful scenic views and hill-walking opportunities that would be hard to beat in this part of the country. This 15 km route north finishes at Kylemore Lake and Kylemore Abbey from which you can circle west to Clifden via the Connemara National Park.
The jewel of the area is the scenic routes from Maam Cross heading north-west to Leenan and north-east to Cong. Take your time to stop off along this route and follow the sign-posted walking routes up into the foothills to take in the stunning mountain views.
Taking the coastal spin from Clifden to Spiddel (along the R341, R340 and R336) is to be recommended for the sea views, rugged coastline and pleasant harbor towns such as Carraroe, Roundstone and Ballyconneely Bay.
It is worth noting that what appears like a short 40 to 50 km route on maps of Connemara actually consists of winding country roads in a number of areas. While the roads are of good quality, these are twisty B-roads (especially along the coastal roads) and speeds will rarely rise about 50 kph when driving by car.
Routes, maps and general information are available from the Connemara Walking Centre in Clifden.