48 hours in Ireland's west
Explore the natural beauty of Ireland’s west and discover the charming urban hubs of Westport and Galway city in two action-packed days
From stately homes to sacred mountains, Oscar-winning film locations to traditional pub sessions, this trip will show you the best that this stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way has to offer. It's time to hit the road on the ultimate wild West road trip.
Get an early start to make the most of your 48-hour break. Day One will take you from the charming town of Westport to the rugged beauty of Achill Island.Explore Day 1
Take to the streets
Hire a car at Ireland West Airport, head straight for Westport, drop off your luggage at your accommodation, and grab some lunch. As you wander through the colourful streets of this humble town, you’ll notice a plethora of wonderful pubs and restaurants where you can while away your afternoon. If you’re looking for somewhere that brilliantly celebrates Irish cuisine, then drop into Savoir Fare, which serves exquisite food made with local artisan produce. It’s simple, classic, and delicious.
Afterwards, drive down to the Westport Quay or hire a bike from the Westport Bike Shop and take a scenic jaunt along the coast. Just remember to keep your eyes on the road, Ireland’s rugged coastlines can be very distracting! When you get back to Westport, treat yourself to a coffee and pastry in The Creel Deli – we recommend their homemade doughnuts. Explore the quirky shops along the quay front. We’d suggest dropping into Tertulia, a bookstore that invites people to enjoy a hot drink, a glass of wine, a conversation, or simply lose themselves in amazing literature.
Caffeinated and ready for more? Hop back on your bike or walk to the stunning Westport House, a Georgian-era estate set within 400 acres of parkland with views of Clew Bay, Achill Island, and the Atlantic Ocean. Roam the enchanting forest trails and restored pathways, completely immersing yourself in the unspoilt beauty of the local flora and fauna. As we know, Ireland's weather can be a bit unpredictable, so if you prefer to drive, no problem, Westport House offers free parking on its grounds.
Apart from its lush parklands, the 18th century house and gardens offer a range of activities for visitors: from tours of the house to a hawk walk through the forest at the Birds of Prey Centre.
If there’s one thing County Mayo’s not short on, it’s beautiful beaches. It’s time to escape the hustle and bustle of Westport and head towards the scenic coast of Achill Island, where the secluded paradise of Keem Beach awaits. During the warmer months, the white sands are awash with avid beach-goers, but when it’s cooler, it’s the ideal destination to blow away the cobwebs and breathe in that gorgeous sea air. The views along the way are worth the drive alone, and there’s a car park close to the beach.
The cinephiles in your group might recognise this spot from the Oscar-nominated movie, The Banshees of Inisherin. Both Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson spent many a day filming their scenes on this very beach! Before you head back to town, we recommend the breathtaking 1.5km walk along the top of the cliffs of Benmore towards Achill Head, the most westerly point of the island.
Your evening entertainment
It’s been a long day, so you’ll want to recharge and relax. Head to the Cobbler’s Bar for some nourishing pub fare. The busy gastro pub is in the heart of Westport, and is rich with tradition, character, and atmosphere – their signature Irish roast is worth the visit alone. Or try the delectable menu at Sage Restaurant, which offers marinated olives, cured meats and fresh scallops smothered in garlic. Our mouths are watering even thinking about it!
The night is still young! From Cobbler’s Bar, take a three-minute stroll down to the multi-award-winning The Porter House for an unforgettable evening of traditional Irish music. The pub regularly welcomes both local and visiting musicians to perform on stage, and of course, everyone is invited to join in the craic (fun), especially when the pints are flowing.
As the day draws to a close, make sure you get a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow we’re exploring County Galway!
Your second day will bring you on an adventure that takes in the natural beauty of the Connemara National Park and the bohemian quirkiness of Galway city.Explore Day 2
Follow The Wild Atlantic Way
Once your car is packed and ready for the road, it’s time to soak in the sights of the Wild Atlantic Way. Leave Westport via Louisburgh, where you’ll be greeted by Ireland’s holy mountain, Croagh Patrick.
Known locally as “the Reek”, it’s scaled by thousands each year on Reek Sunday – the last Sunday in July. The more devout visitors opt to climb the 7km pilgrim trail barefoot! Regardless of the occasion or time of year, this magnificent mountain’s views are a reward in themselves.
Continue along the Wild Atlantic Way coastal route and make a pitstop at Killary Harbour, a spectacular 16km fjord that forms a natural border between Galway and Mayo. It is one of just three glacial fjords on the island of Ireland (the others are Lough Swilly and Carlingford Lough) and it’s the perfect destination to stretch your legs and take some Instagram-worthy snaps that will make all your friends jealous. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a couple of seals frolicking in the flooded valley. Free parking is available in Leenaun, a pleasant little village right by the edge of Killary Harbour.
Wild at heart
Our next stop is the neo-Gothic beauty, Kylemore Abbey. Set beside a picturesque lakeside, nestled in the wild Connemara hills, this grand mansion is a great spot for a well-earned coffee break. Purchasing a ticket will give you entry to the whole estate, including access to the Abbey’s restored rooms, guided tours, woodland walks and the Victorian Walled Garden. Visitors are given the option to either walk to the walled gardens or simply hop on the free shuttle bus. Parking is also free.
Perhaps you want to bring home a keepsake from your travels? Check out the castle’s craft shop where you’ll find all sorts of handmade trinkets and a beautiful collection of Kylemore Abbey Pottery. It’s well worth putting a few hours aside on your two-day break to visit this very special location – you won’t regret it.
Lunch in Clifden
Now that you’ve been swept off your feet by the Galway countryside, it’s time for lunch. Travel to the lively town of Clifden, which effortlessly blends traditional culture and contemporary motifs with amazing outdoor activities. Nestled within a wonderful wilderness of blanket bog, surrounded by stunning beaches, the seaside town gives you a chance to catch your breath and throw all your worries away.
Food-wise, you’re in for a treat. Try Guys Bar for great pub grub, The Lamplight specialises in wines and light bites or visit the ultra-popular SeaHare Kitchen, which serves exceptional local food inspired by Connemara’s rich produce. And don’t forget to grab a cheeky crêpe from Le Crêpe wagon on your way back to the car – we won’t tell anyone, promise.
If you have the time to spare, you should mosey around town, browsing the tiny Clifden Bookshop or admiring the magnificent works in Whitehorn Gallery and the Lavelle Art Gallery. Sounds like the perfect afternoon to us!
Dog's Bay Afternoon
On your way to Galway city, take a detour to the horseshoe-shaped Dog’s Bay Beach. What sets this hidden gem apart is its beautifully soft sand, which is made entirely of tiny crushed-up seashell fragments, making it an absolute joy to walk on. Thanks to its sheltered location, the turquoise waters can be a bit chilly, even during the summer months, but it’s the ideal spot for anyone who loves surfing, paddleboarding and kitesurfing. Spend an hour walking barefoot in the sand, feeling the cool breeze on your face, and listening to the waves lapping against the shore.
Welcome to Galway city!
Unsure where to start? Chat with the locals, pick their brains about food, music and where to get a great pint – they’re the best guides around. They may suggest a cup of coffee in the super-friendly Lighthouse Café; a rummage through the shelves of an independent bookshop such as Charlie Byrne’s and Kenny’s, or a rewarding pint of Guinness in Tigh Neachtain. The thing about Galway is there’s never a wrong option.
Immerse yourself in the city’s rich, cultural heritage by visiting the Galway City Museum. It houses fascinating exhibitions that celebrate local history, art, and archaeology, such as Keepers of the Gael and The Claddagh. The museum is beautifully complimented by the upper floor’s glorious view of the River Corrib – the entire experience is a feast for the eyes.
Venture beyond the city and take the six-minute stroll to Nun’s Island – home to one of the largest and most impressive buildings in the city, Galway Cathedral. The interior of the 20th century structure boasts a stunning fusion of architectural styles. From its luminous, stained-glass windows to the towering mosaic mural at the back of the church, every corner of the cathedral is a marvel.
Hungry for more?
The culinary world is at your fingertips once you step onto the streets of Galway city. For the west coast’s finest seafood, check out Kirwan’s; drop into Greens & Co for all your vegan needs, or book a table at Éan, a wine bar that specialises in seasonal snacks and sharing plates.
Maybe you prefer a tasty three-course meal before immersing yourself in the Galway nightlife? Awarded the title of “Best Casual Dining in Ireland” by the Irish Times, Rúibín has become a local favourite over the years for its relaxed atmosphere, delicious food, and amazing hospitality – their mouth-watering Black Angus fillet steak is a particular highlight.
Cap off your visit to Ireland’s west with a round of drinks. Enjoy handcrafted cocktails and the best craft beers Galway has to offer at the Bohemian gem, Bierhaus. Famous for its buzzy atmosphere and funky music, this pub is a must-visit if you’re in the mood to dance the night away. Or if you’d like a quiet pint in a traditional Irish pub, we’d recommend The Bunch of Grapes – it has a varied drinks menu, an excellent spirit selection and the staff are brilliantly attentive. And with that, let’s raise a glass, and toast 48 hours well spent on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way!