Trip idea: Bay Coast

A picturesque stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way where land and water meet

Keem Strand, County Mayo

Welcome to the Bay Coast, a kaleidoscope of raw landscapes where land and water collide between Erris and Galway Bay

From the wilds of Erris Head to the bohemian buzz of Galway city, this trip takes you on a spectacular journey. The Bay Coast moves from inland to island, presenting you with awesome coastal views, fearsome histories, and more than a few delicious meals along the way. Get ready for beauty that is out of this world... 

Erris to Galway Bay

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Day One

Journey along the Bay Coast with stunning cliff views, an island adventure and a fearsome pirate encounter.

A driving 1 hr 42 mins
Erris Head

Crashing waves and incredible vistas

With only the sheep for company, take a walk to the edge of the world along the Erris Head Loop. Your reward? Views that change like the weather, the sight of Illandavuck island at the head, and history moulded into the land, with the World War II marine and coastguard service look out post still intact. Keep your eyes out for the large stone markings of ÉIRE – one of many coastal navigational aids placed during World War II to help pilots identify this land as Ireland.

If you have more time

Settle down for some "blether and blarney" – also known as music and dance – at McDonnell's pub in Belmullet.

B driving 43 mins
Keem Bay

Otherworldly beauty on Ireland’s largest island

Such is the beauty of this remote stretch of land, when the German writer, Heinrich Böll, came to Achill Island in the 1950s, it’s said he felt like he was "playing truant from Europe." Reached by a road bridge, indulge in a stroll along any of Achill's five long, sandy beaches, including the blissful Keem Strand. The beautiful blue waters here have been known to make people step out of their comfort zone, so head to the folks at Achill Surf Adventure for a kayaking tour of the Blueway – a network of water trails that weave beneath Achill's towering sea cliffs.

If you have more time

Have cake and coffee, then browse the crafts in the adorable Beehive Café on Achill.

C driving 37 mins
Great Western Greenway, County Mayo

Cycling bliss

Fancy taking to two wheels, then get to know the Great Western Greenway – Ireland's longest off-road cycling and walking trail? This traffic-free pathway is packed with some of Ireland’s best scenery and follows the route of the renowned Westport to Achill railway, which closed in 1937. Hire some bikes in Achill, Mulranny, Newport or Westport and be on your way as quickly or as leisurely as you like!

D
Westport House

Discover this stately home’s pirate history

Westport House looks like the home of a grand old dame, but don’t be fooled: the owners of the Estate are descended from fearsome pirate queen Grace O’Malley. Tour the grounds and discover more about the life of the “the original Wild Atlantic Woman”. Legend has it she cut off her hair and pretended to be a boy before sneaking on to her father’s ship as he set sail. He didn't recognise her. When confronted by an enemy, she simply pulled out a sword and killed him, and so began her infamous career. For a real treat, don't miss the Hawk Walk – stroll through the beautiful woodlands surrounding the house in the company of a bird of prey. The moment when one of these magnificent creatures lands on your gloved hand is genuinely thrilling.

If you have more time

Dine out on Clew Bay lobster, prepared by the careful hands of Frankie Mallon at An Port Mór restaurant in Westport.

Killary Harbour

Day Two

A bay with an island for every day of the year, views from atop a holy mountain, and a taste of the traditional. Enjoy.

E driving 57 mins
Croagh Patrick

A holy mountain with sublime views

Not the sole reserve of pilgrims on Reek Sunday – the last Sunday in July – Croagh Patrick is a stunning, yet tough climb, any day of the year. But, boy, its scree-covered scramble to the top comes with rich rewards. From 764m (2500 feet) above sea level, look out to Clew Bay, a bright blue vista studded with, they say, 365 islands – one for every day of the year. Those not up to the climb, head to the National Famine Monument in Murrisk – a symbolic coffin ship with skeleton bodies commemorating the Great Famine that ravaged this part of Ireland.

If you have more time

Sheep shearing, turf cutting, shepherding your flock! Experience it all at Glen Keen Farm.

F driving 59 mins
Killary Fjord

From sacred mountains to the sea

Framed by mountains that vary in colour depending on where the sun hits, Killary Fjord is a spectacular glacial fjord that forms a natural border between counties Mayo and Galway. Take a cruise and you might just spot dolphins swimming in the inky waters. Not enough natural wonder for you? Then head to Aesleagh Falls in summer to see gravity-defying salmon leap upstream!

Come at festival time

Visit Omey Strand in July when the beach horse racing takes place. It's a fun-filled day out, but beware the tide – it is said that Omey "eats cars"!

G driving 25 mins
Kylemore Abbey, County Galway

A mansion built with love

Before Hollywood glistened in anyone's eye, Kylemore Abbey in Connemara set the scene for one of the greatest love stories of all time. A visit here charts the tale of Henry and his beloved wife Margaret, who fell in love with this picturesque spot. Their castle rose beside the lake, gardens blossomed and for almost 10 years, Mitchell, Margaret and their nine children lived here, in what sounds like a state of bliss.. But tragedy struck when Margaret fell ill and died. The Neo-Gothic church is Henry's final tribute to his dear wife.

H
Clifden

The savage beauty of Connemara

The National Park serves up a number of breathtaking walks, including the modest Diamond Hill Loop, which suits most fitness levels. The views afforded for the effort are nothing short of spectacular. Rest awhile in the beating heart of Connemara's capital, Clifden, which was once a media hotspot when the inventor of radio, Guglielmo Marconi, built a transatlantic wireless telegraphy station just outside the town. Once you've soaked up its history, browsed the art galleries and taken in the sunset views from Clifden's Sky Road, book a table at Mitchell's Restaurant in the centre of town for mouthwatering Connemara lamb or a bowl of tasty seafood chowder. Delicious!

Don't Miss

Since 1924, the annual Connemara Pony Festival (August) has been showcasing the best of this native breed, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to get up close to over 400 ponies.

Derrigimlagh Bog

Day Three

Discover aviation history, a link to the Caribbean and home of the “Man of Aran”.

I driving 25 mins
Derrigimlagh Bog

Beautiful bogland with a history

Shimmering lakes, miles of bogland and ancient stone walls that defy gravity are classic Connemara – and Derrigimlagh is no exception. An easy cycle along bog roads, if you're so inclined, highlights include the unintended landing spot for transatlantic pilots, Alcock and Brown, when they crashed (safely) here in 1919. And another, far less celebrated spot: the ruins of an 18th century inn, called the Halfway House. Legend has it that those unfortunates who frequented this hostelry met a grisly end, for the inhabitants would murder them at midnight.

If you have more time

Stretch your legs on Mannin Bay: on close inspection, the "sand" is made up of finely ground shells that twinkle pink and yellow in the sun.

J driving 59 mins
Roundstone Harbour

A tiny harbour full of big tastes

At picturesque Roundstone, turn your hand to making tunes at Roundstone Music and Crafts, where Malachy, one of the only dedicated, full-time bodhrán (Irish drum) makers in the world, will reveal all about this indigenous instrument. Fancy a fish lunch? Well, in Roundstone you can catch it yourself, with angling trips taking you out around the nearby islands. Don't fancy eating DIY? Then tuck into some deliciously prepared shellfish at Pub of the Year, O'Dowd's, instead.

Don't Miss

Nearby, there are two beautiful golden sand bays: take a dip or simply stroll along Gurteen or Dog's Bay.

K driving 46 mins
Galway city

Quirky cool in the City of Tribes

From the stark wilderness of Connemara, Galway city eases you gently into its urban surrounds. Once dominated by 14 merchant families from the 13-19th centuries, the past lingers in the air at the distinctive Spanish Arch, along its winding lanes and inside its traditional shops. The home of the Claddagh Ring at Thomas Dillon’s Jewellers is always a must-visit, while cutting-edge restaurants like Michelin-starred Anair reveal exciting culinary flair. Prefer a quick dish? Head to Quay Street Kitchen for the best fish and chips this side of the Atlantic…

COME AT FESTIVAL TIME

Celebrate more than just shellfish at the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival (September).

L
Aran Islands

Have a day to spare? The Aran Islands are calling

The choice is yours at Rossaveal, with three Aran Islands – Inishmore, Inisheer and Inishmaan – beckoning you to take a ferry trip back in time. Head to Inishmore where Dún Aonghasa, an ancient stone fort, clings to the cliffs high above the crashing Atlantic waves; Inishmaan, the often overlooked middle island with its cosy B&Bs and age-old traditions; and Inisheer, renowned for its upbeat traditional music sessions!

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