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Landscape view of the cliffs and coast of the Mizen Peninsula in Western Ireland

Things to do in  Western Ireland

The Emerald Isle’s wild coastline

Dramatic scenery defines Western Ireland, often called the west coast of Ireland by locals. This coastline of cliffs, rocky peninsulas, and fishing villages is connected by the Wild Atlantic Way, a trail that stretches for 1,553 miles (2,500 kilometers). The top things to do in Western Ireland include coastal walks, sea kayaking, and seeking out traditional music. The city of Galway is a common starting point for visitors looking to explore Western Ireland’s nine countries, which include County Galway, County Clare, and County Kerry.

Top 15 attractions in Western Ireland

The Burren

Covering an area of more than 115 square miles (300 square kilometers), the Burren is a vast, otherworldly expanse of scarred and fissured limestone rock, naturally sculpted through acidic erosion. Though it may look barren from afar, this rocky plateau is anything but lifeless. In spring and summer, wildflowers and rare plants thrive here.More

Westport House and Gardens

Said to be one of Ireland’s most beautiful estates, Westport House and Gardens is a heritage attraction on the country’s west coast. With more than 30 rooms open to the public, the 18th-century home offers guided tours telling the story of its owners and connection to Grace O’Malley, the famed pirate queen.More

Dunguaire Castle

Sitting on an outcrop jutting into Galway Bay, the 16th-century Dunguaire Castle appears like a fairy-tale vision to drivers traversing the coastal road, prompting many to pull over and reach for a camera. The site housed prominent local clans for centuries before famous Irish surgeon, poet, and playwright Oliver St. John Gogarty bought it in 1924. He then turned it into a hangout for Ireland’s literary elite, including Lady Gregory, W.B. Yeats, Seán O'Casey, and George Bernard Shaw. Today, most travelers admire the castle from afar, though some do venture inside.More

Galway Bay

Flowing in from the Atlantic Ocean on Ireland’s west coast, Galway Bay laps the shores of some of the country’s most picturesque stretches of coastline. With the three windswept Aran Islands at its periphery, the bay meets land at the artsy city of Galway and numerous fishing villages, coastal cliffs, and beaches.More

Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden

Standing along the edge of Kylemore Lake, the neo-Gothic Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden is every inch a storybook castle. Built in 1868, the abbey’s construction employed grateful locals still reeling from the Irish Potato Famine. Today, the resident Benedictine nuns welcome the public into parts of the abbey and the grounds.More

Sky Road

Even though it’s only seven miles long, Clifden’s Sky Road feels like a journey through all of Connemara and time. When driving this winding, rural road, views look down on the town of Clifden and its two iconic spires—which is a view you’re sure to see on any postcard of Western Ireland or Connemara. Behind the town are the 12 Bens hills, standing brown, rugged, and proud, and as the drive loops around away from town, views stretch out to the offshore islands and the open Atlantic Sea. Aside from the sweeping landscape views, ancient castles and historic mansions are around every bend in the road. At the 19th century Clifden Castle—built in a Gothic style—visitors can walk the dirt road that leads right up to the castle. Another stroll is up Memorial Hill and offers famous view of Clifden, and by turning uphill at the fork in the road, the drive climbs past the old Coast Guard station to 500 feet above sea level. There is a small parking lot near the road’s summit, where whitewashed cottages appear as flecks on the misty, wave battered coast. The Sky Road has often been called one of Ireland’s most scenic drives, and seeing as it’s just a short loop from Clifden, is an Irish road trip that any Connemara visitor with a car can enjoy.More

The Spanish Arch

A Galway landmark on the banks of the River Corrib, the Spanish Arch is the remains of a late 16th century bastion designed to protect the city. Located in the heart of Galway, the Spanish Arch is a short walk from other city landmarks including the Claddagh and the Galway City Museum.More

Aran Islands

Set off Ireland’s craggy, wind-battered Atlantic coast on the western edge of Europe, this trio of sparsely populated and starkly beautiful islands is a stronghold of traditional Irish culture. The Aran Islands’ jagged coastal cliffs enclose a patchwork of green fields, where the remnants of ancient stone forts and medieval churches can be seen, while in their one- and two-pub towns, locals trade gossip in Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge) and traditional music sessions last well into the night.More

Dunguaire Castle's Medieval Banquet

Dunguaire Castle’s Medieval Banquet offers an evening of music and storytelling along with traditional food and wine. Once the home of noble medieval lords, the 500-year-old castle sits on the southeastern shore of Galway Bay. Today, the picturesque fortress’s medieval-themed banquet hall is the place to go for a fun night of revelry.More

Poulnabrone Dolmen (Poulnabrone Portal Tomb)

One of Ireland’s most-photographed ancient sites, the Poulnabrone Dolmen—comprising a long slab of rock placed horizontally on top of several upright slabs—has stood on this lonely limestone plateau for 5,000 years. It marks the site of a mass grave containing the remains of ancient people buried here between 3800 and 3200 BC.More

Galway Cathedral

Constructed in the 1960s, Galway Cathedral is among the youngest cathedrals in Ireland and one of Europe’s youngest stone cathedrals. While it’s a relatively modern build, the cathedral borrows elements from architectural eras past, with Renaissance, Romanesque, and Gothic detailing combined with Irish artwork and adornments.More

Galway City Museum

This museum focuses on the history of Galway, with exhibitions covering everything from the traditional Galway hooker boat to local literary figures. Among the items in the collection are prehistoric stone ax-heads, a medieval cannonball, and an execution warrant for Myles Joyce, a local who was wrongfully hanged for murder in 1882.More

Lough Corrib

Stretching for 69 square miles, Lough Corrib is a lake in the west of Ireland that straddles County Galway and County Mayo. It is a famous place for fishing, especially for its wild brown trout and salmon. The lake has inspired many writers and artists over centuries, including Oscar Wilde’s father—the historian William Wilde—who wrote a book about Lough Corrib.More


Set in green fields next to the River Shannon, this monastic complex was founded in the 6th century by St. Ciarán and served as a center for Christian learning in Ireland. An air of spirituality still hangs in the air amid the scattering of stone ruins; among them a cathedral, churches, round towers, high crosses, and grave markers.More

Doolin Cave

Dating back hundreds of thousands of years, the Doolin Cave sits within Ireland’s Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark. The main attraction is the 24-foot-long (7.3-meter-long) Great Stalactite, one of the world’s largest free-hanging stalactites. Besides cave tours, there’s a farmland nature trail, a café, and a gift shop.More
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Top activities in Western Ireland

Minibus hire galway Ireland

Minibus hire galway Ireland

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Private Connemara Day Tour

Private Connemara Day Tour

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Personal Private Driver

Personal Private Driver

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Private Cliffs of Moher Day Tour

Private Cliffs of Moher Day Tour

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All about Western Ireland

When to visit

Summer is the most popular time of year to visit Western Ireland, especially for international travelers. While beach weather isn’t guaranteed, the summer often offers the best chance for warm temperatures and sunny skies to accompany outdoor activities like hiking, biking, golfing, and fishing. Popular summer events include the Galway International Arts Festival in July and the Dingle Food Festival in August. Visitors seeking to avoid the crowds may want to plan trips in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall.

Getting around

Western Ireland is all about getting lost down country roads and exploring the coastline at your leisure, so a rental car or private driver is the best way to get around. Other fun ways to explore include cycling, sea kayaking tours, and boat tours that offer a fresh perspective on iconic landmarks like the Cliffs of Moher. To maximize time in Western Ireland, fly to Shannon Airport and pick up a rental car there.

Traveler tips

The Wild Atlantic Way isn’t the only tourist trail worth exploring in Western Ireland. Seafood lovers may want to explore the Taste the Atlantic trail that brings visitors to seafood-focused attractions like oyster farms. Cyclists should check out County Mayo’s Great Western Greenway, a former rail trail that runs along the coast of Clew Bay. Long-distance hikers can set out along the Kerry Way, a 133.6-mile (215-kilometer) loop trail in County Kerry.

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People Also Ask

Is West Ireland worth visiting?

Yes, the west coast of Ireland is worth visiting. The Atlantic coast is home to some of Ireland’s most well-known landmarks, including the Cliffs of Moher. Go for a drive along the Wild Atlantic Way to explore the coastline’s fishing villages and dramatic scenery. Fun things to do include biking and coastal walks.

Why is the west of Ireland a tourist attraction?

With famous landmarks such as the Cliffs of Moher, the Wild Atlantic Way, Connemara National Park, the Ring of Kerry, and the Aran Islands, Western Ireland is a well-known tourist attraction thanks to its stunning nature and scenery.

What is Western Ireland best known for?

Western Ireland is best known for its dramatic scenery and unspoiled nature, with the Cliffs of Moher and the Wild Atlantic Way some of the best sites to see in this part of the country, and outdoor activities like biking, fishing, and kayaking popular things to do. The west coast is also home to the city of Galway, a lively university town.

How should I spend a day in Western Ireland?

During one day in Western Ireland, pick a section of the Wild Atlantic Way to explore. Go see a top attraction or two, such as the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren, before checking out shops, small pubs, and seafood restaurants in a nearby town.

What are the top attractions in Western Ireland?

The top attractions in Western Ireland include the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands, the Ring of Kerry, and the Burren. This section of Ireland is also home to the city of Galway, which has a lovely pedestrianized center, and scenic towns such as Clifden, Doolin, Kenmare, and Killarney.

What is the best town to stay in on the west coast of Ireland?

It depends on what you’re interested in. Galway is Western Ireland’s biggest city thanks to its university, and here you’ll find no shortage of accommodation, boutique shops and galleries, restaurants and cafés, and nightlife. Other places to stay in Western Ireland include Doolin in County Clare and Killarney in County Kerry.


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