Uncovering Connemara: The savage beauty of Ireland

Ah, road trips. The smell of stale potato chips and soggy fast-food. The turn-offs that are unknown and undiscovered and turn into the best part of your trip (see our Northern Ireland turn-off as an example). The epic road-trip playlists and car dances that could win the next So You Think You can Dance competition. Road trips really are magical. Connemara is no exception.

Hands down, road tripping is the best way to explore Ireland. Sure, you could get here via a cramped tour bus, but why when for around the same price you could take a car and explore the region yourself without somebody forcing you to stick to their stringent time table? Can you tell I’m not a huge fan of the tour buses? 🙂

Take a breath of fresh air and truly enjoy how special this untouched region of Ireland really is. Oscar Wilde called Connemara the “savage beauty” of Ireland. With sweeping mountains, reflective lochs around every corner, sheep roaming freely through the land, and the prettiest Abbey I have ever seen Connemara is a “can’t-miss” during your Irish vacation. Take a breath of fresh air and enjoy the sweeping views in Connemara

Logistics

Where to stay

We based ourselves in this amazing AirBnB which was a perfect driving distance from the sights and sounds of Connemara while also allowing us to quickly get into Galway. Click here if you’ve never used AirBnB for $35 off your first booking. The best part of this location though was the small village of Barna which had the best food I’ve ever eaten in Ireland at Donnelley’s.

If you don’t base yourself near Galway, the next best place is Clifden. With the picturesque Sky Road nearby plus the rustic Irish feel, Clifden is a great place to start your Connemara adventure.

When to come and for how long

We only spent one day in Connemara, but I would suggest at least two days to really explore the region. I think I could have probably spent 4-5 days here and been perfectly content. Anytime of this year would be perfect to explore this region as the temperatures are mild year-round.

What to do in Connemara

Since we only had one day we simply drove from Galway to Kylemore Abbey and back, but there is so much more to explore! If the weather is nice don’t miss Diamond Hill (highly suggested by multiple people) or driving along Sky Road near Clifden.

Galway is the entryway to Connemara. As soon as you depart the town center you will start to see the rolling hills. Within 30 minutes, you will turn a bend and your eyes will land upon beautiful “mountains” (not sure if they classify as mountains) surrounded by reflective black lochs.

Some of the mountains you will find while roadtripping around Connemara

As you drive, you’ll come across free-roaming sheep. If you happen to be here in the spring you’ll find baby lambs dotted throughout the landscape. Talk about picturesque.

Sheep on the road in Connemara

Keep driving west and you’ll come around a bend to lay your eyes on the most beautiful Abbey. Because of the way the sun hits Kylemore Abbey and the blackness of the surrounding loch, it’s not hard to get that perfect Instagrammable photo.

Kylemore abbey reflection

To gain access to the Abbey, the walled gardens, and the gothic church you have to pay a €13 fee (€11.70 if you book online). I’m normally not one to pay for castles and gardens, but I am so glad we splurged on this. We spent over 3 hours here and it was worth every single second. Quick tip: Eat before coming here. Whatever you do, do not eat at the restaurant at the abbey. This is by far the worst food we’ve had in Ireland since moving here nine months ago.

Now, back to the beautiful scenery. After purchasing your tickets you’ll walk along a beautiful path to explore the Abbey and lookout.

Kylemore Abbey in Ireland on a sunny day

Once you head into the Abbey make sure to take a quick peek out of the majestic doors. The Abbey, historically a home to nuns of Benedictine Order, was also a boarding school for girls from 1923 to 2010. Can you imagine attending this prestigious school and opening your doors to see this view every day?

View from the door in the abbey

After exploring the Abbey, turn left and head down the path to the Gothic church. Take your time walking and truly enjoy the surrounding landscape. If you brought a picnic because you listened to the warning of NOT eating at the restaurant, find these perfect chairs and enjoy a nice lunch.

chairs overlooking ConnemaraAfter relaxing for a bit, continue down to the path to the church. Make sure you don’t skip the inside. It’s well worth checking out.

Church in connemara

Remember how I told you that you had to pay €13 to get in? By this point, you’ve seen sweeping views of Connemara, the Abbey, and a Gothic church. But continue down the path and there’s even more. You could continue walking for quite some time, but we turned around after seeing this massive hand jutting out of the ground (a little too eerie for me after stumbling across the Mausoleum of Mitchell and Margaret Henry).

Fingers coming out of the ground in Connemara, Ireland

On your journey back to the entrance to catch the shuttle to the walled gardens, take your time again to make sure you don’t miss any of the perfect views of Connemara.

Mountain reflections in the water

If you aren’t strapped for time, you can walk to the walled gardens. We took the shuttle (free with your admission) to save on time. Once there, walk through the oak plantation and then up to the gardens. The gardens are gorgeous and I’m sure looks very different depending on the season. It is a working garden so you’ll find all kinds of vegetables and fruits dotted throughout.

img_20160904_140135 view of the gardens

Connemara stole my heart last weekend. Make sure you add it to your Irish bucket list today so you don’t miss out on this perfect slice of heaven.

Why you should go to Connemara Ireland

Happy Trekking!

– Boots not Roots

*Thank you to the lovely Josh Moore for contributing some of the photos from this beautiful region. 

 

Untold Morsels

  • I really, really love your photos! I feel like I was on that road trip with you. My husband and I are looking for new ways to discover more of Europe. This year we discovered the beautiful river journeys (we took one day ships navigating the Danube). A road trip seems like the next logical step and Ireland seems the perfect place to fulfill that dream. #WeekendWanderlust

    • Danielle from Boots not Roots

      Ah thank you so much Ruth! The photo compliment means the world to me! I would highly highly suggest road-tripping through Ireland. The beauty here never gets old.

  • Your photography skills are out of this world! That just made me want to go on a road tip to Connemara! And how great the temperatures are mild all year round! Not a fan of tour buses either, but sometimes there isn’t another option. Thanks for sharing this and your amazing photos!

    • Danielle from Boots not Roots

      Thank you so much for the compliment on the photos! You have no idea how much that means to me as a very much amateur photographer. 🙂 Connemara is gorgeous though so it should get some of the credit.

  • Jill

    Stunning photos! I’m headed to Ireland in 2018 and will have to put Connemara on our itinerary!

    • Danielle from Boots not Roots

      Thank you for the photo compliment Jill! 🙂 Connemara is truly gorgeous so it was pretty easy to get these photos!

  • Jill Barth

    Connemara is outstanding, stunning & refreshing. A must.

    We love to stay at The Connemara Coast hotel, excellent service.

    Thanks for sharing these fantastic images & notes.

  • so stunning! #farawayfiles

  • Definitely adding this to my future Ireland road trip itinerary! And yes, I agree, road tripping through Ireland is probably the only way to go! I can’t wait to go back one day! #FarawayFiles

  • Untold Morsels

    Danielle you have captured the essence of Ireland – all that green rugged wilderness and beautiful history. Such a special place that I would love to return to and explore some more. Those reflections in some of your photos are simply wonderful. Thanks for sharing this with us on #FarawayFiles

  • Clare Thomson

    I’d already convinced myself of the need to visit Connemara after reading Different Shores’ post last week – this great post is further proof – and I love the idea of a visit to the Abbey as well. No wonder Connemara stole your heart. #FarawayFiles

  • daisythebus

    Totally agree – a road trip is definitely the best way to experience Ireland. And I’m a huge Connemara fan too, although I prefer the back roads, empty beaches and colorful local characters over the more commercialized Kylemore and Clifden. Great post -thanks! #farawayfiles

  • Kathleen (Kat)

    Connemara stole my heart too when I visited the area back in 2004, and that was on a day trip from Galway. I would love to return to Ireland next year, hopefully I get the chance to visit Connemara again and to stay longer. Spectacular photos! #farawayfiles

  • Young And Undecided

    Such a beautiful post! I am dying to roat trip Ireland, I agree that a road trip is the best way to explore. The Hand sculpture is super creepy haa! Pictures are amazing

  • Just gorgeous! That Abbey image is stunning on the water. I will admit I adore a good road trip too! Would love one in Ireland. Thanks for linking #FarawayFiles – great post! Erin