From the buzz and color of the city to the wild beauty of the Aran Islands, County Galway is quite simply captivating. Though you could easily get intoxicated by all that Galway City has to offer, once you get a sniff of the windswept and stunning landscape of the countryside you’ll be hooked. It’s little wonder that Galway is Irish people's favorite spot for their staycations.
Long known as the cultural heart of Ireland, Galway City was named as one of the two European Capitals of Culture for 2020. From the craic, trad music and culture in the city to the rock outposts of Connemara, with tiny villages clinging to the rocks and a welcome for visitors like no other, Galway is a gem!
Here’s a rundown of the top five most popular attractions in the county:
Connemara National Park
Connemara National Park covers 11.4 square miles (2,957 hectares) of scenic mountains, bogs, heaths, grasslands and woodlands. The park was established and officially opened to the public in 1980 and remains one of the most popular attractions today.
The land was once part of the the Kylemore Abbey Estate, now home to a University of Notre Dame center, and the Letterfrack Industrial School, but is now entirely owned by the Irish State. Over the years remnants of human civilization have been discovered, from a 19th century graveyard to 4000-year-old megalithic court tombs.
Its entrance is on the Clifden side of Letterfrack. For more visit www.connemaranationalpark.ie.
Read more: What's your Irish County? County Galway
Wild Atlantic Way…the Galway section
The Wild Atlantic Way hardly needs an explanation, stretching the length of Ireland’s west coast, it is the country’s longest driven coastal route and its beauty is famous across the globe. The Galway section of the drive is 186.4 miles (300kms) long, starting at Kinvara and ending at the village of Leenaun.
The route takes in delights such as the Dunguaire Castle, Galway City, Salthill promenade, the ferry to the Aran Islands, Connemara, Roundstone, Ballyconneely, and the glorious Kylemore Abbey.
Picture it! Cliff top views, great hikes, a historic city, perfect coastal villages and some of the best surfing in the world – that 186.4 miles could take you awhile to get around. For more information visit www.galwaytourism.ie.
The Sky Road, Clifden
Clifden town is a lively spot located against the backdrop of the 12 Ben Mountains and the rugged coastline. It’s locally known as the capital of Connemara and is packed with shops, pubs and restaurants, but the major attraction is the countryside and, of course, The Sky Road.
This is a 6.8 mile (11km) circular route to the west of Clifden town. Very few places in Ireland can match the road for the range of scenery on this 360 route. The Sky Road separates into the lower and upper road, the lower will give you a closeup of the landscape, but the upper will treat you to view across the entire area. There’s also a car park at the highest point where you can stop and take photos. From the upper route you’ll see Clifden Bay and the offshore islands, Inishturk and Turbot.
For more information visit www.connemara.net.
Read more: Ireland’s Travel Secrets - The Sky Road and Clifden
Dun Aonghasa, Inishmore, the Aran Islands
Dún Aonghasa (Dun Aengus in English) is one of the most famous hills in Ireland and arguably the most dramatic. Sitting on the very edge of Ireland, atop a 100-meter-high cliff, the archaeological site offers a truly breathtaking view.
Although it’s not known exactly when the fort was built, it’s believed that most of the structures date from the Bronze and Iron Ages. It consists of three massive dry-stone walls and chevaux-de-frise, a dense band of jagged, upright stones, surrounding the fort from cliff to cliff, designed to impede attackers.
This is a spot that you will never forget.
For more visit www.aranislands.ie.
Quay Street, Galway City
Galway City is known for its pleasures, for art and culture, craic agus ceoil, street life and performers and nowhere in the city exemplifies this more than the colorful and bustling Quay Street.
The road runs from the Spanish Arch, on the water and the lively atmosphere continues on up to Eyre Square. Along the way you’ll find some of the best pubs and restaurants on this pedestrianized street filled with folks just wanting to have fun. Hanging out and having “the craic” on Quay Street is definitely a must if you’re visiting Galway City.
Find out what people are saying about Quay Street on Tripadvisor here.
Read more: Galway is “Ireland’s most charming City” according to New York Times