What it's like
Visitors to the west are usually surprised by just how unspoilt it is. The ravages of mass tourism really haven’t left their mark in this corner of the Republic and it feels all the more relaxed as a result. From a walking perspective this means the mountains carry fewer paths: great for experienced walker or in good visibility, but a little daunting otherwise. The real highlight of the region is the Twelve Bens – sometimes also known as the Twelve Pins. Although modest in height when compared to Kerry’s giants, these rugged, rock-topped summits are shapely, remote and not without a few challenges. The Glencoaghan Horseshoe is without a doubt one of the best mountain walks anywhere in Ireland, and although it barely sneaks above the 700m contour line, the full circuit will bag over 2,000m of ascent and take even a fast-moving party in access of 10 hours to complete.
Away from the Bens, the Marmturks and the Nephins offer some great walking and a few easy scrambles, but these see even fewer walkers and are crossed by even fewer paths.
Nearer to Galway City, the interest focuses on the amazing limestone pavement of the Burren. And what a spectacle it is, mile after mile of jagged limestone grid, broken only by the bony outlines of Dales-like dry stone walls. The dazzling brightness of the rock contrasts vividly with the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of metres below, and accentuates the delicate colours of the amazing array of wild flowers that colonise the clints and grikes.
Away from the hills, there’s some surprisingly lovely coastal walking to be enjoyed, especially around Clifden and Killary.
- Glencoaghan Horseshoe One of the finest mountain days to be had anywhere. Some scrambling and a lot of ascent.
- Killary Harbour Easy coastal walking with wonderful views over the boats bobbing in the harbour, and a good chance of seeing otters or seals.
- Diamond Hill An easier Connemara hill walk that penetrates deep into the rugged countryside. Start from the Connemara National Park Visitor Centre
Must see and do
- The Burren Wonderful limestone scenery high above the pounding surf. A magnet for geologists and botanists.
- Live Music Traditional music is still at the heart of Irish culture and most towns and villages have pubs that hosts sessions.
- Kylemore Abbey A spectacular building in an even more spectacular setting, overlooking a beautiful lough and tucked beneath a towering mountain.
Destination County : Irelands West