Ireland’s west coast is all rolling, rugged hills, vast loughs, verdant woodland, and huge expanses of sky; in short, the scenery is spectacular. Connemara in particular is known for its natural beauty and historic landmarks, making it the perfect day trip from nearby Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford Castle, both found on the shores of picturesque Lough Corrib. From jaw-dropping glacial lakes to traditional craft villages and nature trails, there’s no shortage of wonderful things to see and do on a Connemara day trip; pick and mix your perfect day out with our suggestions below.
Connemara National Park
First things first: any Connemara day trip should include a visit to the Connemara National Park, just an hour’s drive from the hotel. With almost 3,000 hectares of stunning scenery to enjoy, including bogs, grasslands, and mountains (part of the famous Twelve Bens range), a visit here is as picturesque as it is edifying. Start at the Visitor Centre, and after a refreshing cup of cha at the Tea Rooms, you’ll be all set to explore. You can even bring your dog for a walk, should he be accompanying you to Emerald Isles.
Kylemore Abbey & Victorian Walled Garden
Found on the shores of the Kylemore Lough, on the edge of Connemara National Park, Kylemore Abbey is a historic, impressive building dating back over 150 years.
Like the National Park, there’s enough here to devote an entire day to, if you choose. You can learn about the history of the Abbey on a tour or explore the rooms yourself, taking in the restored period décor and furniture. Head outside for a guided hike in the surrounding mountains, or opt for a gentle stroll around the award-winning Walled Garden; one of the last to be built during the Victorian period and the only one to have been valiantly created from peatland. You can browse the Craft and Design Shop, enjoy lunch in the delicious Mitchell’s Café (perhaps even afternoon tea in the Walled Garden’s Tea House?) or, if you’re lucky, your trip might coincide with one of the wonderful choral performances in the Gothic church, renowned for its superb acoustics.
If you’re on a Connemara day trip with kids, make sure to visit the giant “Ironing Stone” so they can make a wish. Little ones will love the Play Trail around the estate, which is dotted with natural musical instruments, made from wood that has fallen in the surrounding woodland. And get them to keep an eye out for the legendary white horse, which is said to rise up out of the lake once every seven years. You never know…
This stunning natural glacial lake, straddling the borders of Galway and Mayo, affords a unique and isolated spot to visit for a hike around its shores or picnic on its miniature beach. Beautiful at any time of year, Lough Nafooey is fed by many rivers and is known for being home to pike and brown trout, affording great fishing opportunities for keen anglers.
Spiddal Craft Village and Café
The perfect stop on a Connemara day trip should you want to take some souvenirs or gifts home, the Spiddal Craft Village and Café on Galway Bay has views out over the Atlantic and some top-notch local arts and crafts, from weaving and pottery to glasswork and handmade baskets. Watch the artists at work, choose your purchases and then settle down for a delicious lunch at Builín Blasta Café (don’t miss their range of handmade chocolates).
At the end of the day, pile back into the car and take the scenic route back to the welcoming, elegant environs of Ashford Castle or The Lodge at Ashford Castle. When you get there, why not treat yourself to a pre-dinner drink at the bar before tucking in to Chef Philippe Farineau’s delicious Irish cuisine at one of the many on-site restaurants.
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