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Updated 2019: The West Coast of Ireland is a beautiful part of Ireland. I spent 3 days doing a solo Ireland road trip driving up as much of the West Coast as I could and I couldn’t believe the beauty of it! The scenery on the West Coast of Ireland changes so dramatically between the South, Mid and North of the Coast and along the way there are lots of places to stop off at and visit.
Here are 10 places I recommend you visit on your West Coast of Ireland trip whether you are doing a road trip around Ireland or using public transport and doing day tours around Ireland!
If you’re doing a road trip, these 2 posts will give you more information to help you out:
No West Coast of Ireland trip would be complete without a trip to the iconic and famous Cliffs of Moher. They are Ireland’s most visited natural attraction and they’re popular for a reason. This area of coastline is simply stunning and the visitor centre, although touristy, gives you the chance to get up close to the cliff’s edge.
If you’re hiring a car in Ireland, the best time of day to visit the Cliffs of Moher is as late as possible (3pm-7pm depending on the time of year and what time it gets dark) as the morning is when the coach day tours visit the Cliffs of Moher and ideally you want to avoid these.
In fact, when I went in August there were signs well before getting to the Cliffs, and in Shannon Airport, advising people to go after 4:00 pm!
If you’re staying in Galway without your own transport, do not worry! There are plenty of tours leaving Galway to the Cliffs of Moher, I would recommend these and they start at a great price, you see a lot and they are stress-free!
Galway is Ireland’s most famous City after Dublin, however, it’s much smaller in size than Dublin so it’s a lot easier to navigate and get a good feel for in a small amount of time. It’s full of colourful buildings, plenty of local Irish Pubs and is situated on the water. There are street performers day and night giving you a taste of traditional Irish music and generally, its just a good craic!
I stayed overnight in Galway and I’m really glad I got to see Galway in the evening and in the day time because it seems like a different city when it gets dark. If you want a place to go out for some drinks on the West Coast of Ireland and for a few Guinness’s, Galway is the place to go and stay for a night or two.
Limerick is the third biggest city in Ireland however its a City that isn’t centred around tourism like Galway is. I would suggest visiting Limerick for a few hours if you are passing by on a road trip to visit the Castle and have a walk along the River Shannon.
For more ideas on what to see and do in Limerick see – How to Spend Half a Day in Limerick.
The Killary Fjord was a complete surprise to me! It’s Irelands only Fjord which extends 10 miles from the Atlantic. I drove along the Fjord when driving from Kylemore Abbey to Westport and every turn and corner provided a completely different view of the fjord, it really was incredible.
It’s a mix of New Zealand and Norway on the West Coast of Ireland! Boat tours are available from Killary Harbour which would be brilliant if you can find the time! If not, just making sure you at least drive alongside it.
On this note, you definitely need to hire a car to see all of these places, for Car Hire check out Rental Cars, they work with the biggest car hire companies including Budget who I hired my car from for this trip!
Another surprise for me on the West Coast of Ireland and along the Wild Atlantic Way was Achill Island. It’s the largest island off of the mainland of Ireland, connected to the mainland via a bridge. It’s a remote, rugged and unspoilt island! I felt like I was uncovering a gem as I drove towards and around the Island.
I used ‘Keel’ on Achill Island as my endpoint on my satnav and just before I reached the village I saw signs for the beach. The beach was so remote and quiet, it filled me with peace and calm so I would definitely recommend heading up there to see a less visited place on the West Coast of Ireland.
The Connemara National Park is a big area of land in West Ireland and one of the most popular places to visit in Ireland. The scenery here is very mountainous and rugged with lots of lakes. You can drive through it taking in the beauty surrounding you, stopping when you feel like it to take pictures and have a walk, and you can go to the main visitor centre and walk a suggested walking route around the Connemara National Park which is what I did.
There are 3 walks available ranging from 30 minutes to 90-120 minutes, I did the Lower Diamond Hill Walk which was 3km and took about 45 minutes, it wasn’t particularly strenuous but it gave amazing views from a high part of the mountain overlooking the lakes and countryside.
Kylemore Abbey is an iconic place to visit in Ireland, it’s a 10-15 minute drive from the Connemara National Park visitor centre so if you visit one you should visit both. Kylemore Abbey was built in the 1800s and it’s had a lot of love, care and money put into it. It’s been a hotel and a girls school and experienced a fire or two that could have ruined the castle but luckily didn’t.
The Abbey is beautiful to view from the lake and up close. I would suggest buying a ticket so you can get closer to it and go inside to read more about its history. There is also a gorgeous walled garden a mile from the Abbey which is accessible via foot or a shuttle bus that runs every 10-15 minutes to take you between the two areas.
Again, do not worry if you do not have your own transport, you can still reach the Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey on day tours from Dublin and Galway like this, click through to check availability for when you’re there!
I didn’t get to visit The Burren due to time constraints but I wish I had visited. It’s located close to the Cliffs of Moher and is famous for its limestone landscape. From the photos I have seen it looks quite otherworldly and a really unique place to visit in West Ireland.
It’s also popular because you would think this landscape is barren with nothing growing it in but actually, come spring The Burren blossoms into a rock garden of wildflower so Spring is a great time to visit this part of West Ireland.
This is another part of the West Coast I didn’t visit as I only had 3 days in Ireland but would have loved to visit. Sat in Galway Bay mouth is 3 islands known as the Aran Islands. It’s possible to visit the Aran Islands on a Day trip from Doolin or Galway and there are regular ferries running to take you and your car. There are also many coach tours or boat trips around the Aran Islands if you’d prefer to see the islands from the water.
The islands are known for their ancient sites, beaches and Irish speaking locals. If I didn’t have a car for my trip and had done my Ireland trip via public transport I definitely would have gone on an organised day trip to the Aran Islands from Galway like one of these:
Donegal was a bit too far North for me to visit on this trip but if I had had the time then I definitely would have gone! It topped National Geographic’s Cool List and for good reasons. Donegal appears to be the place that makes you feel like you’re really ‘off the beaten path’ in Ireland, escaping the rest of the world with its wild landscape, country roads and incredible coastline!
Car hire in Ireland
As mentioned, hiring a car really is the best way to see Ireland for freedom and flexibility. For Car Hire in Ireland, I recommend Rental Cars because they work with the biggest car hire companies including Budget who I hired my car from for this trip!
Travel Insurance in Ireland
Remember to get insurance before you go on your trip to Ireland! It’s something I know a lot of us forget or think isn’t important but it is! If you still need to purchase travel insurance I’d recommend World Nomads. They offer 24/7 emergency assistance, trip cancellation, protection of gear, and a lot more. Plus they’re flexible and simple! Just what we need! Get a quote here!
More of my Ireland posts:
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I’m Ellie Quinn!
I’m a travel addict who has been travelling on and off since 2010. In the Summer of 2018 I quit my office job in London, left my flat and I now travel and blog full time! Yes, I’m living that dream!
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