Head way out West for wild landscapes and a sublime coastline rushing in from the Atlantic
Get set for fast-paced races, traditional Irish sports, scenic golf courses and wild watersports
Beautiful, rugged, wild and windswept, the picturesque Achill Island is the largest island off the coast of Ireland and is linked by bridge to mainland County Mayo.
The West’s rugged terrain provides the perfect location for adventure sports, such as rock climbing, orienteering, archery and clay pigeon shooting, as well as summer camps for kids.
Crossing the choppy waters to the remote Aran Islands by ferry is an experience in itself. Once you get there you’re free to explore the island’s patchwork fields, quiet pace of life, ancient monuments, awesome cliffs and crystal clear waters. Or you can marvel at the storytellers in the local pubs!
A wilderness until the 19th century, Ardnamona Gardens is now thriving with an exceptional collection of trees, shrubs and rhododendrons. In 1991, Ardnamona was declared a National Heritage Garden.
The Ballyhoura Mountains extend along the boundary between Limerick and Cork and this stunning area is among the most beautiful in Ireland with striking Stone Age monuments, a variety of museums and tranquil parks and gardens.
A truly stunning inlet of the Atlantic with 365 islands. Clew Bay is seen at its best from the peak of Croagh Patrick.
With almost 3,000-hectares of wild open heaths, windswept grasslands and deep glens, Connemara National Park is home to red deer and native Connemara ponies.
St Patrick spent 40 days and nights fasting on this 765-metre high sacred mountain near Westport, and banishing dragons, snakes and demonic forces from the site. Today, pilgrims follow in the footsteps of the saint and on “Reek Sunday”, the last Sunday in July, over 25,000 people ascend towards the summit.
The rugged coastline of County Clare can only be best appreciated from the sea. A variety of companies offer trips that take in some of the country’s most spectacular views.
Saddle up and enjoy exploring the West’s awe-inspiring scenery and dramatic coastal roads – you may even stumble across megalithic tombs and Celtic crosses along the way.
Set back to back with Gurteen Bay, Dogs Bay forms a join between the mainland and an island and is a magnificent stretch of golden sandy beach.
Right on the edge of Europe, Ireland is one of the last unspoilt angling locations with unrivalled environments for every type of angler. So quiet, at times, you can almost hear the fish splash.
Sample the drama of Ireland’s unique games of football and hurling, the latter reputed to be the fastest ball game in the world. Mayo is a particular stronghold of Ladies’ Gaelic Football [www.ladiesgaelic.ie].
Not many race meetings come close to the excitement of Galway, regarded by many as Ireland's most colourful racing festival.
Situated 11km west of Manorhamilton these impressive falls can be viewed from a lovely wooded walk. The waterfall served as inspiration for W B Yeats and is mentioned in his poem The Stolen Child. Picnic facilities are also provided.
This stunning park encompasses 14,000 hectares of mountain, raised bogland, lakes and woodlands dissected by the valley that gives the park its name. The Golden Eagle was reintroduced to the park in 2000 after 100 years of extinction. There’s also a castle and magnificent gardens on site.
The West boasts an exceptional array of excellent golf courses with wild, windswept terrains. Try Ballinasloe Golf Club in County Galway; Carne Golf Links in County Mayo; Galway Bay Golf Resort; Roscommon Golf Club; Westport Golf Club in County Mayo; Donegal Golf Club; The Enniscrone Club in County Sligo; Strandhill Golf Club in County Sligo; Adare Manor in County Limerick; Dromoland Castle and Kilkee Golf Club in County Clare; and Nenagh Golf Club in County Tipperary.
The West provides a superb backdrop for a bracing holiday on horseback. Most towns around the area have riding schools to suit all levels of experience.
Hundreds of islands are dotted along the Atlantic and on the River Shannon. Three are accessible within minutes by tour boats: the Aran Islands via Doolin in County Clare, Holy Island (Inis Cealtra) on Shannon's Lough Derg and Scattery Island (monastic settlement) via Kilrush.
This nine-mile inlet is the only fjord in Ireland, and you can tour the stunning scenery using a variety of modes of transport – including cruisers!
The Atlantic-facing seafront of Lahinch town has one of the finest beaches in the west of Ireland. If you’re in the area, it’s a spot that’s not to be missed.
Set in the picturesque landscape of hills and lakes are the newly restored, privately owned organic gardens of Lakeview. Comprising an acre, the gardens are filled with unusual plants, an orchard and a stable yard.
One of Ireland's “less traveled” routes is a 95-mile circuit around the largest lake of the River Shannon. The drive passes an assortment of charming marina villages and scenic delights along the way.
A sublimely beautiful lake located about two miles east of Sligo Town. Lough Gill is about six-and-a-half-miles long and two-miles wide. And if you’re interested in fishing, you can try your hand at catching one of the lake’s many brown trout.
A truly stunning location, with views of Croagh Patrick in the distance.
Make the most of the sublime landscape by painting it! There are three renowned art schools in the area: the Burren College of Art, The Burren Painting Centre and The Tin Jug Studio, County Offaly (++ 353 509 21818).
A variety of operators offer the chance to take a long, lazy cruise on the pretty River Shannon and Erne Waterways, Ireland’s largest waterway. Gently meandering through the unspoiled countryside on a boat is a fantastic way to experience the laid-back lifestyle for which Ireland is rightly famous.
By boat you can discover the wild Atlantic coast, with its secluded bays and islands, or cruise through rivers and loughs with an unforgettable sense of space and freedom. And along Kilrush Creek, you could stop off for a touch of dolphin watching.
With the highest sea cliffs in Europe, fantastic mountains and sweeping landscapes, amazing costal walks are a speciality whether you want to go it alone, or make a trip with an organised walking tour.
The looming Slieve Bloom Mountains rise suddenly from the surrounding plains in County Offaly. It’s an idyllic area of lush green forests, tumbling rivers, streams and waterfalls, deep glens and peaceful villages.
Walking is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of the West. A network of quiet country roads and lanes, forest paths and mountain trails will take you to the heart of the tranquil, picturesque Irish countryside, including the very beautiful Connemara Gaeltacht and the Cliffs of Slieve League in Donegal.
The expanse of Atlantic coastline along Galway and Mayo offers exceptional locations for canoeing, sailing, surfing, water-skiing and deep-sea diving.
Ireland’s largest aquarium, creepy caves, vast unspoiled parks and magnificent beaches
Spooky and atmospheric, the Aillwee Caves make a great place to bring kids who aren’t afraid of the dark. Formed by the melt-waters of a prehistoric ice age, the caves are labyrinthine and dramatic.
This 1,200-acre park is the perfect spot for a family outing. Situated on the shores of Sheephaven Bay on the rugged Donegal coastline, it’s filled with woodland, rivers, picnic areas, sandy beaches, and play areas.
Kids can explore the deep with Ireland’s largest aquarium, which houses 170 species of marine and freshwater life including stingrays, seahorses and the angel shark. There are sleepy starfish to hold, a load of fish to feed and a lot to learn about Bradán, the salmon, King of Fish!
Birr Castle is the private home of the Parsons family and the stunning demesne has become famous for its exotic collection of trees and plants. The Science Centre is filled with 19th-century astronomical instruments, cameras, photographs and photographic equipment.
Relax with a wonderful boat cruise on the pretty Lough Corrib.
This 15th-century castle has been restored to its full glory and is one of the finest surviving examples of an Irish tower house. The Folk Park is a living museum that aims to show what life was like in rural Ireland 100 years ago, with authentic reconstructions of farmhouses, cottages and shops.
This Victorian railway ran commercially from 1887 to 1959 and part of the line has now been restored with workshops, guided tours of engine sheds, and a railway shop. It’s every little boy’s dream.
Kids will go mad for this wonderful festival, which showcases the very cute Connemara pony.
At the mouth of the River Shannon between Loop Head Peninsula (County Clare) and Kerry Head (County Kerry) lives a group of over 100 wild resident dolphins; while at Killary in Galway, go on a pleasure cruise to watch dolphins as they dive alongside the boat.
During the late Thirties and early Forties, Foynes was the pivotal point for air traffic between North America and Europe. Believe it or not, Irish coffee was invented here!
Gillighan’s World is a fun and imaginative way to enlighten and entertain children about fairy life and lore. There are botanical gardens with “enchanted” areas, miniature villages, a pet village, and a play area.
Ireland’s only show mine offers guided tours through marble chambers and caverns. Silver, lead, calcite and quartz are all revealed in their natural glory.
In the heart of Limerick’s Medieval Heritage Precinct lies the 800-year-old King John’s Castle. Built between 1200 and 1210, the castle is an impressive Anglo-Normal fortification overlooking the River Shannon
Situated on Ireland’s longest promenade, this is an ideal family venue with three pools and an outdoor amusement park promising fun for all ages.
This 350-hectare park includes beautiful woodland, gardens, archaeological remains and almost 10km of walkways.
Sligo Folk Park provides a fascinating look at life around the turn of the late 19th century. The village street, the traditional cottage, the forge and the restored Millview House are just some of the attractions.
A delightful farm situated on the picturesque shores of Garadice Lake, Swan Island allows kids to get up close and personal with friendly farm animals. The farm features more than 50 species of traditional and rare breeds, as well as a children’s play area and marina.
The West enjoys a dramatic Atlantic coastline dotted with gorgeous villages and stunning beaches. The Blue Flag Award confirms good environmental standards, good sanitation and safety facilities of these beaches.
Bright, safe, clean and exciting, Tons of Fun is an indoor children's activity centre catering for babies and children aged up to 11.
An 18th-century stately home set in beautiful parkland with a lake, terraces and gardens overlooking Clew Bay. Children will love the mini-railway, giant water slide and other attractions.
Held annually since 1973, this set dancing school was started up in memory of legendary piper Willie Clancy. It caters for over 1,000 students from all over the world offering Irish music and dance classes.
Culture & Festivals
The West is stacked with rich cultural attractions from fun-filled oyster festivals to traditional Irish music
Situated in one of Ireland's prettiest villages, the Adare Heritage Centre covers the area’s unique history from 1233 to the present day. Told through realistic model enactments, the centre also provides audio-visuals in French, Italian, German, Irish and English.
Enjoy a night of musical splendor and entertainment, with excellent food, fine wine and medieval fare at a castle banquet in Bunratty Castle, Knappogue and Dunguaire Castles.
Generally taking place in July, the Earagail Arts Festival includes theatre and comedy, outdoor family events, children’s events, exhibitions, film and workshops. Over 80 events take place at over 35 locations in County Donegal. Check the website for current dates and programme.
Ireland’s largest annual arts is varied and fun with writers, artists, performers and musicians from Ireland and all around the world.
An annual celebration of great food, accompanied by great fun, now in its 51st year and still going strong.
Admire William Morris wallpaper and textiles, as well as Islamic and Japanese art at this elegant 19th-century house. The gallery’s impressive collection also includes works by over 300 20th-century artists including Picasso and Kokoshka.
Held by An Grianan Theatre, the Hysterical Comedy Festival serves up the best of national and international comedians and comedy acts. Check the website for current dates and programme.
Immerse yourself in the best that Irish culture has to offer: learn the Irish language in a Gaeltacht area; attend an Irish music or dancing summer school; or brush up on your painting or pottery skills.
The historical village of Killaloe boasts stacks of attractions and used to be the site of Kincora, the palace of Brian Ború, famed 11th century King of Ireland. Sadly, little remains of the original fort, but you can learn all about it at the Killaloe Heritage and Brian Ború Centre.
A fascinating museum with models of Kilmallock, an intriguing 16th-century walled town, and other local historical and archeological artifacts.
Linenhall offers an ongoing programme of exhibitions, drama, literature and film, plus workshops for adults and children.
Housed in a beautifully renovated model school, which dates back to 1862, The Model Arts and Niland Gallery is one of the premier arts centres in Ireland, with an extensive programme of visual and performing arts.
The first branch of the National Museum to be situated outside Dublin, the Country Life Museum portrays the life of ordinary people who lived in Ireland from 1850-1950. Housed within a beautiful High Victorian Gothic-style house, the museum also encompasses extensive gardens.
A spectacular showcase of traditional Irish music, song and dance inspired by the remote Aran Islands and performed daily during the summer on Inis Mór.
Vibrant and exciting, the Shannon International Music Festival takes place over four days from 20th to 24th July, with a selection of lunchtime, evening and candlelit concerts in the heart of Limerick city.
Focussing on the music of a specific composer, this festival takes place over three days with a series of concerts in the Model Arts and Niland Gallery.
One of Ireland’s most important private collections of art and antiquities, the Hunt Museum contains pieces dating from the Neolithic period to modern times, including works from Renoir, Picasso and Jack B Yeats.
Discover the history and variety of Ireland’s most famous instrument, or pluck up the courage and learn to play. The centre hosts year-round activities including harp workshops, summer schools, music therapy and harp tuition.
An impressive permanent collection of Irish Art from the 18th to 20th centuries including works from Jack B Yeats and Sean Keating.
As well as informal music sessions every night in pubs, there are many annual festivals, such as the Féile Chois Chuain in Louisburg, County Mayo; and the Corn Barn in Bunratty Folk Park, which is the perfect setting for a celebration of all the best in Irish traditions.
Unearth the genius of the late, great WB Yeats, resident poet of County Sligo. Yeats had a special relationship with this beautiful county, which is celebrated by the Sligo Yeats Society. The programme of events includes a Yeats International Summer and Winter School.
Eating, Drinking & Luxury
You’ll be spoiled for choice with a string of sumptuous luxury hotels, health spas and delightful pubs
Indulge your decadent side with a stay at this 18th-century manor set on 840 acres of beautifully manicured French formal gardens. Accommodation is opulent and the facilities are first class with a championship golf course, luxurious spa and candlelit fine dining.
A truly romantic venue, Ashford Castle dates back to 1228 and now offers guests relaxation, fine dining and 21st-century comfort. Activities include fishing, horse riding, golf, falconry and walking.
Just across the street from the famous Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, the Bunratty Castle Hotel offers luxury accommodation five miles from Shannon Airport. The 80 bedrooms have a comfortable feel, while Kathleen’s Irish Pub and Restaurant is an ideal place to kick back with traditional sessions and hearty food.
This four-star retreat stands in the heart of Connemara and is set in an award-winning garden of flowering shrubs and woodland walks.
Ireland’s tallest hotel offers great views over the city and enjoys a picturesque location on Steamboat Quay, a few minutes walk from the city centre. Modern and stylish, it’s a good choice in the heart of Limerick city.
Open since 1973, this converted woollen mill has been tastefully renovated and is a founder member of the health farms of Ireland.
Nestling on the eastern shores of Lough Derg this unique private retreat offers a range of luxury accommodation in village rooms, lakeshore and house suites. Enjoy cosy furnishings, secluded gardens and turf fires, or experience utter relaxation in the tranquil spa.
Family home to seven generations of the O’Haras, Coopershill House dates back to 1774, and is a remarkable house overflowing with Georgian elegance. Indulge yourself with four-poster beds, sophisticated candlelit dinners, open log fires and unique personal attention.
Voted Hideaway of the Year 2004 by the Georgina Campbell Jameson Guide, Cromleach Lodge is definitely a great place to get away from it all. A modern country house, the lodge has been designed with the stunning views in mind so wherever you go you’ll enjoy a feast for the senses.
This truly luxurious spa has been voted one of the ten best in the world. Perfect for forgetting the stresses of modern life.
Live like the landed gentry in this stunning castle hotel with deluxe five-star accommodation. Dromoland blends old-world luxury with modern conveniences, and its close location to the Burren, as well as Galway and Limerick cities, makes it an ideal base in the West.
Intimate, elegant and perfectly located on a 50-acre deer farm on the shores of Galway Bay.
Glin Castle, home of the Knight of Glin and his wife Madam FitzGerald, stands on the banks of the River Shannon amidst a 500-acre demesne. The castle is open to visitors from March to November and is a spectacular place to stay with seriously luxurious rooms and an authentic castle atmosphere.
Kinnitty Castle offers old world elegance, luxury and comfort. On top of that, you can enjoy friendly ghosts, a dungeon bar, hot stone massage at the first-rate spa and a spot of clay pigeon shooting. What more could you ask for?
Moy House was originally built in the mid-18th century as home to Sir Augustine Fitzgerald. Majestic and elegant, the house presides over the breathtaking Lahinch Bay and is set on 15 acres of grounds adorned with mature woodland and a picturesque river.
A beautiful Georgian house, Newport has become a famous base for those fishing the great rivers of County Mayo. The dining room and wine lists are superb.
This cosy pub overlooks one of the most picturesque working harbours in the West of Ireland and has been serving locals and visitors since 1840.
This gracious Georgian house was built in the 1780s and enjoys an unrivalled location overlooking the shores of Lough Swilly. The restaurant has won critical acclaim from numerous guides, and facilities are excellent with boating, croquet, steam room, massage, and tennis.
A haven of seawater treatments, just 20ft from the sea beside Westport town. Treatments include seaweed baths, balneotherapy, algotherapy and a thalassotherapy pool.
Offering superb hotel accommodation in County Donegal, the four star St Ernan’s Country House Hotel is an oasis of peace and tranquility. Soaked in Regency period atmosphere, the house is surrounded by eight acres of woodland giving it a real feel of a hideaway despite being only two miles away from Donegal town.
Located in the famous town of Lisdoonvarna, the Spa Wells Health Centre is the only spa in Ireland to feature sulphur baths. But if they don’t take your fancy, you can always enjoy a massage or therapeutic treatment in a beautiful woodland surrounding.
Sitting prettily in a remote location on the shores of Lough Swilly in Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula, St John’s is as renowned for its spectacular views as it is for its award-winning cuisine.
Gay & Lesbian
Enjoy a vibrant emerging gay and lesbian scene in Galway
Gay friendly disco bar every Friday and Saturday night.
Club night every Sunday just outside Galway city.
Bi-monthly club organized by the people who do Alternative Miss Limerick.
One of the city’s few full-time gay bars.
Revitalised bar opened under new management with themed nights and DJs.
Twice-weekly gay and lesbian night, Bubbilicious.
Enjoy a wide range of shopping opportunities in the West from city boutiques to country crafts
Unique sculptures created from centuries-old wood – a wonderful memento from your holiday in Ireland.
Elegant and distinguished department store with a quality selection of designer labels.
Good quality Irish woollies, guaranteed to keep you toasty on your travels
A pretty little shop with glistening costume and antique jewellery.
A step beyond your average handcrafts store, Irish Handcrafts stocks a good selection of Irish fashion.
Elegant women’s boutique stocking a good range of designer fashion.
Well-known store stocking menswear, quality linens and genuine Handwoven Donegal Tweed.
A fantastic collection of contemporary furniture, modern crafts and Irish-made pottery and glassware.
Traditional crafts shop with a good quality selection of crafts including traditional Aran sweaters, Irish made silver jewellery, pottery, bronze and bog oak sculptures and publications on the local Burren region.
Watch how the experts finely craft the bodhran, a traditional Irish musical instrument, maybe try a few beats yourself, then buy that very one to wow your friends when you get back home.
Lively market with gourmet food stalls, gifts, books and jewellery.
Unique and original ceramics from one of Ireland’s top ceramicists Michael Kennedy
Silver and gold jewellery inspired by the Irish landscape.
Excellent designer boutique stocking top Irish designers and hip international labels.
High-quality, handmade domestic stoneware in deep blue and jade green.
The beautiful West has extraordinary scenery, dramatic forts, abbeys and shrines and is home to Ireland’s National Famine Museum
Famed for being a regular winner of Ireland’s Tidy Towns competition, Adare is a picture-postcard village with traditional thatched cottages, Tudor-style houses and pretty gardens. Situated beside the River Maguire, there’s lots to do including golfing, fishing, a heritage centre, and the nearby 19th-century Croom Mills.
One of the earliest Cistercian monastery foundations in Ireland, Boyle Abbey was founded in the 12th century, and now houses an exhibition of Irish history.
Scattered with ancient dolmens, tombs and cairns, the Burren lies south of Galway in County Clare. Taken from the Irish ‘bhoireann’ meaning a stony place, this barren landscape has remained unspoiled since the ice age and is a spectacular natural wonder rich in wildlife and history.
This is Ireland’s largest megalithic burial site with over 60 tombs, the oldest of which predates Newgrange (3200BC) by a whopping 700 years. The site also includes a restored cottage and contains an exhibition relating to the history of the cemetery.
Dating back to 5000BC, Ceide Fields is the most extensive stone monument in the world and comprises the oldest enclosed landscape in Europe.
If you want a taste of Ireland’s ancient history, then this is the place to get it. Located on an original Celtic settlement, the park contains 12 recreated and authentic features from the country’s past.
Vertigo-sufferers should stand well back because the sheer Cliffs of Moher plunge a whopping 214 metres into the choppy Atlantic Ocean. On a clear day, the views are spectacular with both the Aran Islands and the valleys and hills of Connemara visible.
Craggaunowen, The Living Past Experience, tells the story of the arrival of the Celts in Ireland. With a stunning collection of exhibits and replica dwellings, you can really get a taste of what life was like in pre-historic times.
Located in the heart of Donegal town on the banks of the River Eske, Donegal Castle was built in 1474 by Hugh Roe O’Donnell. It has now been restored to its former glory and is well worth a visit.
The esteemed Irish poet W B Yeats is buried at this beautiful spot perfectly placed beneath the Benbulben Mountains and on the site of a sixth-century Columbian monastery. The visitor centre offers information on Yeats, Columba and the county of Sligo.
This dramatic stone fort is perched on a clifftop almost 300ft above sea level. It’s an extremely important, and vulnerable, archaeological site.
Situated on the Clare/Galway road and built in the 1500s, Dunguaire hosts medieval banquets twice a night.
This 4,000-year-old ring fort is another of Ireland’s most important ancient sites. The great stone cashel is thought to have been built by the Tuatha De Danann, God and King of Ireland, to protect the grave of his son Aedh.
Located in a magnificent setting on the banks of the River Suir, Holycross is an early 12th-century monastery. Before the close of the 12th century it was passed on to the Cistercians and became a place of pilgrimage for people from all over the Ireland.
This magnificently restored Georgian mansion was built in 1730 by Sir Henry King on a stunning location overlooking the River Boyle.
The Virgin Mary, with St Joseph and St John the Evangelist, appeared here on the 21 August 1879, and since then Knock has grown to the status of an internationally recognised Marian Shrine.
Originally a Victorian-era castle, the Abbey now serves as the home of the Benedictine nuns in Ireland. The gardens contain around 10,000 trees.
Take a walk along this heritage trail connecting the various landmarks in this historic district with the 13th-century King John’s Castle at the River Shannon at its heart.
Nestled among the hills of southeast Limerick, Lough Gur is one of Ireland’s most important archaeological sites. The interpretative centre tells the story of pre-Celtic Ireland dating back to 3000BC, and includes a slide show, exhibition models and interpretative panel.
On the shores of Lough Gill, one of Ireland’s prettiest lakes, sits the splendid manor house of Parkes Castle. Restored to its 17th-century magnificence, the castle now has a traditional blacksmith forge in 17th-century style, as well as a cosy tearoom.
One of Ireland’s many heritage towns, Roscrea boasts an intriguing 13th-century stone castle with some furnished rooms and house exhibitions. Daily tours are available.
Founded by Maurice Fitzgerald, Chief Justice of Ireland, in 1252, this Dominican Friary is known to locals simply as the Abbey. It has the oldest decorated high altar in an Irish monastic church, well preserved cloisters, carvings, and gothic and renaissance tomb sculptures.
A restored 18th-century mansion with original furniture, Strokestown is home to the National Famine Museum. A combination of original documents and images interprets the 19th-century famine.