A large county with attitude to match, Galway has too much to offer; this incredible county and its city are some of the most visited places in Ireland. So given the incredible wealth of things to do in both city and county we have split this list in two.
In this list, you will find our top 10 things to do in County Galway; this stunning large county of beautiful coastline, islands, culture and craic.
1. Escape to an Island
For those looking to go remote, Galway has an incredible selection of islands to visit; some of Ireland’s most diverse and beautiful.
The Aran Islands
The three Aran Islands, Inis Mór Island (Big Island), Inis Meáin Island (Middle island) and Inis Oírr Island (East island) are situated at the mouth of Galway Bay. They are famous for their geological formation, historical monuments and their Gaeltacht heritage. The Irish language is still spoken here.
Each of the Aran Islands offers something unique in terms of landscape, culture and heritage. More than anything the best experiences are the ones that involve interactions with hardy souls who live on these islands year round.
Accessible via a short ferry trip from Ros a Mhíl, the three ruggedly beautiful Aran Islands feature ancient ruins of churches and monuments, as well as extremely hospitable locals. Visiting the islands is like stepping back into a time before globalization and commercialization
Without doubt a visit to iconic Dún Aonghasa is a must-do for any visitor to the Aran Islands. This extraordinary stone fort stands guard over Inis Mór with its three massive drystone walls that run right up to sheer drops to the ocean below. Situated on the edge of a cliff at a height of 100 meters above the Atlantic on Inis Mór island, it consists of a series of concentric circular walls, the innermost, the citadel, enclosing an area of approximately 50 meters in diameter. The relentless Atlantic Ocean has been hammering away at the cliff face since 1100BC when the first fort constructions were built at Dun Aengus, and the fort is now half eaten by the sea. Believed to be up to 2000 years old, Dún Aonghasa is a world heritage site and one of Ireland’s most visited attractions and as a result one of its most vulnerable.
The Aran Islands have long drawn creative and literary types to its inspiring landscape and rich cultural environment. None more so than Inis Méain now famous for being home to the world-renowned author JM Synge who spent five summers here over a century ago.
At the west end of the island, Synge’s Chair is a viewpoint at the edge of a limestone cliff. Take time out here to exhale and drink the wild beauty of the atlantic’s might like the famous author once did.
Inis Meáin’s scenery is breathtaking, with a jagged coastline of rugged cliffs, stunning beaches and fields boredered with the stunning geometry of old stone walls.
While on Inis Meáin we especially recommend a visit to Inis Méain Knitwear and the Inis Meáin Restaurant and Suites. One of Ireland’s most in demand luxury guest accommodation.
Inis Bo Finne (Island of the White Cow) lies seven miles off Galway’s coast and was the winner of the ‘Best Island Holiday’ in the 2013 ‘Irish Times Best Place to Holiday’ competition. It is a magical island, with safe, sandy beaches, rocky inlets, a ruined castle, a weekly market in the summertime, a charming museum of island life and a range of places to stay, from hotels to hostels. This summer it even had a cafe on a double decker bus!
It may be home to just 200 souls, but Inisbofin’s pubs, hotels and locals all contribute to its legendary status as a magical destination. inishbofin.com.
2. Get off the Grid in Connemara National Park:
Immediately southeast of Letterfrack, Connemara National Park spans 2957 dramatic hectares of bog, mountains, heath and woodlands. The park encloses a number of the Twelve Bens including Bencullagh, Benbrack and Benbaun
There are three main walking routes throughout the park each one offering spectacular scenery and wildlife with every step.
Of the six national parks of Ireland, Connemara may well be the most beautiful. The park is noted for its diverse range of birds, which has led to it being described as a bird watcher’s paradise. There are also numerous ancient megalithic and neolithic burial mounds and tombs, which offer a glimpse into Ireland’s prehistoric period. connemaranationalpark.ie
3. Journey along one of Ireland’s most scenic routes
The Sky Road is a 20km (12 mile) jaw-droppingly scenic loop route near Clifden in the wonderful Connemara, Co Galway. Part of the Wild Atlantic Way scenic drive along Ireland’s west coast, the Sky Road peninsula juts out into the Atlantic against the backdrop of the 12 Bens Mountain Range.
Along with the Inagh Valley scenic drive south of Leenane, the Sky Road in Clifden is one of the top tourist attractions in the entire Connemara region. Very few places in Ireland can match the rugged beauty and range of scenery that can be seen from the Sky Road. The route is well signposted from Clifden and easy to find. connemara.net/the-sky-road/
4. Visit an Award-Winning Food Truck on an Irish Fjord:
The Misunderstood Heron is a food truck that sits on the edge of stunning Killary Harbour in north Connemara, looking out on one of only three fjords in Ireland. Sitting in the grounds of Killary Adventure Centre, the outdoor picnic benches and the wooden cladded truck blend beautifully into its environment.
We can vouch that the coffee alone is worth the stunning drive into Killary Harbour for. Winner of a Georgina Campbell award in 2018, just get there before it sells out!
Misunderstood Heron, Kilary Adventure Centre. facebook.com/MisunderstoodHeron
5. Visit Ireland’s Most Romantic Castle – Kylemore Abbey:
Known as Ireland’s most romantic Castle, Kylemore Abbey, located in Connemara, Co. Galway is the No.1 tourist attraction in the West of Ireland.
When Mitchell Henry and his wife Margaret travelled to Connemara in the 1850s they fell in love with the region. Mitchell returned in the 1860s and purchased the estate of Kylemore and built a splendid castle as an gift for his wife.
Home to the Benedictine Nuns since 1920, Kylemore has been renowned as a place of spirituality and education ever since. Perfect for a family day out and easily accessible from Galway or Mayo, Kylemore Abbey & Victorian Walled Garden offers visitors scenic photographic opportunities as well as woodland walks, garden tours, fascinating history, beautiful architecture, ample shopping in the craft shop and tempting homemade delights in the restaurant and tea rooms. kylemoreabbey.com
6. Shuck some oysters at Moran’s Oyster Cottage
Some of County Galway’s finest seafood, including lobster in season, is served in this atmospheric thatched pub and restaurant, set in a quiet cove. Moran’s Oyster Cottage dates back almost 300 years. Today, Moran’s is run by Michael Moran, the seventh generation of the Moran family in the business. It is renowned the world over for its excellent seafood which attracts people from the five continents, and is open all year round.
Moran’s serves smoked salmon, crab, prawns, crab claws, Galway Bay oysters and lobster all day. moranstheweir.com
7. Discover the Yeats Connection
Thoor Ballylee, the fourteenth-century Hiberno-Norman tower in Gort, was once described by Seamus Heaney as the most important building in Ireland, due to its close association with his fellow Nobel Laureate for literature, W.B.Yeats. The tower has recently re-opened again after flooding, and coincides with the launch of the inaugural Yeats Exhibition.
In an idyllic setting by a stream, this 16th-century Norman tower was the summer home of WB Yeats from 1921 to 1929 and was the inspiration for one of his best-known works, The Tower. yeatsthoorballylee.org
8. Cleachtaigh an Gaeilge in an award-winning cultural retreat:
Cnoc Suain is a rural retreat in Spiddal that gives visitors an insight into Irish culture and traditions in a genuine way. Founded and lovingly run by husband and wife team Charlie and Dearbhaill (who is a native of the area), the 200-acre retreat offers an immersion in Irish culture, past and present, in a richly diverse bog landscape. There are 17th century cottages, perfect for an idyllic break; the field room, which hosts music (Dearbhaill is an accomplished musician), song and dance as part of the cultural experience of Cnoc Suain, all situated in luxuriant bog beauty. cnocsuain.com
9. Escape the City in a Natural Playground Sanctuary
Brigit’s Garden takes you on a magical journey into the heart of Celtic heritage and mythology, making it one of the truly outstanding places to visit in the West of Ireland. The award-winning Celtic Gardens are widely regarded as one of the most spectacular in Ireland, set within 11 acres of native woodland & wildflower meadows. In addition to the Celtic Gardens, visitors can enjoy the nature trail, an ancient ring fort (fairy fort), thatched roundhouse and crannog, and the calendar sundial, the largest in Ireland.
Brigit’s Garden is very family-friendly with a kids’ discovery trail, a natural playground and lots of opportunities to explore. Brigit’s Garden is located in Roscahill at the gateway to Connemara, between Moycullen and Oughterard. It is well signposted from the N59 main road, just a 20-minute drive north of Galway city. brigitsgarden.ie
10: Experience Caribbean Beaches in Ireland
County Galway has some of the world’s most stunning beaches with white sand and crystal clear waters akin to many a Caribbean beach on a sunny day.
Just a short drive from Roundstone village lies Dogs Bay, one of the most spectacularly beautiful beaches in the world.
Dogs Bay is a horseshoe-shaped bay with more than a mile long stretch of white sandy beach. It backs on to Gurteen Bay, and together they form a tombolo which juts out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Equally stunning is Coral Strand near Ballyconneely. The coral sand is, in fact, is in fact detached red calcified seaweed, maërl or otherwise known as coralline algae which form the beach and feels like fine gravel underfoot. Coral Strand is a stunning location for swimming, kayaking, snorkelling and exploring. connemara.net/beaches
Have we missed something? Let us know!