12 Great Irish Drives: Take a Dip in the Blue Atlantic and Drive the Famous Sky Road in Connemara

by Paul Wilson | 2 min read

June 17th, 2019

For summer 2019, we are partnering with theJournal.ie to bring you 12 Great Irish Drives: the most amazing road trips in the country. Whether it’s with friends, family or by yourself these trips should give you the courage to get in the car and go explore.

This week, Paul Wilson explores Connemara, jutting out into the Atlantic along the Sky Road, with some seafood stops en route.

From lively Galway, take the N59 to where the Connemara Loop starts at Maam Cross. Part of The Quiet Man was filmed here, and the area is known for its lush countryside and a glacial fjord at Maam Valley.

North from Glynsk on the R344, you’ll be on the Inagh Valley road, snaking through mountains carpeted with heather and sparkling lakes – so have your camera at the ready.

Heading north to Leenaun, along the southern Shores of Lough Fee, stop off at Killary Harbour for spell-binding views over the cloud-capped mountains. Here you’re looking at Munterowen West, Devilsmother, and Benbaun, the last of which is the highest point of the quartzite-topped Twelve Bens, in Connemara National Park.

killary harbour

Home to Benedictine nuns since 1920, Kylemore Abbey is a good family stop-off to explore the Victorian walled garden and see the pet pigs, Gloria and Ken.

Mitchell’s Cafe at the Abbey serves up homemade scones and traditional Irish fare, using fresh ingredients from the garden.

From Letterfrack, the secluded and cheerful Renvyle House is another option for rustic, informal dining, tucked in between a private freshwater lake and Atlantic.

The coast of Connemara is peninsula after peninsula. You’ll find Clifden north of one of these – the Errislannan Peninsula – on a forested plateau. Monument Hill, a stone memorial to the town’s founder, is the best place to photograph the town and its glorious Twelve Bens backdrop.

From Clifden, at Ballyconneely, you’ll find the family-run Connemara Smokehouse, producers of Connemara smoked salmon and tuna. On Wednesdays during the summer months they operate public tours.

For a diversion, two miles on from Roundstone, take a stroll to two isolated beaches at Dog’s Bay and Gurteen, perfect for a dip in the Atlantic.

Part of the Wild Atlantic Way, the 16km Sky Road itself goes west from Clifden and back along the cliff-edged shores. Join it on the N59, for a truly impressive journey.

gurteen beach

Fancy some low-key island hopping? Omey Island, near Claddaghduff, is almost hidden, but a sandy strand is accessible on foot at low tide – just follow the signs. 

On the Carna-Cashel road, prepare to be silenced by vast expanses of dark Atlantic blanket bog. Formed in the west 10,000 years ago, these are some of the most renowned peatlands in Ireland. Back towards Maam Cross, the N59 will take you straight to Galway.

About the author

bio image for Paul Wilson
Paul Wilson

Paul is a travel journalist at the Journal.ie. Allianz and the Journal.ie have partnered for Summer 2019 to bring you 12 Great Irish Drives: the most amazing road trips in the country.