Ireland: Connemara & Galway Bay

Guided Walking Tour, Ireland: Connemara & Galway BayGuided Walking Tour, Ireland: Connemara & Galway Bay

Ireland

Connemara & Galway Bay

overview

Discover the allure of Ireland’s landscapes, its Celtic past, and a people quick to share their storied wit over a pint. Local guides well versed in history, lore, and natural science accompany you on this adventure from the dramatic coastal Cliffs of Moher to the pink-granite shores of legendary Omey Island. A journey through isolated fishing villages and verdant farmland brings you to the Burren, a geological wonder hosting rare plants, an Iron Age fort, and a Bronze Age burial ground. Visit the little-known 7th-century monastic ruins of Kilmacduagh and stroll the vibrant streets of Galway, Ireland’s cultural heart. Sweeping views await you high in the Mamturk Mountains, while haunting places like Killary Harbor, site of an abandoned, famine-stricken village, are testament to the enduring Irish spirit. Inishbofin, an island of golden beaches and grassy paths favored by artists and pirates; the “fairy hills” of Sheeauns; the vast beauty of Connemara National Park…these are just some of the magical places that are yours to explore.

 

Activity Level
Easy to moderate;
5-8 miles daily
Meet
Shannon, Ireland
Depart
Shannon, Ireland
Daily Itinerary
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itinerary
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Guided Walking 
7 days, 6 nights Trip Includes 

Trip Includes

  • Two expert, local guides (for groups of 8 or more), with you 24/7
  • All meals except for two lunches and one dinner; local wine or beer included with dinners
  • All accommodations while on tour
  • Transportation from the meeting to the departure point
  • Entrance fees and special events as noted in the itinerary
  • Basic travel insurance coverage
  • The unbeatable and cumulative experience of the CW staff
per person double occupancy
Single supplement + $475
 

Solo surcharge + $0
 

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

REQUEST RESERVATION
Number of Travelers
Total in your party
Price From
per person double occupancy
Single supplement + $0 

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

REQUEST RESERVATION

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Itinerary and Accommodations

Days
Destination
1
Ballyvaughan
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2
Ballyvaughan
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3
Letterfrack
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4
Letterfrack
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5
Clifden
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6
Clifden
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7
Clifden
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Day 1

Ballyvaughan

Meeting in Shannon. Dysert O’Dea; 2 miles, easy. Cliffs of Moher visit. Poulnacapple; 5 miles, easy to moderate

Shortly after meeting your fellow travelers and guides, you transfer to County Clare, north of Shannon, and stop en route for your first walk along the Irish coast. You are immediately taken back in time as you stroll to Dysert O’Dea, a 14th-century Hiberno-Norman tower and a 7th-century Early Christian monastery founded by St. Tóla. There is time to peek at the Tower’s eclectic little museum.

After lunch at a pub in the market town of Kilfenora, you visit one of Ireland’s most dramatic natural phenomena, the Cliffs of Moher. Stretched over almost 4.5 miles, these cliffs rise sheerly from the Atlantic Ocean to a vertiginous 700 feet and, on a clear day, you can enjoy views of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, as well as the verdant hills and valleys of Connemara. The cliffs are not only home to an estimated 30,000 birds of 29 different species—Atlantic puffins, hawks, gulls, guillemots, shags, ravens, and choughs—but also contain evidence of river channels cutting through the shale and sandstone beds dating back 300 million years. Your afternoon takes you to a holy well dating from pre-Christian times and the main walk of the day to the townland of Poulnacapple. Here, you walk from a shale landscape to the older limestone of the Burren proper, in an area offering spectacular views.

Following a few minutes aboard our minivan, you arrive at a Georgian country manor house nestled in the heart of the Burren in time to relax before indulging in the first night’s feast.

Gregans Castle Hotel

Ballyvaughan, Ireland

Named a 2009 Grand Award Winner by Andrew Harper in the January 2009 issue of the “Hideaway Report.” This family-run house offers individually decorated rooms and breathtaking views of the Burren and Galway Bay.

Day 2

Ballyvaughan

The Burren; 6 miles, easy to moderate. Optional afternoon walk; 3 miles, easy

Today you venture into the heart of the Burren. Here, the shapes and textures of the bare limestone that give this site its Gaelic name (meaning “a rocky place”) make for fascinating walking. The thin soil hosts unusual and diverse flora, whereby plants from the high Arctic and Alpine regions of Europe bloom alongside those from the Mediterranean region. Your guides engage the group with their knowledge of history, geology, and plant life—for the Burren proves rich in all these subjects.

You travel along the Burren Way on foot, following a six-mile trail from Ballinalacken to the abandoned Formoyle Chapel. Lovely views of the sea appear along this ancient path that was once a cattle-driving trail. The walk circles back to Ballyvaughan, where you enjoy a midday lunch.

The afternoon is filled with short journeys into prehistory. Visits to an Iron Age stone ring fort, a Neolithic burial site, and a Celtic high cross transport you through thousands of years in a few short hours. Your guides will offer an easy three-mile afternoon walk for guests looking for an additional opportunity to stretch their legs. Once again you retire to the luxurious Gregans Castle Hotel and reunite for a sumptuous dinner created with organic ingredients produced and harvested locally.

Gregans Castle Hotel

Ballyvaughan, Ireland

Named a 2009 Grand Award Winner by Andrew Harper in the January 2009 issue of the “Hideaway Report.” This family-run house offers individually decorated rooms and breathtaking views of the Burren and Galway Bay.

Day 3

Letterfrack

Colman Kilmacduagh; 2.5-6.5 miles, easy to moderate

Today’s walk through the verdant Irish countryside takes you to the relatively unknown ruins of Kilmacduagh, an early Christian monastery established by Saint Colman in the 7th century. You take time to explore this mystical setting and stroll around the monastery, including its holy well, which is still honored today.

Lunch is in Galway, the third-largest city in the Republic of Ireland and often nicknamed “Ireland’s cultural heart” due to its full calendar of festivals and events and numerous dance and musical organizations, theater companies, visual arts, writers, and film groups, as well as over 50 event venues. In recent years, Galway was named the second-best destination in Ireland and was ranked ahead of most European capitals. Following this city break, you board the coach and transfer to a more rural setting in the westernmost part of the Connemara region. Gaining altitude, the road reaches 900 feet at the top of the Mám Éan pass in the Mamturk Mountains. From this vantage point, you enjoy panoramic views of the lake-studded peat lands that make up south Connemara.

Your hotel for the next two nights is a first-class 19th-century country house in Letterfrack, set amidst 30 acres of peaceful private woodland on the shores of the natural Ballinakill Harbor. Dinner this evening is in the hotel’s beautiful dining room, perhaps with the sound of a crackling open wood fire in the background.

Rosleague Manor Hotel

Letterfrack, Ireland

A meticulously renovated manor house built in the early 1800s, filled with antiques and boasting a superb dining room.

Day 4

Letterfrack

Killary Harbor; 6 miles, easy to moderate. Kylemore Abbey; 2.5 miles, easy

Following a hearty breakfast and energized by a freshly brewed cup of coffee or tea, you set out for another day admiring the contrasting sceneries of the emerald green hills and deep blue waters. Today’s walk explores the country’s only fjord: Killary Harbor, which lies on the border between County Galway and County Mayo. The 10-mile-long fjord reaches a 150-foot depth at its center. You walk six miles along a harborside trackway, passing the deserted village of Foher and its evocative famine graveyard. The deep bay affords views of inland mountains and magical islands. Lunch is at a pub in Letterfrack, founded by the Quakers in the mid-19th century. Later you can browse among the town’s displays of handwoven arts and crafts or perhaps pay a visit to the Connemara National Park visitors’ center. The afternoon walk takes you to Kylemore Abbey and the Victorian Walled Garden. Kylemore Church, a neo-Gothic structure originally built in 1868 by Mitchell Henry in memory of his wife, Margaret, has been home to the Irish Benedictine Nuns since 1920.

There is time before dinner to relax in the hotel’s Victorian conservatory with a cup of tea or to take a stroll on the surrounding private grounds. Later this evening, you gather with your traveling companions and guides in the hotel’s dining room for another sumptuous dinner of local specialties such as Connemara lamb or wild Renvyle salmon.

Rosleague Manor Hotel

Letterfrack, Ireland

A meticulously renovated manor house built in the early 1800s, filled with antiques and boasting a superb dining room.

Day 5

Clifden

Sheeauns; 2.5 miles, easy. Inishbofin Island; 4 miles, easy to moderate

Following a satisfying (and award-winning) buffet breakfast in the hotel’s conservatory, you depart for a half-hour drive to the town of Sheeauns “fairy hills.” In recent times, Bronze Age hut sites, field systems, and trackways have been discovered by locals while cutting peat (used for fuel), and offer a perfect opportunity for your guides to share their historical knowledge.

After this scenic and educational walk, you leave the fairy hills for the picturesque little fishing town of Cleggan, with its pier and colorful fishing boats. You then catch the midday ferry to Inishbofin—“the island of the white cow,” according to its Irish name—a serene place with a breathtaking coastline. Occupied since the Bronze Age, the island is one of a handful of shipping ports on the West Coast of Ireland which thrived in the 17th century. It is also the location chosen by Ireland’s legendary pirate queen, Grace O’Malley, to build her fort. Inishbofin has since become a popular destination for local writers and artists. You explore the island’s golden beaches and grassy paths before resting on the boat ride back to the mainland.

This evening you retire to your family-owned hotel—and Clifden’s oldest building, dating from approximately 1820. Originally the harbormaster’s house, this hotel features 14 unique rooms and cozy common spaces skillfully decorated with period furnishings and family portraits. You are free to choose from one of the town’s many restaurants and pubs for dinner.

The Quay House

Clifden, Ireland

Built in 1820 as the harbormaster’s house, this small family-run inn is the town’s oldest building, formerly also a Franciscan monastery and a convent before becoming a guesthouse. Stylish rooms are individually decorated with period furniture and original artwork, while elegant living rooms with fireplaces are perfect places to relax in after a day of cycling. Breakfast is served in a light- and flower-filled conservatory. Overlooking the harbor, the inn is just a few minutes’ walk to the town center, where dining options abound.

Day 6

Clifden

Roundstone Bog; 4 miles, easy. Omey Island; 4 miles, easy

As your Irish adventure draws to a close, you depart for one last inspiring day on the trail with your newfound friends. Today’s walk is only a short distance from your hotel and introduces you to a fascinating ecosystem. Roundstone Bog is one of the largest examples of a western-blanket bog in the world. Starting out following a little-used road, the route takes you on a wild trail and sheep paths, until you reach the bog proper, given that the weather has been dry for the previous few days. Here your guides point out the flora specially adapted to living in wet acid soils: heather-clad outcroppings of rock, insectivorous plants, and sedges. In summer, the eerie cries of breeding golden plover and merlin drift overhead.

This afternoon, an island visit is on the agenda. You reach Omey Island on foot along a causeway cut off by high tide. This low-lying island of pink granite is covered by sand dunes. Recent excavations have provided anthropologists with a wealth of new information on the customs of early Christian monasteries in Ireland.

You return to your hotel in the quaint town of Clifden, also known as “the capital of Connemara” due to its size. Tonight’s farewell dinner is at a favorite local restaurant owned by your hosts’ extended family. Now a connoisseur of the local delicacies, you may choose your favorite from the creative offerings listed on the menu while toasting the week’s accomplishments and discoveries.

The Quay House

Clifden, Ireland

Built in 1820 as the harbormaster’s house, this small family-run inn is the town’s oldest building, formerly also a Franciscan monastery and a convent before becoming a guesthouse. Stylish rooms are individually decorated with period furniture and original artwork, while elegant living rooms with fireplaces are perfect places to relax in after a day of cycling. Breakfast is served in a light- and flower-filled conservatory. Overlooking the harbor, the inn is just a few minutes’ walk to the town center, where dining options abound.

Day 7

Clifden

Departure from Shannon

After a hearty Irish breakfast, you transfer by coach to Shannon, where you bid farewell and continue your exploration of Ireland on your own, or start your journey homeward.

Itinerary Disclaimer

Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a CW adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call CW at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.

Guides

Michael Miller

Michael, a native Irishman, has extensive guiding experience and a comprehensive knowledge of Ireland’s fascinating history. However, his true love is traditional Irish folk music. Michael is a delightful travel companion and insightful "walking encyclopedia".

Pól O'Colmain

Irishman Pól O’Colmain is an artist, musician, poet, story-teller, folklorist, and teacher. He has also restored historic gardens, is fluent in gaelic and likes scuba diving and swimming. He is often to be found walking in the hills around his home in rural Ireland.

Dubhaltach O'Colmain

Dubhaltach is a working artist and musician, often writing his own music and illustrating stories. Fluent in English, Irish and Greek, he grew up on the Great Blasket Island. Dubhaltach enjoys sharing his love of the sea and outdoors with travelers to Ireland.

Guest Comments

D. Mitchell, Texas, June 2013

Everything went smoothly before and during the trip. You can tell they have this tour down to a fine art. I don't think it can be overemphasized that you need to be prepared for the lengths of the walks. The best way to do this would be to find hills rather than flat ground to do several 4-5 mile hikes.

P. & R. West, California, May 2013

The tour included a very good mix of varied landscapes, history, culture, food, and friendships. Once again, it was the guides and their varied knowledge that made the trip so unique and fun. Gregans Castle Hotel was one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in.

A. Rohan, New York, September 2011

The walks we took in Ireland were unique and would never be found by an average tourist. The guided experience led us to unknown spots, and were lovingly described through their knowledge of the history, nature and poetry of the region. This was something we could not have experienced on our own.

A & M Adrover, North Dakota, May 2012

I really had the most fun I have ever had in my entire life with a tour of any country. I have been to Europe and Japan and England and this trip puts them all behind. The guides were perfect. I learned so many interesting things about Ireland, history, culture, The flora and fauna, I could have listened to their information all day everyday. The guides especially were so kind and helpful, caring about and getting to know every single person on the trip. I will definately continue to use CW as my traveling company because they truely are the best

J. Gardner, Texas, May 2012

Why You May Love Ireland… It's like home! Really. Better perhaps. Some of the best people on earth. Only country outside North America which I've visited twice. The guides are wonderful, true Irishmen with in-depth knowledge of history, culture, religion, art, music, poetry, literature and science. Walks are all easy to moderate. Why You May Not…. Weather? What rain? We had sun and 80 degrees most days. Hotels—Oddly, hotel quality and conveniences seem to decline from the start of the trip to the end. It is usually the other way around. No morning coffee until breakfast at 8. Last hotel offers no food other than breakfast, not even pub grub… and that's dinner-on-your-own night. Restaurants are a ten minute walk uphill into town. Tip: Pack a jar of peanut butter and some crackers. If you get tired, just buy a bottle of wine and eat in your room and enjoy the view. Would I Go Again? Yes. That'll make three visits.

M. Buxton, Connecticut, May 2012

I believe that somehow the very beginning of my rating got cut off. It is: Wonderful in every way!

J. Gary, Illinois, May 2012

This was my first CW trip and my first guided trip of any kind. My rating of "excellent" is due to the guides. the other details all merited "very good," but the guides put it over the top.

A. Weaver, Montana, May 2012

An off the beaten path trip to Ireland's west coast was a trip most visitors to Ireland never see. From the unusual, barren and rocky Burren to the fiords and mountains of Connemara and coastal islands, this was a trip to remember. The fact that we had fabulous weather didn't hurt either!

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