Clifden- the Capital of Connemara

Just the name, Connemara, evokes such wondrous imagery.  The “wild west” of Ireland where roads may or may not drop you into the Atlantic Ocean as it crashes against the shore.  The place where famed Connemara Marble is cut from The Tweleve Bens mountain range.  Where romance tumbles with sadness and ends in hope at Kylemore Abbey.  Yes, Connemara has a different meaning to everyone who visits and the region’s unofficial capital of Clifden is the place to settle yourself to experience it.

View from the Sky Road, Clifden, Connemara, County Galway

Driving the Sky Road in Clifden, Connemara, County Galway, for the first time is breathtakingly beautiful and heart-stopping-ly terrifying at the same time. The narrow road, the wild scenery and the cliff top views are incredible to describe with mere words.

Clifden, the “Capital” of Connemara

Defining what is and is not Connemara is entirely dependent on who you talk to.  For some, it is the land bordered on the east by Lough Corrib, on the north by Killary Bay, on the south by Galway Bay and extending into the Atlantic Ocean.  For others it is all of County Galway west of Lough Corrib.  Still others use Connemara to describe the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking region) of western County Galway.     No matter how you define its boundaries, Clifden is a terrific base for a vacation in Ireland.

Clifden as a Base for Traveling


Ireland Pub Live Traditional music

This photo, taken at Conneely’s Bar in Clifden, Connemara, is what an Irish pub is all about: a family friendly place to enjoy a bite, lift a pint, tap your toes to a few tunes and bask in the craic. Slainte!

Clifden offers plenty of lodging options, from resort hotels to self catering cottages and terrific B&Bs.  You’ll easily find something to fit the style and budget of your Ireland family vacation.

Within the town of Clifden you’ll have your pick of dining- with options ranging from pub grub and fresh seafood to Chinese cuisine and fast food for when the kids just really want a cheeseburger.  If you’re filling your pantry or just buying nibbles for a picnic, the SuperValu grocery will have everything you need.

Live music reigns in Clifden, with a dozen pubs offering bands , you’ll be able to find music most nights.  If the weather is nice you’ll find most pub doors open, allowing music to pour out into the streets.

The best way to get a glimpse of what Clifden has to offer is to pick up a free copy of What’s On Connemara.  You’ll find these in shops around town, or your host will likely have a few on hand.

Things to do in Connemara

From Connemara you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied.  These are but a few examples:

  • Drive the beautiful- and sometimes terrifying- Sky Road
  • Visit breathtaking Klyemore Abbey
  • Learn about Connemara history (and drink a bit of poteen) at the Connemara History and Heritage Centre and Dan O’Hara’s Homestead
  • Dance in pubs (yes, the kids, too!)
  • Take a boat tour (you’ll find a glass-bottom boat in nearby Letterfrack)
  • Ride Connemara ponies (a few stables offer this)
  • Shop in Clifden’s shops
  • The Connemara Giant in County Galway

    The Irish sense of humor is well understood in this carving of the Connemara Giant in County Galway. Local legend says that if you touch the hand of the giant you will be blessed with the knowledge of his ancient tribe. Though the legend doesn’t say which hand…

    Visit Joyce’s Craft Shop and touch the hand of knowledge

  • Visit Connemara National Park 
  • Search for shells and sea glass
  • Go hill walking
  • Visit the Ocean & Country Marine Life & Heritage Centre
  • Take a day trip to Cong and visit sites made famous by the movie The Quiet Man
  • You can access Omey Island at low tide.(so make sure you plan your trip accordingly or you’ll be stuck)
  • Visit the site of the first transatlantic radio messages at the Alcock and Brown and Marconi site

Personally Recommended B&Bs:

 provides a scenic stay along the Sky Road.  Comfortable rooms and a hearty breakfast.  Note:  cash only.  (Read full review)


 is a terrific in-town B&B within walking distance of everything.  (Read full review)


  1. iatraveler says

    WanderingEds One thing I didn’t mention in article about Birr Castle- the 3rd Earl Rosse was homeschooled. :)

  2. patches4321 says

    So what exactly are the kids activities again? Beach combing, sitting in the back of the car, staring at the horizontal rain lashing the window or if all else fails we can set them loose on the locals as the parent take solace in drink! Stunning location etc but far from convinced in the context of kids. (Parent to 3 and 4 yr olds)

    • says

      patches4321 Hi Pat.  I have been traveling with my kids to Ireland since they were infants; when we visited Clifden last year, they were 5 & 7.  I suppose if your children need constant stimulation, or if they need fun made for them, this is not the place for you.  However, Clifden- and Connemara- have quite a lot to offer.  
      My girls do absolutely love beach combing- I get tired of it far easier than they do.  
      Dan O’Hara’s Homestead is great for the entire family.  Boat tours, riding Connemara ponies, and exploring Connemara National Forest are all great familiy activities, as well.
      It’s true that Ireland is not DisneyLand- nor should it be.  The magic here is real and is waiting for you to discover it, if only you will take the time to do so.

  3. patches4321 says

    Perhaps I should say I am Irish and have had many family holidays as a child on the west coast. I will refrain from getting into some inane debate about my kids and their presumed lack of imagination. Lookin at old ruins, pubs, stunning landscapes etc all sounds great but my 3 and 4 year old would get as much enjoyment from at aplay park out the back of a mickey D’s!! The pony riding (which let’s face it will be to a large degree weather dependant as will the ferry ride) aside unless u get reasonable weather clifden is not a hot spot for young children. The main saving grace is that gal way and Westport r about hour away where can take kids for burger and chips finished off with afternoon matinee. Might get to pub in the eve for pint but will have to leave early cause the poor ee numbered up kids will be bored by all the strange goings on (dancing). Be in clifden next week with the kids for a week – should meet up, sounds like I could learn a thing or 2!!!

    • says

      patches4321 Pat- you are luckier than I.  This site is written from the perspective of a visitor to Ireland- not someone who has the beauty outside their door.  For visiting children, Ireland is a magical place.  We don’t see castles and dramatic landscapes as a common occurrence.
      You might want to check the handy app Ireland: Are We There Yet (for Android & iPhone) or for County Galway.  I’ve found these resources to be very helpful when we visit Ireland- especially on those days when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
      I appreciate the invite to meet up, unfortunately we won’t be returning to Ireland until October.  But I do think the Connemara Region is a terrific getaway with kids- you just have to get below the “surface” to find the activities that work for your kids.

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