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.
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
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 wide array of stores for woolens, crafts, art, and more
- Visit Joyce's Craft Shop and touch the hand of knowledge
- Visit Connemara National Park and hike to the top of Diamond Hill
- 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:
|OCEAN VILLA provides a scenic stay along the Sky Road. Comfortable rooms and a hearty breakfast. (Read full review)||KINGSTOWN HOUSE is a terrific in-town B&B within walking distance of everything. (Read full review)|
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 MyKidsTime.ie 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.