Galway is a super-chill, hip, and lively city located in Western Ireland. It’s location makes it an ideal base for exploring some of Ireland’s most iconic tourist attractions. Check out these easy day trips from Galway to experience Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
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Cliffs of Moher
Perhaps making the ‘top 10′ on many peoples’ travel bucket list, the Cliffs of Moher will take your breath away. Located in County Clare on the Wild Atlantic Way, the Cliffs of Moher may be Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction.
Despite being saturated with visitors, there are plenty of opportunities to escape the crowds and get picture-perfect photo opps.
Located at the southwestern edge of the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher run on for approximately 14km.
The iconic location for one of the scenes from The Princess Bride, Ireland’s most renowned tourist site was also the location for some shooting of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The ‘cliff-hanger’ shot is actually really easy to get. My friend in the photo below doesn’t exactly look like he’s hanging on for dear life.
Despite the whipping winds and astounding height of the cliffs, the area is safe, so long as you are careful. Put safety first, be aware of your footing, and you will be just fine.
Although this headstand was in a ‘safe zone,’ even if I were to fall, it still scared the shit out of me. I’m surprised I stayed up long enough for my friend to take a photo. Yah, my ass is covered in dirt.
Come spend a few hours, letting the sea mist and salt air work their healing properties.
From Galway, you can take a bus, private tour, or rent a car. Don’t forget – the Irish drive on the left!
Connemara National Park
While it’s expected that the Cliffs of Moher will awe and inspire, Connemara National Park is relatively lesser-known. However, this was an incredibly pleasant surprise for an easy day trip from Galway!
Connemara is located in County Galway and spans 2,000 hectares of land. Its partially-dark history makes it a super intriguing area to visit.
I suggest taking a tour here, since you won’t be able to obtain the amount of history and information on your own without extensive research.
Or, if you’re up for a good hike, the national park offers stunning landscapes with an abundance of different terrains – mountains, bogs, hills and valleys – there’s even a fjord! And if you’re reeeeaaally lucky, you might spot the famous Connemara pony!
Connemara is a must-do if you’re looking for easy day trips from Galway. Check out this more in-depth post on interesting facts about Connemara and its history.
Kylemore Abbey & Walled Gardens
Kylemore Abbey is located only an hour away from Galway in the heart of Connemara. It is a Benedictine Monastery that was built in the late 19th century and was founded in 1920.
Its history tells the story of Mitchell Henry and the love and inspiration he found in his wife, Margaret. Mitchell Henry built the (then) castle as a token of love for his wife and the surrounding area of Connemara.
Tragically, Margaret died when she was only 45, and her youngest daughter was 2 – she died from illness while traveling in Egypt. Mitchell died much later, at the age of 84. On the grounds of Kylemore there is a small mausoleum that now holds the remains of Margaret and Mitchell (see photo below).
After the Henry family left in 1902, the estate was sold off to the Duke of Manchester. Later, in 1920, a group of Benedictine nuns relocated after their monastery in Belgium was destroyed during WWI. They turned the estate into an Abbey and girls’ school.
The walled Victorian gardens are some of the most elaborate in Ireland, and also well-worth visiting, especially during the warmer months when everything is in bloom.
Cong is an adorable village in Western Ireland that’s also an easy day trip from Galway. Cong’s claim to fame is the filming site of the movie The Quiet Man, a film made in 1952 and starring icons John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Be sure to stop in and have a whiskey!
Aside from visiting the iconic bar that was featured in the film, Cong also has some beautiful ruins and an Abbey to wander. Or, you know, take yoga photos.
You won’t need a full day here – Cong is easily explored in just a few hours.
Not far from the Cliffs of Moher, you’ll find the Burren. The Burren is best-known for its lunar-like landscape. The grey rock with ribbons of crevices is unlike any place I’d ever seen.
With so much stone and rock, you wouldn’t expect the Burren to be an ecological hot spot – but it’s full of biodiversity, both fauna and flora.
Here you can also find a neolithic portal tomb! Twenty-two people were buried here over the course of six centuries. That’s right, the tomb has been around for over 5,800 years!
On the outskirts of the Burren, you can also visit Leamanagh Castle to check out its 15th century ruins.
In Northern Connemara, you will find Killary Fjord, Ireland’s one and only fjord. With mountains jutting up from each side, the fjord makes for an idyllic photo.
Fun fact: the Spanish Armada had several crash sites just off of Killary Harbour. It’s said that the Galwegians have black hair and blue eyes because the dark-haired Spaniards could not resist the beauty of the Galway girls.
The border between County Galway and County Mayo runs through its center.
The village of Doolin is known as being the music capital of Ireland – I know, big claim to fame. It’s also a great base for exploring some of Western Ireland’s most popular sites, including the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands, which are just off shore.
If you don’t want to visit the cave but would like to check out Doolin briefly, it’s a great place to stop for lunch or dinner after a trip to the Cliffs of Moher.
If you only take one easy day trip from Galway, let it be the Aran Islands! This was by far my favorite part of the trip – well, the island of Inis Mor and Connemara National Park were both up there.
From Galway, you can easily hop a ferry to Inis Mor, the closest of the three Aran Islands, and explore for a day. If you’re feeling more ambitious, visiting the other two is also an option.
Inis Mor is the most populated of the three and is covered in an intricate network of stone walls that have been there for hundreds of years. There’s also a beach and a seal colony – need I say more?
The most popular site in Inis Mor is Dun Aonghasa, a prehistoric hill fort on the edge of a cliff. If that’s not enough for you, here are other reasons you must visit Inis Mor.
For a brief stop on your way back to Galway from the Cliffs of Moher, don’t miss Dunguaire Castle on Kinvara. It’s a quick stop, but very easy if you’re already visiting the Cliffs. The castle was built in 1520 overlooking Galway Bay and was (mostly) owned by the Martyns of Galway until the current century.
Most of these easy day trips from Galway are available from Galway Tour Company – I am not affiliated with GTC in any way, but they are who I personally used for three different tours from Galway. What can I say, I didn’t want to drive on the left, hah! Wondering where to stay in Galway, Ireland, check out these hotels.
I love Ireland, I want to go back to visit all these places on your list!