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A Wild-Atlantic weekend near Clifden, Co. Galway

Updated: Sep 27

In March of 2022, we spent the long St. Patrick's Day weekend traveling a portion of Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way, the world-famous coastal route that stretches the length of Ireland. This trip was focused on the Atlantic Ocean; we swam, visited two islands, hiked through bog and coastline, and explored the lovely coastal town of Clifden, County Galway. Read below for our review and recommendations for a Wild-Atlantic weekend that included visits to Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey!

We began our trip driving West toward County Galway, where we stumbled across Joyces Craftshop, owned and run by author Mark Joyce of the mythical Irish book series! After this, our first planned stop was the Alcock and Brown Landing site where Guglielmo Marconi invented and sent a transatlantic radio signal in 1901 and where the first transatlantic flight landed in 1919. This is a 4.6km (2.9 miles) loop hike of boardwalk over bogland and gravel paths leading through historic industrial buildings used by Macroni Power Company. This informative hike features many signs explaining the different buildings.

Since our first visit was to the Alcock and Brown landing site, it was only fitting that we stayed the night at the Alcock & Brown Hotel, a pleasant hotel located in the center of Clifden. We visited several shops and restaurants in Clifden, however, our absolute favorite was the fine dining tapas at the absolutely incredible Lamplight Wines. Another recommendation we have is if you want to see the best views of Clifden and the Atlantic Ocean, drive or walk along Sky Road! One of the most surprising moments of this trip was driving across sand during the low tide to reach Omney Island, although we didn’t have a chance to explore the historic buildings here before we had to drive back to the mainland.

Inisbofin, the Island of the White Cow.

(Top to Bottom) Cromwell's Barracks, The White Tower, Inisbofin Cargo Ferry

One day-trip option in this area is visiting the island of Inisbofin. The ferry to Inisbofin leaves from Cleggan pier up to 3x a day during peak season. The ferry trip is 30 minutes each way and can be a rather choppy ride at times.

Dating back to the year 655 AD when St. Colman founded a monastery that was later attacked by Vikings, there are many historic landmarks throughout this island. During the Irish Rebellion of 1641, the island housed a prison, Cromwell's Barracks, where Catholic priests were held for treason against the crown. In addition to the historical landmarks, there are outdoor activities such as hiking and biking to be enjoyed here(As well as the historic sites you can also enjoy hiking and biking around the island!). Seals can be spotted looking down from above Stag's Rock, there are also a few blowholes in Ireland located here.

We spent the day exploring although at this time many businesses were still closed due to Covid, so instead, we hiked the Westquarter loop 8km. Now that those precautions have ended, we hope to go back to Inisbofin in the future and explore the other trails and visit the heritage museum.

Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey

Another option of something to do in this area is to visit Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey, both are 19km North of Clifden.

Connemara National Park has a nice visitor centre, which is important to check out before attempting to climb Diamond Hill or venturing into the park. On the day we visited, the winds were too strong for anyone to safely hike up to the 445-meter-high summit. The park was gorgeous and there was an abundant amount of plant and animal life around us.

The €16 entry ticket to Kylemore Abbey includes entry to the Victorian Walled Garden which displays plants from that time period, the Neo-Gothic Church, and the trails throughout the property. The 155-year-old abbey is a longstanding Benedictine Convent that still functions today. Walk through the ornate rooms and learn about its history during one of their free talks, or stroll the property on your own and imagine what it would have been like to live here. There's a cafe and a gift shop as well.

Camping in Clifden EcoBeach

After our first full day, we stayed in Ireland's first carbon-neutral campground Clifden Eco Beach Camping & Caravanning Park, located 13 km away, a 10-minute drive west of Clifden, County Galway. Repeatedly voted one of Ireland's top campsites and one of the top outdoor camping spots in Europe by Lonely Planet, this Wild Atlantic campsite is the perfect place to disconnect from modern life and embrace nature. There may not be wifi, but there are bike rentals and seaweed hot tubs that look out into the sea. Fire pits and wood are available for purchase at the office, and there’s a bathroom facility and shared kitchen on site. When we arrived that evening we were greeted and welcomed to choose our campsite: the one with the view or the sheltered one beyond the hill. We chose the campsite with the spectacular view of course!

Our first time using the TentBox Classic was nothing short of eventful despite the user-friendly set-up and comfortable interior. Our campsite, Clifden EcoBeach, exceeded expectations with the private swim beach and onsite facilities. The challenges we had while camping here do not reflect poorly on the TentBox or Clifden EcoBeach but rather how incredibly unprepared for our first night along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Coastline. We hope that by sharing our amusing story other campers can learn from our mistakes when reading our blog post: How (Not) to Camp in Ireland's Wild Atlantic Coast.

No matter what you choose to do or where you chose to stay, Clifden Co. Galway is an unforgettable place! There are many other things to do and places to explore in this region, and personally, we can't wait to go back. From the historical remains along the waves of the Atlantic to the variety of outdoor activities, the West of Ireland is highly recommended.

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