Galway day trips were the highlight of our visit to Ireland. Within a few hours drive you can visit Cliffs of Moher, Connemara, Cong, Limerick, Adare, Clifden and of course the city of Galway. These Galway Day Trips are some of the most dramatic and scenic places in Ireland:
Cliffs of Moher
The most famous day trip from Galway would have to be the Cliffs of Moher. It is a beautiful one and a half hour drive from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher. You can opt for a bus tour, public bus (Eireann 350 route from the Galway bus station). We chose to drive ourselves. There are several routes you can take either the N67, the L1014 to N67 or R460. For us the R460 was the perfect option as it is country roads so we were able to see more of the countryside and some of the Burren. (Read more about driving in Ireland.)
When we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher it was another hazy rainy day with the cool fall wind blowing. We parked in the parking lot. Then walked towards the visitor center which is beautifully built into the landscape so as not to disturb the beauty of nature. From the visitors center you can either go to the left or to the right. In order to walk the cliffs we veered left and formed a part of an incredibly long line. Muddy slopes and deep puddles proved to be a challenge for most of us, especially the women who showed up in high heel shoes (NOTE: DO NOT go to the Cliffs of Moher in any season in high heel shoes). Step by muddy step we walked along the cliffs, watching people walk dangerously close to the edge. The awe of the cliffs is not lost but is certainly diminished in the incredibly long lines of people trying to pass one another and walk in the narrow pathways.
Each of the four cliffs is as breath taking as the last and when taken in together are truly jaw dropping. Once you have passed the final narrow pathway you are free to wander the black rocks, dramatic edges and grassy patches which make up this unbeatable coastline. Feeling a little overwhelmed by the people I took the time to stand still and feel the wind blowing as I listened to the sounds of the waves crashing. To not take a moment would be a shame after the journey as this is truly a remarkable feat of nature. The drama created by each cliff giving way to the next is spectacular.
After making our way back to the center area of the park we headed for the right side of the park. Here is where you can truly grasp the effect of each of the cliffs fading into one another. Concrete steps allow for an easier hike up the hills. A different landscape will greet you here. Instead of rocky edges there are sloping edges with long grass caught in the fall breeze. I loved the contrast of the landscapes and the way the grass gently protected the area. There is a small fort at the top of the hill here where you can sit and rest amongst the people. There are also beautiful views in the opposite direction of the four cliffs which are worth taking in even since they are completely different. This was also so amazing to me, the contrast of landscape which flows so gently from one to the other.
Inside the visitors center there is a large restaurant, shopping, a couple of small cafes and bathrooms. We stopped in to have some hot chocolate and were blessed with some Irish folklore from an Irish bus driver. Even though the crowds do not let up inside the visitors center we were able to find a few moments of authenticity with this Irish gentleman.
As we traveled along the one lane road from Galway to Connemara I experienced this moment of absolute visual perfection. On a small stone bridge, perched next to a small lake and nestled into the red, orange and yellow palette of the fall tress is Kylemore Abbey. Immediately I told Jim to stop the car so I could jump out and take pictures. This spot, and this moment was a photographers dream. In fact, I would end up with better views as we traveled onto the Abbey property. However, I would not get another moment of awe, of complete perfection as I had on that bridge.
Traveling through Connemara National Park is a visual treat. There is no other way for me to describe it. The small roads, the mountains covered in bursts of fall colors, all shimmering in the fall rain, and the stillness of nature surrounding you as you explore make for an experience it is impossible to forget. Unfortunately we were unable to trek through the National Park since the rain was falling so heavily.
You can travel to the Abbey via car on the N59 (this is what we did and loved it), by local bus from Galway station, or with a bus tour. From there we drove through the National Forest. Then on to the cute seaside town of Clifden for a great lunch and a little window shopping.
Drive down R334 from Galway to Cong and you will enjoy the beautiful scenery County Mayo has to offer. The county is full of quaint towns full of picturesque houses with flowers overflowing from window boxes and ivy growing up the old stone walls.
Visiting Cong is like stepping back in time. It is a very small village whose main claim to fame is The Quiet Man movie museum. What we found was scenery you can only imagine. We parked our car in the small village and then walked to the ruins of a medieval Abbey. From there it is a beautiful walk through the park area where we found swans swimming in the small pond. Walking through a beautiful gate there are some trails which we were unable to take due to the rain (again).
A quick walk through town taking in the thatched roofed homes, a few cute shops and a couple of nice restaurants should only take you half an hour. This was a great day for us to enjoy a day trip and explore Galway in the late afternoon.
Limerick & Adare
I was worried if we didn’t take a day trip to Adare and Limerick I would be missing out. Adare is famous for its thatched roof houses and medieval monasteries. To be honest we were completely disappointed in Adare. The thatched houses are very cute but there are only a few of them along the main street. Unless you are looking for something to do one day I really wouldn’t recommend this stop. You can see thatched buildings in Cong and so much more.
Limerick is one of the biggest cities in Ireland. I tend to avoid driving through big cities but we really wanted to see King John’s castle in Limerick so we decided to take the hour and a half drive from Galway and give it a try. It was really easy to manage and we found the city to be pretty interesting. The architecture in Limerick is a big contrast to Cork being more decorative and condensed.
King John’s castle sits right on the rivers Shannon and Abbey. The castle is still in quite good condition. While the interior courtyard was quite barren the exhibits and videos of the history of the castle, and the area were incredible! Seriously they are some of the best I have seen in any museum. I loved learning about the history not only of the castle but the region, and the country. I would highly recommend this if you have the time in Ireland.
Often cafes in castle museums aren’t much to speak of but the all glass cafe in King John’s castle is quite nice. The view over the castle and the town is very nice. Once we were done touring the castle we took a walk around this part of town, enjoyed some lunch and headed back to Galway, in the rain of course.
Galway was one of our favorite towns in Ireland. Strolling down Quay street, while very small, is incredibly authentic. It is full of stone buildings, live music, pubs, restaurants, and shopping (not just souvenir shops). We had an amazing lunch at The Quay Street Kitchen. J. loved their sweet potato fries, and I was so happy to find some delicious vegetarian food there. I also had the best hair cut on our 9 month trip in Galway for only 20 euro.
During one of strolls around the city we stumbled on a great band playing in the street, a bagpipe player, and individual singers. For the first time in a larger town I felt like we had arrived in what I had always pictured a large Irish town to be.
Due to some scheduling issues with Airbnb (our only host cancellation ever) we stayed here. While it was a nice hotel it was quite a ways out of town. There is a great pub across the street for dinner so we hung out there most evenings. A local eatery is behind the hotel which was great to grab something to eat after one of our shorter day trips.