Leisure Offerings in the West of Ireland

Connemara Wild Escapes have compiled the very best leisure experiences that Connemara has to offer.  Choose from a variety of truly exhilerating, authentic and engaging things to do and see in the West of Ireland:
CRUISES
Abbey & Killary Cruise Safari, 1 Day Self guided Read more/BOOK HERE
Castles, Churches & Corrib Cruise Safari, 1 Day Self Guided Read more /BOOK HERE
DISCOVER SAFARIS
Discover the West of Ireland Safari, Connemara, 7 Days Self Guided Read more /BOOK HERE
Discover Antiquities & History of the West of Ireland Safari, 8 Days Self Guided, 4* Hotels  Read more /BOOK HERE
DIVING
Discover Scuba Diving Safari, Connemara Coast, ½ day Guided Read more /BOOK HERE
Discover Scuba Diving Safari, Connemara Coast, 1 day Guided Read more /BOOK HERE
EQUESTRIAN/HORSERIDING
Beach horse riding, Connemara, 1 Day Guided from Galway Read more/BOOK HERE
FESTIVALS
Connemara Mussel Food Festival, West of Ireland, 3rd – May 5th, 4 Days Self Guided Read more/BOOK HERE
Leenane Walking Festival, West of Ireland, 3rd – May 5th, 4 Days  Guided Read more/BOOK HERE
FOOD
Taste Connemara Food Safari, Connemara, 1 Day Self Guided Read more/BOOK HERE
GARDENS
Garden Safari, 1 Day Self Guided Read more/BOOK HERE
Garden Safari, 3 Day Self Guided, 3* B&B Read more/BOOK HERE
Garden Safari, 3 Day Self Guided, 3* Hotel Read more/BOOK HERE
Garden Safari, 3 Day Self Guided, 4* Country House Read more/BOOK HERE
Garden Safari, 7 Day Self Guided, B&B Read more/BOOK HERE
Garden Safari, 7 Day Self Guided, 3* Hotel Read more/BOOK HERE
Garden Safari, 7 Day Self Guided, 4* Country House Read more/BOOK HERE
GOLFING
Golfing Safari, Ballyconneely, 1 Day Self Guided Read more/BOOK HERE
Golfing Safari, Oughterard, 1 Day Self Guided Read more/BOOK HERE
Golfing Safari, 3 Day Self Guided, 3* B&B Read more/BOOK HERE
Golfing Safari, 3 Day Self Guided, 3* Hotel Read more/BOOK HERE
Golfing Safari, 6 Day Self Guided, 3* B&B Read more/BOOK HERE
Golfing Safari, 6 Day Self Guided, 3* Hotel Read more/BOOK HERE
HERITAGE
Heritage & History Safari, Connemara, ½ Day Self Guided Read more/BOOK HERE
HISTORY
Discover history on Inishbofin Island, Connemara coast, 1 Day Self Guided from Galway city  Read more/BOOK HERE
History Walking Safari, Inishbofin Island, 1 Day Guided Read more/BOOK HERE
History Walking Safari, Cleggan Area, 1 Day Guided Read more/BOOK HERE
Discover Antiquities & History of the West of Ireland Read more/BOOK HERE
ISLANDS
Inishbofin Island Safari, 1 Day Self Guided Read more/BOOK HERE
Discover history on Inishbofin Island, Connemara coast, 1 Day Self Guided from Galway city  Read more/BOOK HERE
Aran Island Safari, 1 Day Self Guided  Read more/BOOK HERE
Explore Island Safari, 1 Day Guided  Read more/BOOK HERE
SHOOTING
Shooting School Safari, Connemara, ½ Day Guided Bead more/BOOK HERE
WELLNESS
Wellness Relax Spa Safari, Delphi Mountain Spa, ½ Day Read more/BOOK HERE
Wellness Renew Spa Safari, Delphi Mountain Spa, ½ Day Read more/BOOK HERE
Wellness Refresh Spa Safari, Delphi Mountain Spa, ½ Day Read more/BOOK HERE
Wellness Invigorate Spa Safari, Delphi Mountain Spa, 1 Day Read more/BOOK HERE
Wellness Revive Spa Safari  3 day  4* Hotel Read more/BOOK HERE
WILDLIFE
Marine Wildlife Safari, Connemara Coast, 1 Day Guided Read more/BOOK HERE
Fauna & Flora Wildlife Safari, Connemara National Park. 1 Day Self Guided  Read more/BOOK HERE

Some detail on Connemara’s unique attractions:
History & heritage:
Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden, Letterfrack – a romantic 19th century house nestled in between the shores of Kylemore Lough and the heavily wooded hills, Kylemore Abbey is a serenely peaceful place and is currently occupied and home to the Benedictine order of nuns. Built by a wealthy English textile tycoon, for the love of his life, it has many sights including a Gothic Revival Church, a mausoleum, partially restored Victorian garden and hatchery. The original house is now an abbey and former girl’s school which is open to the public, the main attractions are the beautiful buildings, the engineering feats of the day, the walks and the opportunity to sponsor and plant your very own indigenous Irish tree to assist with restoring Connemara to its former wooded splendour.
Pearse’s cottage, Rosmuc – Patrick Pearse (1879 – 1916) was the leader of the Irish Rising and his summer residence is now restored and contains an exhibition about his life and has a unique collection of his personal mementoes.
Cnoc Suain, Spiddal – a reconstructed 1691 Irish village of thatched and slated stone offers a fantastic opportunity to revisit good auld Ireland.
Connemara Heritage & History Centre (Dan O’Hara’s Homestead), Lettershea – gives the visitor an insight into the life of the 19th century Connemara tenant farmer. The restored pre-dated famine cottage and farm guides visitors through the history of the region with demonstrations of traditional farming techniques. Also on the property are reconstructed examples of a prehistoric island home (a crannóg), a ring fort and a corbelled dry stone hut (a clochán).
Ross Castle, Rosscahill – Built during the 16th century Ross Castle is a listed building set in an extensive garden with beautiful views over Lough Corrib. Fully restored this building has been elegantly decorated and visitors are welcomed during the summer season.
Hens Castle, Maam – Caislean-na-Circe located on Lough Corrib between Maam and Doon, free from islands except for the rock on which the ancient Hen’s Castle of the O’Connor’s and the O’Flaherty’s stands. The castle was home of the great pirate Queen of Connemara, Grace O`Malley, who lived in the time of Queen Elizabeth 1 of England. The Lord Justice, in 1225, caused Odo O’Flatherty to give up Kirk Castle to Odo O’Connor, King of Connaught; for assurance of his fidelity.
Caislean na Circe (built in a night by a cock and a hen according to legend) is one of the oldest mortared castles in Ireland. This Norman keep, placed in the direction of the cardinal compass points, was built early in the 12th Century by the sons of Roderick O’Connor, last High-King of Ireland, aided by their then ally, William Fitz-Adelm, the first de Burgo (later Burke). This castle which occupies almost the entire island had a troubled history, being stormed and besieged many times, not the least of which was the celebrated occasion when Grainne Mhaol (Grace O’Malley) personally defended it. It continued to be occupied as a castle until it finally succumbed to the Cromwellian soldiers in 1654.
Black fort, Aran Islands – Perched spectacularly on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic ocean, this is the largest of the prehistoric stone forts of the Aran Islands. It is enclosed by three massive dry-stone walls and a “chevaux-de-frise” consisting of tall blocks of limestone set vertically into the ground to deter attackers. The fort is about 900m from the Visitor Centre and is approached over rising ground.
Leenane Sheep & Wool Centre – For many generations the people of Connemara survived on the wool trade and this wonderful museum gives a unique insight to the history and development of the industry. Demonstrations of traditional spinning, carding and weaving techniques are on display along with information on dying and breeding techniques.
Glengowla Mines, Oughterard – the 19th century silver and lead mines offer an insight of mine life with an underground tour and an exhibition on the history of mining in the area at that time. Building include the restored powder house, blacksmiths workshop and agents cottage.
Aughnanure Castle, Oughterard – stronghold of the ferocious O’Flaherty’s, a powerful clan that controlled vast amounts of Co Galway: the 16th century castle occupies a dramatic location on what is virtually a rocky island on the river banks close to Lough Corrib. The restored six story tower house has many interesting features including a secret room between the lord’s camber on the top floor and the great hall below.
Renvyle Castle, Renvyle – home of the fiery 16th century pirate queen, Grainuaile (or Grace O’Malley) and her husband Donal O’Flaherty. Renowned for her bravery, wrath and lawlessness, she became the scourge of any ship that dared to sail “her” waters. Confident to the last she reputedly sailed to London to meet Elizabeth 1, secure a pardon for her wayward son and a pension for herself.
Cromwell’s fort – situated strategically on the headland opposite the Inishbofin’s harbour entrance this impressive structure was built to protect England from French invasion.
Early Christian sites (AD 500 – 1200) – High Island and MacDara’s Island this heritage has been well recognised and the ancient remains either restored or preserved and much archaeological work undertaken. In many other cases the remains are sadly disappearing or being destroyed through neglect or careless vandalism. Such is the richness of Connemara history that literally there could be a hidden undiscovered treasure beneath your feet! Early Monastic sites are numerous around Connemara and the “great” loughs (Corrib & Mask) basin.
Inchagoill, Lough Corrib – situated on an island it is the most extensive and best preserved early Christian ecclesiastical remains. Nothing is known of the early history of the monastic settlement, it contains two churches linked by an ancient road. One of the most fascinating monuments to be found in the area, the inscription on the Stone of Luguaedon is said to be the oldest in Europe done in Roman letters apart from the catacombs in Rome!
Ballynahinch Castle, Ballinafad – residence of O’Flaherty’s, the Martin family of which “Humanity Dick” is arguably the most famous and the Maharajah of Nawanager, Prince Ranjitsinhji ensure a colourful history. A superb fishery, the grounds and location offer numerous walks and sights including a fine red brick railway station and ruins of the original castle situated on an island in Ballynahinch lough.
Alcock & Brown, – the unintended landing site of the two first transatlantic aviators add a more modern historical flavour to the Connemara landscape.
Marconi – not far from the landing site, the first trans-Atlantic radio communications station. Having being de-constructed very little of what was a considerable engineering feat in it’s day remains of what was the leading technology of its time.
Cashel House Hotel, Cashel – situated in very mature and interesting gardens at the foot of Cashel Hill. Owned by a number of keen gardeners over the centuries this property has reputedly the best gardens in Connemara. Both a Prime Minister and French President have spent quiet time here.
Kilcummin Parish Church, Oughterard – built in 1808 and on the most westerly edge of the “civilised” world, the church was used by the local garrison, both officers and privates. One interesting feature is an enclosed area where prisoners sat during the services.
Coastguard Station, Cleggan – Connemara was a haven for smugglers during the 18th & 19th centuries. Built in Cleggan 1865 this two storey building overlooks the Atlantic. As well as acting as revenue police, they also provided search and rescue. The Cleggan Guild of the Irish Countrywoman’s organisation bought one of the houses in the 1940’s where regular meeting’s taught the women new skills.
Cill Einne, Spiddal – built around 1903 this Celtic Revival style church has a splendid interior. It has a low open truss roof and has transepts with double arcades and galleries. The striking stain glass windows are another of the numerous features to be discovered in this beautiful building.
Clifden Castle – build by the founder of Clifden almost two hundred years ago, it was the epicentre of social activity around Connemara. Although called a castle it is a large four-bay house with two floors above a basement.
Costello Lodge, Costello – one of the original owners of this property had connections with the most notorious marine accidents of all time – the Titanic. As owner of White Star Line (the Titanic’s owner) and also a survivor of the collision he went on to build larger and more palatial ships.
D’Arcy Monument, Clifden – erected in memory of John D’Arcy the founder of Clifden town it is also inscribed with the names of some of the citizens who lived and worked there around the middle of the 19th century. Restored in the 1990’s the monument is back to its former glory!
Slyne Head Lighthouse, Ballyconneely – Situated on the most Westerly point of County Galway and visible from many parts of the coast of Connemara. Originally consisting of two 79 foot towers, both had lights – one fixed and one revolving they commenced operation in 1836.
Warehouse, Clifden – this substantial ruin is one of the numerous grain stores which once dotted the Clifden area. At the time of the towns founding in 1812, almost all trade was conducted by sea. Practically everything that was needed for the new town had to arrive on boats and ships of various sizes, so one of the first tasks was the provision of landing and storage facilities.
Gardens:
Kylemore Abbey Victorian Walled garden, Letterfrack – Enjoy the various scenic walks amongst the over 100, 000 native trees planted in the late 1800’s created a wonderful forest teeming with wildlife. Nestled in this forest is a spectacular Victorian walled garden. Six acres of award winning formal garden, it uniquely uses only plants and flowers which date from Victorian
times. Visit the restored head gardeners house, garden boys’ bothy and glass houses. In their glory days the glass houses were second only to those of Kew Gardens!
Brigits Garden, Roscahill – Ancient wisdom meets contemporary design in beautiful Celtic inspired gardens. Stroll through the cycle of seasons; emerge onto a nature trail to discover a ring-fort, a stone chamber and a calendar sundial. Celebrate a seasonal festival, come to a special event (throughout the year) of take a course in the Roundhouse. A living willow play area and kids discovery trail ensures the little ones are kept busy while you browse the gift shop or savour The Garden Cafe delightful cuisine.
Wellness:
Connemara Seaweed Baths, Leenane – bathe with the oldest plants on earth – seaweed baths are Ireland’s indigenous spa
treatment and have contributed towards curing all sorts of ailments for centuries. Salt water is essential for the release of all the wonderful minerals within the seaweed. Overlooking Killary harbour you can relax within a tranquil setting to de-stress.
Delphi Mountain Resort, Leenane – unwind and relax in one of the most scenically beautiful locations in Ireland. Treats
include award winning spa experience with a rejuvenating seaweed bath, facial, full body massages, thermal suite and relax areas.
Golf:
Connemara Championship Links, Ballyconneely – nestled between the Twelve Bens and the Atlantic Ocean this 27 hole course was designed by Eddie Hackett.
Oughterard Golf Club – founded in 1974 as a nine-hole course was developed over the years into 18 holes. In 1997 major reconstruction works were carried out which included the lengthening of many holes, the creation of many new features including ponds and rockeries and a new club house. The result is a challenging golf course renowned for its hospitality.
Connemara Isles Golf Club – skirts the edge of the Atlantic this 9-hole course is cradled by ocean inlets, rocky outcrops and stunning views.
Renvyle Golf Club – 9 hole course situated between Lough Rusheenduff and the Atlantic Ocean.
Equestrian:
Connemara Trail – for over 30 years Connemara Trails have introduced visitors to the West of Ireland from the back of a horse. Not just any horse, mind you, but surefooted, agile Connemara ponies and Irish Hunters bred to confidently travel the terrain.
Cleggan Beach Riding Centre – is an approved riding school and is Connemara’s most renowned beach trekking centre. Their facilities include:
  • a variety of beach treks
  • mountain treks
  • most popular ride is 3 hour beach trek to Omey Island at low tide
  • three residential qualified instructors
  • over to 30 years expereince; to name a few
Errislannan Manor – sheltered by a surrounding wood the Manor overlooks a trout lough and is bounded by the mountains and bogs of Connemara. It houses Errislannan Manor Connemara pony stud and riding centre and is home of the Connemara Branch of the Irish Pony Club. Many ponies and children have been started here.
Knockillaree Riding Centre – based in Oughterard, only 25 minutes from Galway city, is nestled between beautiful hills, mountains and the shores of Lough Corrib, offering:
  • lessons all year round, for all ages and capabilities
  • treks
  • full livery
  • breaking and training
  • stud services
  • transport
Laragan Stables – based in Cleggan, Laragan Stables offer beach rides to one/two hour treks to Omey Island and surrounding beaches in the Connemara countryside. Top class horses and Connemara ponies are provided. Childrens lessons by friendly qualified staff. Minimum participant age: 4 years.
Moycullen Riding Centre – specialises in trekking and caters for all levels, from beginners to experienced riders, they offer:
  • horses and ponies to suit all ages and standards
  • beautiful scenic bog road trekking
  • lessons available
  • trail rides
  • AIRE approved
  • qualified instructors
The Point Pony Trekking & Horse Riding Centre – Offering an unique opportunity to discover some of the most breathtaking scenery in the West of Ireland on horseback. All rides are accompanied by experienced staff who will guide you and your horse safely along dazzling white sandy beaches and wide open countryside. Rides are organised to suit every level of riding and committed to safety. AIRE approved and all horses and ponies are safe and well schooled. English, French, German and Dutch spoken.
Food:
Connemara Smoke House, Ballyconneely – award winning curer is perched on the water’s edge at Bunowen Pier. Connemara’s longest established smokehouse using kilns first commissioned in 1946. Traditional methods and very high quality products have always been the Roberts family priorities. Visitors welcome all year round to come and visit, chat or purchase any products
including smoked salmon, tuna, mackerel; gravadlax and much more.
Connemara Fisheries, Cornamona – operates a traditional family owned salmon
smokery since 1985 we have been producing smoked salmon from a purpose built
premises in Cornamona which is fully compliant with EU laws governing food
production. Our operation is HACCP approved and the process is carried out
under strict quality and hygiene controls.
The smokery is owned and
managed by the Sommerville family and it is a matter of personal pride for us
to maintain the highest standards and customer satisfaction.
McGeogh’s Butchery, Oughterard – primarily sell meat but also have a wide range of individually selected specialist foods including fresh sausages, puddings, dried meats, cheeses, dairy, eggs, sauces, oils, chutney’s, juices, pastas and wines. At the back of the shop is a purpose built EU approved manufacturing plant, producing award winning air dried and smoked meats and salamis.
Creative arts:
Celtic Retree’t - offers a four day course of sculpturing and carving stone or ancient bog wood (oak, pine and Yew) on the site from where it was excavated from beneath the turf. This bog wood ranges in age from three to eight thousand years, has amazing characteristics and shapes which responds gently to the working artist. Everybody whether beginner or with previous experience is welcome.
Glass painting, Maam – offers morning and evening classes to paint items such as window sun catchers, attractive wine bottles, wine glasses and ordicary tumblers. Stocks of the correct paints, brushes and glass are available.
Candle making, Oughterard -  offers demonstrations on candle making.
Pottery, Oughterard – offers a 5 day course for adult beginner courses which includes tools, thumb pots, coiling, mark-making, slab building and own projects (clay is additional and charged by weight used).
Bridge:
Clifden Bridge Club - Meeting every Tuesday evening @ 7.30pm. Visitors are welcome to play any night there is no competition. Visitors are requested to arrange their own partners. Bar facilities are available but no food.
Oughterard Bridge Club - Meeting every Monday night @ 7.30pm from September to May. Visitors are welcome to play any night there is no competition and must arrange their own partners. Bar/tea/coffee facilities but no food.
Photography:
Connemara Light - offers weekend and day courses for all seasoned or budding landscape photographers who own a SLR digital camera. Courses are available all year round with a mximum of 5 participants per course. Individual one-to-one training lasting one to two days are also available.
Theatre:
The Station House Theatre, Clifden – hosts live performances from local, national and international acts and offers a range of styles including music, drama, comedy and dance. Restored within the original railway stationgoods store it combines modern entertainment with a hsitoric past!
Wild life:
Connemara National Park, Letterfrack – western blanket bog and heathland are the predominant vegatation types to be found in the park. The birdlife is varied, Meadow pipits, skylarks and stonechats are just some of the common songbirds. Birds of prey are sometimes seen and winter brings woodcock, snipe and other Irish and international visitors such as redwing and fieldfare. Rabbits, foxes, stoats, shrews and bats are often observed at night. In recent years both pine marten and non-native mink have been seen.
Connemara Red Deer - in John Dunton’s book written in 1698, he wrote “At last we came to a pleasant vale called Glinglass, (now known as Glenlosh, close to Maam Bridge In Connemara) or the green vale, of an English miles breadth encompass with lovely green mountains which are tufted with pleasant groves and thickets of natures providing, for none here imitate her in ought but her coarser draughts. On the sides of these hills I wonder’d to see some hundreds of stately red deer, the stags bigger than a large English yearling calf, with suitable antlers much bigger than any I ever saw before”. In 1856, Thompson wrote in his “Natural History of Ireland. Red deer, once abundant all over Ireland, are now confined to the wilder parts of Connaught. Only
twenty-five in Connaught, thirteen in Connemara and twelve in the barony of Erris.” By 1870 Red deer were considered extinct in the West of Ireland.
In 1995 Screebe estates reintroduced 16 Red deer into the Maam Cross area. 14 hinds and two stags. After an absence of 125 years Red deer were back and have continued to re-establish themselves over much of central Connemara. Despite over grazing by sheep in much of their range, the quality of these Red deer is exceptional. An additional release or escape from the
National Park in Letterfrack has also helped the spread of these magnificent animals. The planting of coniferous forest by Coillte (Irish State Forests) has also assisted the success of several native species including the Red deer.
Red deer are now creating employment by providing a market for hunting tourism, education for school children in the form of early morning school trips to view the deer, and recently, wildlife safaris for our ever increasing numbers of Connemara’s eco-tourists.
Screebe, in conjunction with Galway University has worked on several interesting research projects. Over several years the dung of the Red deer was examined by the students in the NUI Galway laboratories and has given much information about their feeding habits. Interestingly, bramble and heather are the most important food plants for our deer. Blood samples are examined for parasites and disease, every animal that is culled is carefully examined for any abnormalities or weakness.
Of Ireland’s three species, Fallow, and Sika, Reds are the only native deer. They provided food clothing, tools and hunting for man for thousands of years. They have earned a place in our environment for all time. In years gone by, Wolves would have kept the balance of nature, but as the re-introduction of wolves is unlikely, the balance must be kept by careful management. A balance between commercial interests i.e.: foresters, farmers, tourism and sport will be maintained for the benefit and future of the Red deer population in Connemara. Come and join us to view these magnificent creatures!
Cruises:
Corrib Cruises – offers daily sailings between Oughterard and Cong stopping en route at Inchagoill to view the early 5th century Christian ruins and sites.
Killary Cruises - moored in Leenane, the Connemara Lady, is an all weather luxury catamaran. It allows uninterrupted views of the spectacular scenery which makes Killary Fjord such a unique place to visit. The 15 km inlet has some of the finest scenery in the Connemara. All sailings are one and a half hours in duration and depart from Nancy’s Point, outside Leenane.
Cat na Mara - offering fishing as well as eco tours this family skippered catamaran is licensed to carry 12 passengers. Enjoy fascinating views of the islands: Inishboffin, Inishturk and Shark. Experience the breath taking views of the most westerly positioned ligthouse at Slynehead. Cruise among the seals, gannets and other sea birds with the dolphins and porpoises as company.
Brazen Hussy - offering trips for sea fishing, bird and mammal watching, island tours, scuba diving or commercial applications on full or half day charters. This state of the art catamaran has spacious wheelhouse seating, huge deck space for angling and diving and an elevated flying bridge for panoramic views. With her twin hulls she is highly stable and safe vessel.
Connemara Ocean & Country - offers Irelands only glass bottom boat tour. Open from March to November there are 4 sailings per day. Tours comprise of a one hour scenic and wildlife nature tour or a two hour evening angling/sightseeing tour at 6pm during summer time and 4pm in spring & autumn.
Island Discovery - visiting Inishbofin, there are several daily sailings from Cleggan. Owned and operated by third generation Island sea farers you are assured of a warm welcome. No visit to Connemara is complete without a visit to Inishbofin Island!
Inishbofin Island ferry times (Easter to 31st August)
Departing Cleggan
Monday 11.30 14.00* 18.45
Tuesday 11.30 14.00* 19.30
Wednesday 11.30 14.00* 18.45
Thursday 11.30 14.00* 18.45
Friday 11.30 14.00** 19.30
Saturday 11.30 14.00** 18.45
Sunday 11.30 14.00** 18.45
Departing Inishbofin
Monday 09.00 13.00* 17.00
Tuesday 08.15 13.00* 17.00
Wednesday 09.00 13.00* 17.00
Thursday 09.00 13.00* 17.00
Friday 08.15 13.00** 17.00
Saturday 08.15 13.00** 17.00
Sunday 10.00 13.00** 17.00
*4th June, July & August only. **1st May to 30th August only