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Explore a selection of contrasting islands off the west coast of Ireland.
Nothing says ‘escape’ like a break on an Irish island – and this self-drive holiday takes in four of them!
Every destination on this nine-night self-drive exploration holiday boasts its own distinctive character. Overnight stays on Achill and the Aran Islands, as well as colourful Westport and historic Connemara, with day-trips to the tranquil Clare Island and magical Inishbofin Island, set this off as a truly one-off experience, memories of which will live with you for ever.
Each island makes for a wonderful destination for a day-tripper, but what’s the hurry? This holiday gives a mixture of superb island accommodation run by local families, combined with stays in Westport, Co Mayo and on the Connemara mainland. There is ample opportunity to sample traditional Irish Music, freshly produced local food and maybe a tipple or three of the local beverages. It takes everything at a leisurely pace, giving you enough time to take in the landscape, culture, and wonderful sights of this truly outstanding part of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Your first island is the largest and also the only one that has the advantage of not requiring a ferry trip! This is a place of big things – immense skies, towering cliffs, and stirring sunsets. This rugged and majestic island is connected to the mainland by a short bridge, and is approached via the bustling towns of Westport and Newport. Both towns are well worth a quick visit to take in some local shops and maybe something to eat in one of the great local cafés or restaurants – we’ll provide you with recommendations.
Your Guesthouse on Achill
Your beach-side accommodation on Achill Island is a long-established restored coastguard station, repurposed into a beautifully presented, family-owned guest house, whose quality is obvious even before stepping over the threshold.
The expertly manicured gardens – even featuring palm trees – give way to the dazzling white house, perfectly placed on Keel Strand, with unbroken views across miles of sandy beach, overlooking the Cathedral Cliffs of Minaun, with the islands of Clew Bay in the distance.
The family of the local owners have been residents on the island for generations, delivering a warm welcome and classic Irish island hospitality to visitors from all over the world, making Bervie the ideal place from which to discover this most enchanting corner of the country.
What to see and do on Achill
Achill is a large island, with a couple of small villages connected by some of the smallest roads you can possibly imagine. Must-see sights include the ‘deserted village’, a poignant side effect of the Irish famine of the 19th century, Keel Beach, Keem Strand and the stunning Atlantic Drive. Keem Strand is particularly striking, set in a secluded cove at the furthest point on the island. Approach by an incredible road, which winds steeply down to a disused Basking Shark fishery. Keem is also a good starting point for those wanting to view the cliffs at Achill Head, some of the highest and most impressive in Europe. These cliffs make for a demanding walk for those correctly equipped – if you wish, we can organise a local guide.
There’s no hurry today, as the direct route between bases takes only an hour or so, the perfect excuse to pootle, perhaps a little north to take a light hike at Ballycroy National Park or off the beaten track to Rockfleet Castle or Burrishoole Abbey.
Arriving at Westport, you’ll discover one of Ireland’s most vibrant little towns, filled with a riot of colour, the sound of superb traditional music and a wealth of corners waiting to be uncovered.
Your Guesthouse in Westport
Just a few minutes’ walk from the town square and backing onto the greenway that leads to the port, your accommodation in Westport is the essence of traditional Irish hospitality. Welcomed by the friendliest of local hosts, nothing is too much trouble here, with tips for favourite pubs and eating spots marrying beautifully with unfussy en-suite bedrooms and a delicious breakfast.
As you approach the small pier at Roonagh, just thirty minutes from Westport, you will start to take in the incredible views out over the short stretch of emerald water towards Clare Island. With its mountains rising from nowhere, this island immediately strikes you as somewhere you simply have to visit. Leaving your car behind at the quay you will take a small passenger ferry on the short crossing between the mainland and the island. Don’t forget to heed the advice of local folk/rock group the Saw Doctors, “Take the ferry out from Roonagh, and wave all your cares goodbye.”
Clare Island is an island’s island, where the local community is strong and vibrant, but at the same time warm and welcoming to visitors. The landscape is beautiful, with unspoilt beaches, serene inlets and dramatic sea cliffs, which sweep down from the mountains straight into the sea. The island’s interior contains wild bog and untouched moorland, where the slightly inquisitive visitor can find ancient megalith tombs and ruins.
What to see and do on Clare Island
Less than 100m from the quay is the first attraction for any keen sightseer – the castle of pirate Queen Grace O’Malley, giving a fascinating insight into one of the Wild Atlantic Way’s more notorious characters. Bike-hire is available from close by the quay, too, but with a pair of walking boots or stout shoes, it is possible to walk to the north side of the island in around an hour, following well-marked paths and small roads. The northern part of the island plays host to a magnificent lighthouse, perched above the Atlantic at the top of sweeping cliffs and makes for a breath-taking location for a picnic lunch. Further exploration of the island will reveal megalithic tombs, secluded inlets and much more. There is a great local pub on the island, only a few minutes from the quay, serving good lunches and often playing traditional Irish music.
Time to make your way further south out of County Mayo and into County Galway and the mystical land of Connemara – a truly un-spoilt paradise for any discerning traveller to enjoy.
Your journey to Connemara will take you through some of the most spectacular scenery Ireland has to offer and a route well worth taking your time over to enjoy in full. Highly recommended is the drive through the Delphi valley, where a small road takes you past magnificent loughs and high, green and craggy mountains, before dropping down into Killary ‘Harbour’. This natural harbour is easily the most impressive of Ireland’s three fjords and a great place to stop and take some marvellous pictures. Once in Connemara your base for the next three days will be the splendid small town of Clifden, home to Irish music, great restaurants and pubs and a place to enjoy a slightly busier place of life from that experienced on the Islands.
Your Guesthouse in Connemara
This family-run boutique guesthouse makes for a truly unique experience, with individually themed rooms that take inspiration from right across the world – you would be forgiven for forgetting that you are still in the west of Ireland! Nestling next to a small, stone-built quay where local fishermen land their catch, you will receive a warm welcome. A marvellous breakfast to set you up for the rest of the day is serviced each morning in an orangery, complete with vines, giving it an almost Mediterranean feel! The centre of Clifden is only a leisurely stroll away and has fine restaurants and great traditional pubs, playing lively Irish music.
What to see and do in Connemara
Connemara is a part of Ireland synonymous with everything that people expect from it’s west coast. Stunning landscape, ancient history and great local people, all combine to form a magical land, where native Gaelic is still the first language for the majority of locals. In keeping with the island theme of this holiday, you will enjoy a day trip to Inisbufin Island, a bigger and busier brother to Clare island with a slightly longer ferry crossing from the small pier at Cleggan, just north of Clifden. We are also happy to organise additional options such as guided walks on the coast or mountains or the hire of an electric bicycle, to enable you to take a very leisurely cycle through the local area.
There are three Aran Islands, Inis Mór Island (Big Island), Inis Meáin Island (Middle) and Inis Oírr Island (East) set in the mouth of Galway Bay. They are famous for their geological formation, historical monuments and their linguistic and cultural heritage – with Irish (Gaelic) still widely spoken here. In fact, all native-born islanders are bilingual in both Irish and English. To finish off your holiday with a bit of flare the journey to this island is by a small plane, giving you an unbelievable view of the Islands, and the rest of County Galway. You will leave your car at the airport.
Your Guesthouse on Inís Mór
This eighteenth-century stone-built house is situated halfway along the island of Inís Mór between Kilronan and the western village of Bun Gowla and is ideal for exploring this lovely island, nowhere being more than a comfortable one hour’s walking distance. Once the family home of the “Ferocious O’Flahertys” – and now to a much more welcoming local family – it has been recently renovated to the highest standards while keeping its old-style charm. The remarkable ancient fort of Dun Aengus is just a few minutes’ walk up the hill behind the house.
What to see and do on Inís Mór
The island of Inis Mór is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland, mostly for a day trip. Staying overnight allows you to experience the island at a less hurried pace. It is steeped in history and resembles an outdoor museum with over 50 different monuments of Christian, pre-Christian and Celtic mythological heritage. There isn’t far you can go before being somewhere of historical interest and little reason to question its’ importance in modern Irish Culture. Of course, you can also browse the locally made Aran jumpers – you’ll never see so much quality knitwear in one place – and end the day with some “craic” and live music in a traditional bar.
On your second day on the island, you’ll be met by a superb local guide, an island man of the Gealtacht and taken on a thrilling off-road tour in a specially adapted Land Rover. Your guide is filled with stories of the island and his and his family’s own personal history here. You’ll be guided well off the beaten track to take in some of the more difficult to reach wonders of Inis Mor.
Return by plane to the mainland and collect your car once again.
Dublin is now only a leisurely 4 hours away – although Rosslare and Belfast are slightly further. If you wish we can arrange an additional night’s stay near to the port or airport of your choosing so you end your holiday feeling well-rested.
This nine night, self-drive exploration includes stays on Achill Island, and Inís Mór, as well as a stay in Westport Co.Mayo with a day trip to Clare Island, and Clifden in Connemara, with a day trip to Inishbofin Island.
£950 per person for April & October, and £1055 per person for departures in May to September.
Prices based on two sharing double or twin ensuite rooms for nine nights on a bed & breakfast basis. Price includes ferry travel as foot passengers to Clare Island, Inishbofin Island, and return flights to Inis Mor, one of the Aran Islands, where you will enjoy a guided off-road experience as part of a small group.
Travel to Ireland
We would be delighted to book your travel to Ireland for this holiday.
We would recommend Dublin as your starting point, although it is also easy to come via Belfast or the port of Rosslare via the ferry from Fishguard in the south of Wales if bringing your own car. If you prefer to fly to Ireland, then you will need a hire car – we can arrange this for you if you wish.
Before your departure, you will receive personalised holiday information including full directions and recommended routes from your specified starting point, and suggestions on places to visit depending on your interests and our local knowledge to help you get the most from your holiday.
All Ireland itineraries and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels.
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This holiday can be arranged from April to October.
Availability is individually checked for a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest houses and other independent businesses, so please bear with us and we will respond in 1-2 working days.
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All our holiday prices include a service charge of £9 per person per night towards the costs we incur in researching, planning and designing your holiday.
We guarantee to refund this service charge if you believe that arranging your holiday through McKinlay Kidd has not met your expectations for value. All we ask is that you write to us within 7 days of your return and explain your reason for claiming the refund. This will ensure that we can improve the experience for all our future guests.
When I’m exploring a new part of the world car hire is usually one of the first things I book so I know how I’m getting from A to B, espec...
Seeing Ireland differently says it all: we go to places which it would not have occurred to us to visit, and every time it is an enriching experience.Richard & Margaret, Surrey, England