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One of the last wild areas of Ireland, Connemara is a broad peninsula to the west of Galway city, bounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean. Its name derives from “Conmhaicne Mara” (meaning: descendants of Con Mhac, of the sea). With dramatic coastlines, high mountains, sandy beaches, great walking and cycling, not to mention colourful villages such as Clifden and Roundstone, you won’t be short of diversions.
Gems don’t come much more hidden than this one. As you head through Clifden and out onto a single track road, the wild countryside and panoramic sea views open up in front of you. Arriving at your destination, the building looks quite simple, but on entering you will feel the cares of the world slip away. Wooden floors, natural fabrics, hand-made furniture and many sea-side trinkets give this guest house an exceptional atmosphere. Best of all are the breathtaking views out to the sea, islands and peninsulas from the many picture windows. Clodagh is an infectiously enthusiastic hostess, and will point you in the right direction for walks to empty, secret coves, as well as preparing excellent breakfasts and dinners from fresh, local produce. Whether it’s sunny or stormy during your visit, you might find it hard to leave this little haven.
There is so much to do in this small area you will have your work cut out deciding among the plentiful recommendations we’ll provide for your haliday. You could take a day-trip to the unspoilt Inishbofin Island, or a voyage through Galway Bay’s myriad islands on a stunning Galway Hooker, an historic sailing boat complete with distinctive red sail. Or remain on dry land and choose a guided coastal walk, hire an electric bike or simply enjoy some fine dining and great Irish music in Clifden – the choice will be yours.
Next you’ll be following the Wild Atlantic Way north out of Connemara and into fabulous County Mayo. Travel up through the Delphi Valley, through the towns of Louisburgh, Westport and Newport and take a drive round the island of Achill – easily accessible via a small bridge! This is a wonderful part of the route so allow plenty of time to enjoy it properly before arriving near the small town of Ballina and your next base.
This elegant Georgian manor house overlooks Lough Conn. The house is surrounded by mature woodland, through which paths run to the lake offering guests the ideal opportunity to stretch their legs in a peaceful setting. Your welcoming host, Susan, is a direct descendant of the original family who settled on the lands in the 1600’s. The family portraits, antique furniture, open fires, good food and wine all contribute to the pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. Rooms are luxurious and spacious and some offer wonderful views of the lake and parkland.
Mayo stands out as one of Ireland’s most scenic counties. But while you may gasp in awe at the craggy coastline that has been lashed by the powerful Atlantic, make sure to remember that there’s a lot more going on in Mayo. Ceide Fields is the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world while Croagh Patrick is where Ireland’s patron saint fasted for 40 days in 441AD. There’s an abundance of charming villages from beautifully situated Westport to the peaceful town of Cong.
Sligo sits proudly on Ireland’s west coast – a place symbolic with tradition and history, with friendly local people, great views, fantastic countryside and expansive beaches. To get here we recommend continuing north on the Wild Atlantic Way, maybe stopping to stretch your legs on one of the fabulous Atlantic surf strands along the way. Do arrive at your next guest house in good time – this is one you’ll really want to make the most of!
This magnificent country home has remained in the hands of the same family for over eight generations, making it one of the oldest continuously owned private homes in Ireland. The family are still hands-on running the estate, farming the land, managing a herd of deer to produce fine venison and now operating the house as an exquisite boutique guest house. Indeed it is highly likely that the owner himself will be there to welcome you. Bedrooms are individually decorated, full of character and historical interest – several with a four poster bed. With famous family ancestors featuring in magnificent oil paintings mounted on the walls and numerous heirlooms dotted around, you will really feel like you are experiencing Georgian life first hand. Downstairs there is a comfortable drawing room, with marvellous period furniture, ornaments and paintings. A great place to relax, and maybe read a book or newspaper. Dinner is served in a splendid dining room, with oak tables set with the family’s finest silver!
Sligo is a picturesque, historic and ancient county – whether you are inspired by the work of Yeats, visiting megalithic tombs, or walking among impressive mountains, round beautiful loughs or alongside the Atlantic roar of the surf beaches. Your hosts are a local family and have a wealth of knowledge on the local area and can provide you with detailed directions to make sure you easily find what you are looking for.
As you travel north further along the Wild Atlantic Way out of Sligo, very briefly past the distinctive mountains of County Lietrim, you enter one of Ireland’s most famous counties – Donegal. You are heading for a small spit of land, just short of Donegal town itself. This thin sliver of land, only a few hundred metres wide, strikes straight out from the mainland into the Atlantic – aptly named St John’s Point.
This fine guesthouse has a real maritime feel to it – with a ruined Castle to it’s front, set just back from the seashore and with a view out into the bay that you could ponder over for hours. Upstairs you will find large, and very comfortable modern bedrooms, with great bathrooms. Downstairs a well-stocked bar, open fire and splendid lounge area makes for a very relaxing stay.
What to see and do
Be it the enormous seacliffs of Slieve League, reputedly the highest in Europe, the woollen mills of Donegal Town or the fascinating replica thatched village at Glencolmcille heritage centre, your visit here will be full of great things to do and see.
You now continue northwards and we recommend a diversion through the stunning mountains of the Glenveagh national park, before descending to your final destination.
This is an impressive building with a distinctly country home feel to it, with crocquet on the lawn, wooden floors and dark oak panelled walls. Steeped in history, the lounges to left and right of the entrance provide the perfect place to stop and relax. Read a book while enjoying a cup of freshly ground coffee or linger over afternoon tea or a pre-dinner drink while recalling the highlights of your Irish holiday adventure. The old downstairs cellar has been converted into a warm and cosy bar area, serving a fantastic range of microbrewery real ales (as well as the mandatory ‘Black Stuff’). You can also order exquisite, stone baked pizzas made from fresh, local ingredients, including herbs from the hotel’s kitchen garden. This is a fun alternative to the fine restaurant, especially on a warm summer’s evening, as you can sit outside and enjoy it with a cold drink in hand. A blissful end to your Wild Atlantic Way journey!
You are now in striking distance of some of Donegal’s most popular attractions. You might decide to visit another island – Arranmore is the largest inhabited island in Donegal and a short 15 minute ferry crossing takes you on a great journey, passing through small channels between smaller deserted islands. Other options could include a day trip to the Inishowen peninsula and Malin Head – Ireland’s most northerly point – or maybe take a guided trip round the historic city walls of Derry/Londonderry.
Your tour of the Wild Atlantic Way at an end, choose to return direct to Dublin or Belfast, or extend your stay on the Causeway Coast of Northern Ireland.
This self-drive holiday covers the Wild Atlantic Way from Connemara in County Galway, then via Mayo, Sligo and onwards to two bases in the South and North of Donegal.
£1150 per person for April & October, £1230 per person for May, June & September, £1265 per person for July & August.
Prices are based on two sharing in ensuite twin or double rooms for ten nights on a bed & breakfast basis.
Add £365 per person to include return flights from London Heathrow or Gatwick to Dublin with Aer Lingus plus eleven days’ car hire.
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.
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.
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.
A well planned trip with good accommodation. Easy to follow and well informed guidance. Every one was very welcoming and most helpful.Angela & Terence, Middlesex, England
This was an experience we would not have missed. The scenery was stunning. Such a surprise to see such beautiful beaches. The people were so friendly,Su & Michael, Kent, England
This holiday is available from April until October.
To check the latest availability for this holiday complete the form below or call us. We will respond to your availability check within one working day if at all possible. Please bear with us on this - we work with a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest houses, and other independent businesses, ensuring that you have the chance to explore off the beaten track and really get under the skin of the destination.
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