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Connemara & C. Donegal.. How to split our time?

Hi Ireland Forum!

We have spent a lot of time sorting out our trip that may ... or may not happen. But planning is half of the fun and if it doesn’t work out we will have it for another time.

We have the first half of our trip organized with stops in Kilkenny, Kinsale, Kenmare, & Dingle. We will have one night in Doolin and planned on skipping through Galway in favor of a stay somewhere in Connemara and eventually up to C. Donegal. We have a total of 7 nights left for this portion of the trip.

We have considered 2 nights Clifden with 2 nights Westport. Leaving us with 3 nights somewhere up in C. Donegal.

Or we could do 2 nights Clifden 1 night Westport giving us 4 nights in C. Donegal before heading back to Dublin for our last night.

We love wild scenery and historical sites. Enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities. If you have been to both of these how would you divide these 7 nights? Thanks for your feedback!!

Posted by
1835 posts

I think you're short-changing Clifden with only 2 nights (ie one full day) there. With so much to see and do in the area I'd add a night or two in order to do it justice. Would be a particular shame to have come all that way and not devote a day to either the Aran Islands or Inish Bofin. I personally would suggest using the couple of nights you have budgeted for Westport and applying them to Clifden.
Given your interests I'd then suggest continuing on to Sligo for a couple of nights to give you a chance to explore Carrowmore just to the south of the town. It has the largest collection of megalithic tombs in all of Europe, many of which require a bit of trekking to get to, but it's a fascinating place and well worth your time assuming that you have the interest. Some of the hikes can be a bit sloppy in the wet, however, so you need to be prepared for that.
The big headliner in Donegal is Slieve League - the cliffs there are higher and more dramatic than those at Moher, and with about 1% of the crowds. We also enjoyed the nearby Glencolumkille Folk Village. Pairing a visit to the two would make for a very pleasant day out.
A couple of hours further up the road is Glenveigh National Park, which features a 19th century castle and gardens. It was the scene of one of the last of the great evictions back in the 1860's. There's a very pretty walk along the river from the castle to the head of the glen that's worth doing. I guarantee you'll have it all to yourself.
There are spectacular seascapes all along the coastline in Donegal - it's a beautiful place to just meander and follow the rural roads wherever they happen to lead you. We based ourselves in Dunfanaghy, but there are plenty of other options. The scenery inland is quite pretty too. You'll pass thru valleys and glens that are virtually deserted ... it really is Ireland's Wild West. About the only activity will be some of the locals out harvesting peat from the never-ending bogs in the area. If you stop and show an interest most will be happy to explain the process to you, or just have a chat - the Irish do like to talk.

Posted by
107 posts

Hi Robert-

Thanks again for your feedback. We toiled with the Aran Islands but after much research my husband doesn’t have the interest. I think we have visited several islands and while I am sure they are breathtaking and enjoyable it didn’t appeal. We living in Florida really enjoy mountains and hilly scenery so have decided to give the Aran islands a miss this time. Plus the considerable amount of effort to get to and worry of weather just isn’t something we want this trip.

I wish we had more time but we don’t. The 20 nights is what we have which is more than most, and we have given 7 nights to this portion of the trip. That being said we could do 3 nights in Clifden and one in Westport or skip Westport altogether in favor of heading north. We had considered with two nights in Westport using our day there to either visit more of Connemara or head up to Achill island for the day. Achill seems to have more of the scenery we enjoy. If we had four nights in Donegal cutting the Connemara portion down to 3 nights we would perhaps split the time into two bases or just pick one base for all four. We can not add or take away from anything else. We tend to enjoy castles and historical homes more than megalithic period history so Glenveigh National Park did hold some interest for me. At one point I even considered skipping Clifden altogether with thoughts of fitting in N. Ireland but after your previous comments decided to keep N Ireland for another trip. It was mentioned on another board that we shouldn’t spend anymore than 2 nights in Connemara but I felt it deserved the minimum of 3. Oh to have more time! I am sure we will be back some day. Any other feedback is greatly appreciated.

Posted by
4162 posts

Our visit to Slieve League was in a fairly moderate but steady rainstorm, with low clouds and mist, so we didn’t see the full aspect of the cliffs, and didn’t go for any hike. The Giant’s Desk and Chair rock formations out in the sea were interesting, but after a few minutes, we drove on to our B&B. We also had a Dunfanaghy base for 3 days, but if you didn’t want to drive that far north, here’s one thought:

Not an Aran island, but in County Sligo, we stayed 2 nights on Achill Island. It’s connected to the mainland by a bridge, so there aren’t such access questions. Maybe you’ll visit while staying in Westport, but it was a great place for us to stay. There are great hikes and climbs on both the east and west side of the big island, scenic drives, a nice little beach on the far west side, and an evocative famine village ghost town, abandoned by its residents long ago.

Posted by
1835 posts

Not sure if I mentioned this before, but you might want to pick up a copy of "Back Roads Ireland" to help with your planning. It contains a number of scenic drives and off the beaten path meanders to some of the lesser known sites in Ireland - we found it particulary helpful when sorting out our own first itinerary to Connemara and Donegal many years ago.
Can usually find used copies on Amazon for just a few dollars. It's a great resource, in fact it's the only publication we bring with us on our own driving trips.

Posted by
2640 posts

Thank you for such great information on this northwest quadrant of Ireland, which we've also been hoping to visit.

However, we are more "wimps" when it comes to hiking (impossible for my dear husband) and dizzying cliffs (having had vertigo, I don't want to have it ever again). Our interests are more in the towns and villages (e.g., Belleek for the famous pottery), also castles and similar historic places.

Robert, you seem to have great familiarity with this area. Any suggestions for visitors like us who are less athletic? In any case we will seek out a copy of the book you've recommended.

Posted by
779 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,
People talk about days in a location. Is arriving on Monday and leaving on Tuesday two days, one day, or none. I count it as none. Arriving on Monday, having Tuesday in and around the location, and leaving on Wednesday is one full day.

Clifden is a historic market town and certainly worth 2 days. The surrounding area is quite beautiful. Westport is a planned city, beautiful but not the organic rough and tumble early 19th century town that Clifden is. A stay in Westport of two nights is plenty.

By the way, head out of Galway toward Oughterard. Don't go along the coast toward Inverin. This flies in the face of conbention of hugging the coast. But the drive to Inverin is a waste of good time. Things get 'Conamaraish' after Oughterard. Also, if you go to Cong, Cong is as far east as you want to go. The east side of the lakes is not worth the time. If you use a Google map of the Clifden area, there are four tan areas. Spending your time near them is the best.

One last thought. IF you are going to buy an Irish Knit sweater...your opportunity is in Galway at O'Maille's. Many sweaters offered in Ireland today are loomed, or hand knit in China and in pieces so they can be assembled in Ireland. Hearing that takes some of the romance away. An Irish sweater hand knit by an Irish person will set you back a lot, compared to the Chinese/Irish assembled sweaters. How do I know this. A shop in Clifden. We looked for hours over several days in her shop. Eventually she told us that if we wanted a real Irish sweater we had to go to this place in Galway. We did as we headed back to Shannon airport. It was worth it. It has been a while since we have been in Ireland, but be en garde.

wayne iNWI