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March 2015 in Western Ireland

We are leaving an organized tour and continuing on our own from Bunratty Castle Hotel on a Sunday. We are interested in traditional music sessions and some sightseeing. This is our tentative plan.

1. Travel to Ennis and visit Crusty's music shop. On to Doolin, possibly for overnight.

2. Spend the day and possibly overnight on Aran Islands.
3. Galway
4. Westport via Clifden and Connemara.
5. Travel to Sligo
6. Travel to County Cavan (researching that possibly family came from that County. Would like to find this out for sure before committing to go there.)
7. Back to Dublin to fly home (Will have spent time there with tour.)

This is our first trip to Ireland. Not sure how many days we would need to cover this itinerary! Maybe we are trying to do too much. Which location has the best sessions? Maybe we could leave off a city?

Posted by
9363 posts

A few thoughts:

Doolin is considered the center of trad music in the west, but in March (shoulder season) you might not find a session every night. It's more likely that you will find music Thurs-Sat nights. Will you be seeing the Cliffs of Moher during your tour?

Have an alternate plan for your Aran Islands time in case the weather doesn't allow you to go. Bad weather and/or rough water (both possible in March) might keep the ferries from going.

From Galway to Westport via Clifden and Connemara (the national park? the whole area?) is about a three hour drive with NO stops. Allow time to see what you are going to see. What do you want to see in Westport and Sligo?

Posted by
6 posts

Nancy, we are traveling with a band tour until Sunday, March 22. With them we are doing Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, Killarney, and the traditional things on most tours starting in Dublin and moving S and W. Sounds like we are hitting Doolin on the wrong days for music. May have to change itinerary.

We enjoy getting to know the locals and quaint shops. Music is our top priority, but we are not ones to stay up half the night! Of course we could sleep in… Are sessions held in Galway all nights after the 22nd of March? We could go to Galway first and travel to Aran Islands from there and then do Doolin, but backtracking it seems.

We wanted to go to Sligo and Westport (Chieftains) because of music. We've heard Connemara is beautiful. Had thought about going up to Donegal, but that seems quite a bit out of the way.

Maybe I should ask where good sessions are held! We are wide open with this time on our own - probably about a week.

Maybe Ennis would be good as well. Anybody know if Crusty's Music Shop is open on Sunday. Or is there another shop we should visit as well?

Not sure if we are going to rent a car or what. Appreciate your ideas! Our first trip to Ireland!

Posted by
6 posts

I play hammered dulcimer, but not bringing it with us, if that gives anybody any ideas. I don't think there are many in Ireland.

Posted by
9363 posts

Shoulder season is shoulder season all over Ireland, not just in Doolin. I have traveled in Ireland several times at that time of year, and only found music Thurs-Sat in Arklow, Lahinch, Doolin, etc. Larger cities might have more opportunities, but I didn't experience that. March 22 is still shoulder season, too, so I don't know what you will find in the various cities.

Connemara is beautiful, but it is a whole area. If you are traveling from Galway to Clifden, you might detour to Roundstone on the way. There is a famous bodhran maker there whose name escapes me now (but it's a small town). The Sky Road from Clifden toward the national park and Kylemore Abbey is wonderful.

Posted by
235 posts

You totally need a car!!! Durty Nelly's is across the street from Bunratty Castle and they usually have Trad music. Matt Malloy's in Westport has great Trad sessions so it is definitely worth the trip if they have it. You should contact them. I agree about Sky Road and the Kylemore Abbey route. Beautiful. Also if you have time the R335 backroad from just past Leenaun North through Louisburgh to Westport is longer than the N59 but desolate and an amazing scenic ride. Lotta driving but well worth it if you can do it. I would cut Sligo unless you have a compelling reason to go there. Also, some of the best Traditional sessions I have seen in Ireland just happen unscheduled when locals show up. They play no matter what the month or weather. You can just stop in any pub in a town and ask or look for a sign outside or in the window. We ran into one driving through on a Sunday night, in a small pub near Slieve League, in the middle of nowhere, when we noticed a small sign in the window. "Trad Music 6:30". It seemed like everyone within 20 miles was there, young, old, families and it turned into a music night to remember. Keep your eyes open.

Posted by
199 posts

Pay attention to the weather forecast for the days that you plan to drive in Connemara. We couldn't see much (because of the weather) of what should have been a scenic drive when we were there last year in August.

Posted by
6 posts

We really appreciate all these thoughts! I think we'll skip Sligo.

It sounds like so much depends on the weather… Custy's replied and are not open on Sundays. They recommended Old Ground Hotel near their shop. May stay there two nights, evaluate weather, ideally spending next night in Doolin, then ferry to Aran islands. May not spend the night on island as originally thought?

Then take ferry from the islands to Galway for a night or two. This means we would try to do without a car until we get to Galway or start the drive to Westport via Clifden and Connemara (maybe spending night somewhere along the way). The bohran shop sounds fun!

Still up in the air about County Cavan. Depends on what genealogy research turns up, if anything. May travel from Westport to Dublin for flight home. Thanks!

Posted by
760 posts

Hi from Wisconsin,
Same old song from me, 'less is more'. My last March visit was great. We stayed in a very small area near Clifden for most of our 8 days. The weather was rugged, snow, winds, sleet, and rain. It took a day for our cottage to warm up. Leaving the cold blustery weather to step into a pub...that IS living. The first time I have seen the "mountains" of Connemara dressed in white.

We had planned to visit the Aran Is. but the winds were too high for plane or ferry. Keep your schedule flexible.

Two cities in Ireland that have never been good to me are Limerick and Galway. Been to Ireland off and on since 1973. My best night in Limerick was in a church, sitting in the room behind the altar having a drink with the young priest. Other than that...yuck. And Galway holds almost nothing worth seeing, not even the cathedral. You spend a lot of time and effort navigating the streets and finding parking to see, 'not much'.

County Clare is worth a long few days, Doolin is on the west of Clare if I recall correctly. South of Ballyvaughan is a lovely drive and some nice megalithic monuments. Connemara is lovely and rugged. ...try buying some Connemara Carbonara. A butcher in Oughterard, on your way from Galway to Clifden, slow cures lamb. He has won awards for his meats. His wife ran (runs) a B&B and you got a full butcher's breakfast with her. His dry cured lamb is a bit like Italian prosciutto. And a local restaurant was using scraps to make Connemara Carbonara. Yum.
less is more.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
6 posts

Hi Wisconsin, from Iowa! Appreciate your ideas and thoughts about Clare and the weather! We'll have to plan accordingly and be flexible it sounds like…

Thanks!