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Last updated : Nov 2009
Northwest Ireland
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County Clare

More than 2000 stone forts dot the landscape of Co Clare, a place that would be virtually unknown were it not for The Burren, a beautiful limestone district overlooking Galway Bay, and formed around a barony of that name. More than three quarters of the county is fringed by water, and the main activities are fishing, farming and tourism.

Ennis is on a bend in the River Fergus, a place of narrow, winding streets and the ruins of Ennis Friary.

The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most dramatic sights, extending for 8km or 5 miles and rising to more than 200m or 650ft above the sea, and host to colonies of seabirds. The Burren Coast is great for those interested in geology and outstanding landscapes. Limestone pavements shelter unique flora that grow in their fissures. The Burren Display Centre is at Kilfenora.

County Galway

Co Galway is a place of contrasts from bogland and rich farming, to mountains, loughs and stone cottages. Long valleys, sublime hills and vast golden beaches are the hallmarks of the county, which reaches from the banks of the Shannon to the region in the west known as Connemara.

Galway stretches along the Corrib River, divided by it into the fisherman’s village of Claddagh and the medieval town of ancient streets and quaysides. This is a vibrant city and the centre of trade for this part of Ireland for centuries. Today, it is one of the fastest growing towns in Europe, with a fascinating mix of modernity and Celtic culture.

The Aran Islands are swathes of limestone defending the approach to Galway. Legend has it that a tribe expelled from the mainland inhabited them, and they have been inhabited for centuries. Clifden lies at the western edge of the region known as Connemara, a place of lakes, bogs, mountains and moors, and a coastline etched by deep bays and inlets. Letterfrack is a village laid out by Quakers, one of a number of settlements along the coast. Connemara National Park Visitor Centre is nearby.

County Roscommon

Fertile and green Roscommon has numerous lakes and rivers, its eastern boundary formed by the Shannon, largely by Lough Ree.

The centre of the county is given to cattle and sheep farming, the east and west runs to bogland. There are a number of archaeological sites. Lough Key Forest Park is laid out with gardens and trails.

The ruins of Norman castle dominate the town of Roscommon. Not far are the remains of a Dominican Friary. Strokestown Park House is a Palladian mansion with original 18th-century furniture.

County Mayo

Wide sandy beaches and high mountains, Mayo is a quieter version of Connemara, rising to the sacred mountain of Croagh Patrick, which is an annual place of pilgrimage. Mayo is one of Ireland’s loveliest counties, extending from Clew Bay to the Corraun Peninsula and Achill Island, and beyond, to the windswept Mullet Peninsula. This northern part of Mayo is virtually unknown to most travellers.

The delightful little town of Westport contrasts remarkably with the wild countryside all around. Ideal for walkers visiting Croagh Patrick, Westport sits along the Carrowbeg River, exuding a busy air from the elegance of its Georgian designs. The Westport Sea Angling Festival and the Horse Fair are great annual attractions. The sea angling in Clew Bay is said to be the finest in Europe.

Achill Island, connected by a bridge, is best explored on foot, from the high cliffs at Achill Head, to the lovely beaches at Keem Strand and Trawmore Strand. The Atlantic Drive is the best way to view the island by car and begins from the village of Mulrany. Along the north Mayo coast is the archaeological site Céide Fields, supported by an imaginative visitor centre that explains the 5000 years of settlement in this part of Ireland.

In the southeast of the county, the town of Knock has an internationally recognised Marian shrine. About one and a half million pilgrims visit the shrine annually.
Useful travel Links
North West Tourism official web site of North West Tourism