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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.