Meet up with your local guide at the Galway Cathedral and hop on board a mini coach as we travel west into the scenic region of Connemara, famed for its wild and rugged landscapes and awe-inspiring scenery of glistening lakes, tumbling streams, desolate blanket bogs and craggy mountains.
Our first castle visit is to Aughnanure Castle. This castle lies in picturesque surroundings close to Lough Corrib and village of Oughterard. Built by the O’Flahertys, one of Connacht’s most notable lord families in 1500 and standing on what is a rocky island on the shores of Lough Corrib. This castle is a particularly well-preserved example of an Irish tower house. On this visit you will find the remains of a banqueting hall, a watch tower, an unusual double bawn and bastions and dry harbour. Grace O’Malley, the notorious west of Ireland sea pirate was married to Donal O’Flaherty.
We stop in the quaint village of Oughterard with its character thatched cottage pub for a short coffee break.
We then weave our way through the ever-changing landscapes of Connemara, with stops at the Quiet Man Bridge and the legendary Connemara Giant and on through the desolate Inagh Valley, which lies between the majestic Maumturk and Twelve Bens mountain ranges.
Our next castle stop is Kylemore Abbey, first founded by English industrialist Mitchell Henry as a present to his wife and now a Benedictine monastery. The next few hours are up to you to explore this romantic abbey, its Victorian walled gardens and Gothic church. Choose to treat yourself to refreshments at the onsite café for lunch.
We then depart Kylemore Abbey and head to the capital of Connemara, the colourful market town of Clifden. En-route (weather permitting) we join the famous Sky Road (Wild Atlantic Way – Discovery Point), renowned worldwide for its heart stopping twists and turns, viewing the ruins of Clifden castle, as the road swoops and soars above the Atlantic Ocean. The views and photo opportunities from this ‘Discovery Point’ are panoramic.
After departing Clifden we travel to Ballynahinch Castle. This castle is steeped in history and is connected to one of the 14 tribes of Galway the Martin family. Richard Martin was the founder of the RSPCA. Another Martin was Edward Martin who was very friendly with WB Yeats and Lady Gregory and later went on to establish the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. We take a short break to explore the castle and estate grounds including the newly restored walled garden before sitting down to some delicious castle tea & scones.
We finally make our way through storybook villages, passing green fields marked by dry stone walls, with sheep, cows, Connemara ponies and blanket bogs on our way back to Galway City and drop off.