The Connemara area of Galway and the Burren in Co. Clare are two very popular tourist areas within easy access of our house. Connemara is one of only three Gaeltacht (native Irish-speaking) areas left in the country and is widely known as a preserve of Irish culture – language, rural lifestyle, and areas of scenic beauty. The Burren, is the most beautiful Karst region in Western Europe. With its rugged limestone features and untamed, wild protected environment, it is especially popular with those who are looking for a unique landscape. Within easy access of Galway City are the three Aran Islands. The largest of these is the site of Dun Aengus, a unique Celtic promontory fort on the cliffs of the Atlantic. The Islands are in fact covered in similar smaller forts and other prehistoric settlements, of interest to anyone with a liking for history, just as the Burren is particularly of interest to those with a liking for geological history. Lough Corrib, one of Ireland’s premier boating and fishing lakes is also within an accessible radius of the house.
In contrast, Galway city itself is a bustling, vibrant city – the cultural and tourist capital of Ireland outside Dublin. It is a compact city, probably quite small by international standards, but this, along with its partially restored old city walls and winding sidestreets, simply adds to the atmosphere in summer. During the summer, Galway hosts an Arts Festival, certainly worth a visit if you happen to be in the vicinity at the right time – the carnival atmosphere, which accompanies it, adds even more to the tourist atmosphere. The Galway (horse!) Races also draw large crowds during the summer and the city is to be avoided over the bank holiday weekend on which they are held – unless you decide to go to the races of course! Salthill, on the outskirts of the city, on the shore, has the air of a seaside resort, and is also popular with many visitors.
Further afield, Co. Mayo, to the North of Galway, is another recommended area for tourists. Of particular note are the beautiful, unspoiled natural areas of Clew Bay, and Achill Island. Achill is another island battered with Atlantic winds – and a disproportionate amount of rain in winter, but in summer its soaring cliffs and sheltered inlets swarm with tourists. It is an excellent area for those interested in hillwalking or cycling. The world-famous Foxford Woollen Mills are also situated in Mayo, as well as another picturesque coastal tourist town, Westport.
If you happen to be interested in the works of W.B. Yeats, Sligo, approx. 2 to 2.5 hrs. from Galway, is another possible destination? The landscape is dotted with areas mentioned in his poetry, and the county has beautiful woodland, mountain and lakeside walks and fabulous beaches.
In general, anywhere you visit in the West or North-west of Ireland, you will also be assured plenty of golf courses, if you happen to like this sport (Sligo has some of the most renowned golf courses in Ireland), and pubs which form the lively backbone of Irish social life. Most of these are restaurant-cum-pubs which serve reasonable food at much more reasonable prices than the restaurant-only establishments. Nearly all areas are well served with B&B facilities.