Hiking on the West coast of Ireland offers you the chance to experience a spectacular range of Irish landscapes on scenic routes that crisscross the rugged region. This unique part of the country encompasses the Burren National Park with its stark limestone landscape, Connemara with its seaside coves and shimmering black lakes, and the wilderness of the Aran Islands.
The Burren – covers an area of some 260 square kilometers and is famous for its bare limestone pavements dissected by deep crevices and traversed by countless stone walls. Surprisingly, this bizarre and apparently hostile environment is a botanist’s paradise as around ¾ of Ireland’s plant species are found in the Burren (more than any other region).
The Aran Islands – Inisheer, (near island), Inishmaan, (middle island), and Inishmore, (big island) are unique amongst the islands of Ireland. Geologically they are like the Burren, many of the fields consisting of little more than bare limestone. The islanders have eked out a living by improving the soil over generations with sand and seaweed. Aran’s flora is as rich and exotic as that of the Burren. Aran is also a bastion of Irish culture. Irish is still the everyday language of most islanders, making it the strongest Gaeltacht in the country. Many traditions that have been lost on the mainland have been maintained here. It also has a wealth of archaeological and historical remains, notably its prehistoric stone forts and Early Christian sites. Aran has been a mecca for scholars and discerning travelers ever since John Millington Synge’s brilliant depiction of the islanders’ life in The Playboy of the Western World.
Connemara – is an imposing landscape of lakes, moorland, and rugged mountains. It has some of the most extensive areas of blanket bog in Europe and is home to many heathlands and bogland plants such as the insectivorous sundew and butterwort and a rich variety of heaths and heathers. The two main mountain groups – the Twelve Bens of Connemara and the Maamturk Mountains – are separated by the deep valley in which Lough Inagh lies. One of the most typical Connemara scenes is to see the jagged peaks glistening with quartz reflected in the still waters of a bogland pool.
How long is needed to experience this region?
If you want to experience all 3 regions our 8-days tours are definitely the trips we would recommend however if you don’t have that amount of time we offer a shorter 3 day and 5-day trips, exclusively to the Burren region.
Getting to the start?
If you are choosing to hike on the West Coast of Ireland, then flying into Shannon International Airport would be the best options with the colour coastal town of Lahinch serving as your starting point.
The best way to get to Lahinch would be taking a bus from the airport to the town of Ennis and from there a connecting bus to Lahinch, travel time being 1 hour 15 minutes.
Lahinch is a perfect spot to start your West coast adventure and if you have a day spare to add to your trip, we recommend spending it here especially if you are into golfing as Lahinch boasts some of the best golf courses in the whole country. The shape of the resort creates Atlantic breakers that also attracts surfing and canoeing enthusiasts from all over the world.
Hike along the majestic Cliffs of Moher
Your first hiking adventure takes you to one of the must-see attractions of Ireland, the stunning Cliffs of Moher. You will be driven a short distance from your B&B to the southern end of the cliffs known as “Hags Head”. From here you will walk along these amazing Cliffs to reach the Cliffs of Moher Centre. From the Cliffs Centre you will continue along the cliff top to the village of Doolin for the next two nights
Doolin is the home of traditional Irish music, with many of its pub playing music to the late hours of the day so this would be a great opportunity to have pint and have a sing along.
Hiking the Burren Way
Today’s hike gives you a true introduction to the Burren landscape of carboniferous limestone. You will be transferred to the start of your walk at Feenagh, on the Black Head Loop. From here you follow the “Burren Way” along old green roads into the heart of the Burren, with wonderful limestone pavements and walls all around you. There are fantastic views of the Aran Islands as you continue, passing along the foot of Slieve Elva as you make your way back to Doolin. With views across Galway Bay and an array of flowers at your feet this is an inspiring hike.
Sailing off to the Aran Islands
Today you will set sail out on to the Atlantic Ocean from Doolin pier to the largest of the Aran Islands, ‘Inis Mor’. After checking into your accommodation and settling into your new surroundings you will have the opportunity to hike a 8kms circuit which takes you to a wonderful Promontory Fort known as Dún Dúchathair or The Black Fort & then follows south east to bring you back into the townland of Kilronan.
In evening we recommend have a pint and a meal at Joe Watty’s the best pub on the Ireland
Exploring the Island
A great hike awaits you on this day. From your accommodation you will have the opportunity to walk to the world-famous cliff top stone fort of Dun Aonghasa. The stone chevaux-de-frise of this fort are still visible and the whole experience has been described … “as the most magnificent barbaric monument in Europe”.
A fun fact for you to know about the island, Gaelic is still spoken as the everyday language of this island people.
Lough lnagh to Leenane (Connemara)
Today you will return to the mainland in the morning taking a ferry to Rossaveel. From here you will be taken to Lough Inagh, the start of your first hike in the Connemara region. Continuing on the Western Way, you will walk along the foot of the Maamturk Mountains through Letterbreckaun to Tullyconor to the shores of the spectacular Killary Harbour to finish in the little village of Leenane.
Hiking along Ireland’s only Fjord
Your final hike is a glorious walk taking you along a quiet road to reach the western tip of Killary Harbour – Ireland’s only fjord. The road finishes at Rossroe Pier overlooking Killary Harbour and also where there is a lot of storage for Fish Farming people. You will then be following along an old “Famine Road” once used by people who lived & worked along the shores of the fjord. Continuing along this old track leads you onto another quiet road, before you re-join the Western Way & follow this NW to the village of Leenane.
All good things must come to an end and after your final Irish breakfast you will depart the magnificent Connemara region. From Leenane, if you are returning to Galway City for onward journey, a taxi is required to take you to Maam Cross to join the main Galway-Clifden bus route. From Galway you can then take a bus that will take you directly back to Shannon Airport.