Connemara Drive in Co. Mayo
This 174 km driving route brings you in the heart of Connemara. On your day trip you will discover that the beauty of Connemara starts next door to Westport!
After 8km you can stop at Murrisk, in the shadow of Croagh Patrick, and climb the holy mountain, locally known as “ The Reek”, starting from the carpark. Directly opposite is the National Famine Memorial crafted in bronze by John Behan. This dramatic sculpture depicts a "Coffin Ship" with skeleton bodies in the rigging. Behind the memorial, on the seashore, is the Augustinian Friary.
Continue along the R335 and look out for signposts, small roads lead to lovely beaches such as Carrowmore, Silver Strand and Carrownisky. As you leave Louisburgh, turn left and follow the signpost for Leenane.
Now the scenery changes to windswept bogland with Croagh Patrick on the left. The narrow road brings you towards the mountains: the Sheaffry Hills to the left and the Mweelrea Mountains to the right.
Then you will pass Doo Lough , a long dark lake set in a stunning location. Along the road is the Doo Lough Famine Memorial, a plain stone cross engraved with the words ‘Doolough Tragedy 1849’. It is a reminder of one of the blackest events in Irish history , the Doo Lough Tragedy, occurred on 31st March 1849 during the Great Famine. Drive along this dramatic valley and reach Delphi, named for its similarity to the Greek Delphi.
After a few kilometres from Bundorraha Bridge you will reach Killary Harbour and enjoy breathtaking views of its north shore.
A number of the scenes in Jim Sheridan's 1990 movie 'The Field' - based on the play by John B Keane - were filmed here.
Continue along this scenic drive until Aasleagh Falls, a beautiful waterfall at the head of Killary Harbour. Here Erriff River tumbles down a couple of metres before flowing into the sea; the scenery is wild and unforgettable. Stop and take a short stroll along the river.
Turn right on the N59 for Clifden and Leenane, now the waters of Killary stay on the right and you get a different view of the fjord. As you enter the little picturesque village of Leenane, turn left on the R336 for Maam.
Now you are driving through Connemara towards the towering Maamturk Mountains.
At Maam Bridge turn right over Failmore River and continue for Maam Cross, then turn right and follow the signpost for Kylemore Abbey on the N59.
Pass Derryclare Lake, Recess and Ballinahinch and reach Clifden, “the capital of Connemara”. At Clifden don’t forget to drive along the Sky Road. This stunning route is an 11 km circular route along Clifden Bay and Streamstown Bay with spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean, Clifden Castle, the islands of Inishturk, Turbot and the town. The beauty and range of scenery that can be seen from the Sky Road is one of the best Connemara's tourist attractions.
Just before Clifden take the road to the right and follow for Kylemore Abbey and Inishbofin. Then turn for Cleggan and Inishbofin ferry, keep following the signs for Westport and Kylemore Abbey and you will reach Letterfrack. Here is the Connemara National Park which showcases very well what the real Connemara is and protects a large chunk of the ecological and scientific resources of this land.
Then you will come to Kylemore Abbey, set on the Kylemore Lough shore at the heart of a 15,000 acre estate. Here you can stop and have a walk along the beautiful lake shores of Pollacappul Lake and Maladrolaun Lake or in the peaceful woodland.
Now the road brings you back to Killary Harbour and, after the village, back into Mayo and towards Westport following the N59. This scenic drive rolls through the solitary Errif Valley, over the Errif River with the Partry Mountains to the right and Sheaffry Hills to the left as an impressive backdrop.
After a few miles you are back to Westport.