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Ireland: What to Do and Where to Stay in Clare and Galway in a Week

Ireland: What to Do and Where to Stay in Clare and Galway in a Week

Old May 15th, 2009, 12:47 PM
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Ireland: What to Do and Where to Stay in Clare and Galway in a Week

I am planning a trip to the west coast of Ireland in mid-September (September 17-23) and would very much welcome and appreciate any comments or suggestions on my proposed itinerary, not-to-be missed spots along the way, and, especially, hotels and B&B en route. On previous visits I have driven south from Shannon Airport to the Dingle Peninsula, the Ring of Kerry, Kenmare, Kinsale, Cork, etc. This time I want to drive north from Shannon in order to see a part of the country I have never seen.
First, just a few words about myself, which might help on the suggestion side. I am 68 years old, of Irish descent (my grandparents were from West Clare) and will be traveling alone. I will be renting a car; I have driven fairly extensively in England, Australia and Ireland, and so am somewhat accustomed to driving “on the wrong side of the road.” My interests are primarily scenery and history (though I love rocky and windswept islands and so the Aran Islands are on my route).
I will arrive in Shannon at about 6 a.m. on an overnight flight from New York City. I can generally sleep on planes and want to make the best use of my time, so I am planning to drive directly to the Cliffs of Moher, and spend the night (Night #1; September 17) at Lisdoonvarna or Doolin (hopefully taking in some music at night).
The next day I would drive through the Burren, passing through Kilfenora, Ballyvaughan and Kinvarra, and hopefully arriving by late afternoon at Galway, where I would walk the streets of the old city and spend the night (Night #2; September 18).
The following morning I would drive to Rossaveel and take the ferry to Inishmore. I would plan to take time exploring the island and spend overnight there (Night #3; September 19).
The next day, I would take an early ferry back to the mainland and drive to Clifden, stopping at Padraig Pearse’s cottage, the Connemara Heritage & History Centre, and at the visitor centre in the Connemara National Park. I would spend the night (Night #4; September 20) in Clifden.
The following morning I would drive to Kylemore Abbey, and then along N59 to Killary Harbor and then towards Leenane, turning north to take the road to Louisburgh. If the ferry is still running at that time of year and depending on the weather, I will consider taking it out to Clare Island. I also want to visit, time allowing, the Aasleagh waterfall and Croagh Patrick. I will plan to arrive at Westport in the late afternoon and spend the night there (Night #5, September 21).
The next day, I will drive first to Turlough to see the Museum of Country Life, and then doubleback to Castlebar, and from there south, stopping at some of the following: Ballintober Abbey, Cong and the Ashford Castle (almost certainly), Thoor Ballylee, and perhaps some other ruins and castles. My objective will be Newmarket-on-Fergus, where I intend to spurge and spend my last night in Ireland at the Dromoland Castle (Night #6, September 22).

I will relax the following morning and enjoy the accommodations before leaving for Shannon Airport to catch a 4 p.m. flight to Glasgow.

I very much regret that, in all likelihood, I will not on this trip be able to get to Achill Island and further north into County Mayo. I have looked at various alternatives, but I (a) don’t want to spend all of my time in a car and (b) do want to have time to enjoy the scenery and attractions.
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Old May 16th, 2009, 01:00 AM
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Are you aware that the Matchmaking Festival in and around Lisdoonvarna takes place annually from mid-September thru early October?? The Falls Hotel may be fully booked that time of year.

You appear to have a pretty 'full plate,' with your plans: I'm not particularly interested in the Aran Islands; If it were me, I would probably schedule a visit to Knock Shrine (Mayo) in lieu of that (I see you have Croagh Patrick in your plan). And if my Grandparents were from west Clare, I would try to find out where, and spend a little time there. The 'locals' would welcome you like they do me: "How long since you've been Home??"
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Old May 16th, 2009, 01:32 AM
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Knock instead of Aran? Not a choice that many would favour.
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Old May 16th, 2009, 05:50 AM
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Have to agree about Aran vs. Knock, having been to both. Sounds like you will love your Aran Islands venture. I guess if anything I'd wonder if one night in Galway is enough; some good music there as well at the Quays and elsewhere.
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Old May 17th, 2009, 02:16 PM
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My apologies to Padraig and annw: my recommendation may have been strongly influenced by the fact that pelican9840 would just be in the Republic less than a week; and I think there may be a better use of his/her days than going to the Aran Islands and staying overnight there. Not a tour I would set up for a client!

"... My interests are primarily scenery and history (though I love rocky and windswept islands and so the Aran Islands are on my route)."

There are Islands one can drive to in less than an hour from Galway City (i.e., Carraroe & Costello, for example). And you can get the 'Island feel' driving up thru Connemara all the way from Ross a'Veal to Westport.

As fro suggesting Knock Shrine: pelican 9840 has Westport and Castlebar on their itinerary as well as Croagh Patrick. Knock Shrine might involve less physical exercise than climbing Croagh Patrick; and it's less than 2-hours from Castlebar.

You want 'Rocky and windswept?' Go to the Cliffs of Moher
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Old May 17th, 2009, 02:45 PM
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There's no need to apologise for having an opinion different from mine.

I know the islands at Carraroe very well: Eanach Mheain, Lettermore, Gorumna, Lettermullen, and I love visiting them. But they have lost some of their island identity because they are connected to the mainland and to one another by causeways. It really does make a difference.

Inismore, on the other hand, has a character that is quite different, and I think it magic.

Unless you go for devotional reasons, I think that Knock is one of the most unappealing places in Ireland -- tacky.
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Old May 17th, 2009, 06:49 PM
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Thanks to all three of you for your replies. My paternal grandfather (whom I never knew) was born in Lissycasey on May 14, 1868. Though he came from a large family, he and all of his siblings emigrated either to the U.S. or Australia. I was in Lissycasey nearly twenty years ago, and saw a lot of gravestones with the family name, so I feel no real need to go back. Like many of their generation, my parents (both born in Massachusetts) talked very little about their heritage; as far as they were concerned, they were Americans, period.

I have been working on a more detailed itinerary that will include tentative accomodations. I will undoubtedly list more places than I am likely to actually get to, but as least that way I will be making deliberate choices and trade-offs. I really don't want to be carrying four or five guide books with me on the trip (especially because I am going to both Ireland and Scotland), so I am trying to consult them all now. If any of you have views on which one or two are the best on Ireland, I would love to get them. On many previous trips, I have found the Rough Guides to be quite good, but I realize that, for any given country, which guidebook is best depends on the knowledge and expertise of the author rather than the identity of the publisher.

As for the Matchmaking Festival, since I am currently not married, perhaps I should spend all of my time in Lisdoonvarna!
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Old May 18th, 2009, 01:04 AM
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Padraig: You made me remember an incident that occurred in Carraroe as I was walking from the (former) Best Western to the Bus Station to catch a Bus back to Ross a'Veal. It started to rain; I took a yellow nylon rain jacket (like the Gardai wear) out of my day-pack and put it on. An elderly gentleman spoke to me in Irish; it almost brought tears to my eyes to have to respond that I didn't speak Irish. We had been taught our prayers in Gaelic when we were small children, but that was long ago.

Pelican9840: I sent my favorite Guidebook (includes a Road Atlas) to a friend in NYC who is taking a family trip this Summer. It's apparently published for Aer Lingus. It's a magazine-size booklet that says AerLingus in the cover. You might be able to buy one from AerLingus. Or if you're flying TransAtlantic on AerLingus, they may be available on the Plane.
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Old May 18th, 2009, 01:35 AM
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You must have an Irish look about you! Although I can speak Gaelic, Connemara people (other than some who know me) don't open conversations with me in the language.

There is a general pattern in the Gaeltacht (Gaelic-speaking areas, which include part of Connemara and the western end of the Dingle peninsula): people presume that strangers do not speak the language. That means that they sometimes treat Gaelic as a private language, and they can be reckless about what they say to one another in the presence of strangers. An aunt of mine, at the time young, single, and good-looking, was in a pub in Carraroe and the local lads were discussing her merits and how to approach her. The discussion became a little unsavoury, and she revealed her hand: she, too, was a native Irish speaker, albeit from a different part of the country. They beat a hasty and embarrassed retreat.
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Old May 19th, 2009, 08:25 PM
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Pelican -
Your trip sounds like such fun! While you're moving along at a fast clip you're limiting yourself to a few areas.

I think the day trips are overly ambitious however. The night you spend in Westport you won't also have time to visit Clare Island. The boat schedule is very limited. We went there and I remember going early in the morning, hiking all day, then killing a couple of hours to catch the boat back. Croagh Patrick is an all day trip although you can stop at the visitor center and walk up to the monument. Which is just sort of OK, not much to experience at that point.
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Old May 19th, 2009, 08:48 PM
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Yes no need to apologize, Ned; the forums are most helpful with different perspectives offered, IMO. I did, though, undertake a full day trip to the Aran Islands on a one-week solo trip, and given the OP's interests it does sound like a good match, even though an overnight (which I did not do) eats up more time. In fact, that visit held most of my most treasured moments for that trip. I will say, though, that the boat ride over was quite rough; a wave hit me so hard it knocked the watch off my wrist, and I didn't notice till we docked (I was on the deck, but should have hidden out down below).

I'm trying to recall the travel guide I used for my 3 trips there; probably Fodors or Rick Steves, but I mostly relied on on line sights, especially dedicated Irish sites.
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Old May 19th, 2009, 11:39 PM
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pelican9840

On arrival I would avoid Lisdoonvarna as it wouldd not be the most comfortable place to stay. The matchmaking festival generally involves a lot of late night drinking and can be very noisy. When we passed through ther a few years back we saw drunks on the road, lots of burger vans and just did not like it.

Better to stay out the road in Doolin. Its a lot nicer. Lat time we stayed at the Seaview House and we plan on staying there again this year.

The Aran islands are great, but another option would Inis Boffin. You get the Ferry from Clegan just north of Clifden.

Hope you have a great trip.

Bill
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Old May 20th, 2009, 03:35 PM
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Hi pelican:

There are a couple of days on this itinerary that strike me as too full. The only other flaw that I see is that it is nothing but 1 night stays which is not the way I like to travel. Exhausting and u never get to really know the place you are staying. You can just say you have visited. Many love to travel this way and you seem quite experienced so I won't knock it.

Day 1: I agree Doolin is a better choice than Lisdoonvarna at that time of year, and maybe anytime. Other than the music pubs though, Doolin offers very little but the surrounding area is spectacular. I was there at just about the same time last year and went directly to the cliffs. No one will be there on your arrival which is very nice and, well, free. That is the upside. The downside is that, if photography is an interest, the light is always poor in the morning as the sun hasn't made it over the hill. If you are staying in Doolin, maybe a trip back late in the day. Avoid midday at the cliffs. Very crowded.

Day two id fine also. Pretty relaxed day though be aware that Galway is an old city with a young crowd. It is likely to be a swingin' town on a friday night.

I disagree that spending a night on the Aran Islands is a bad use of time. Padraig is absolutely correct. Inishmore has a different feel than you will find on the mainland or the mainland islands. I don't know how you handle sea sickness, but if the weather is windy or poor in general, the boat ride can be a little rough. You could consider taking the 10 minute flight on Aer Aran. http://www.aerarannislands.ie/

The following day, i might suggest the roads along the coast in Connemara and take in what you can get to. There is some beautiful scenery along that way.

Kylemore Abbey is most interesting from a distance and if you entire the abbey, you only get to see 4 rooms which I don't find that interesting. The little chaple down the path is lovely though and it's a nice walk. This day is generally full, and making it out to Clare Island seems a bit much. The hike out to the falls, though short, can get a bit mucky and I don't find these to be the most interesting falls you will see. If there has been some heavy rain very recently it could add to the beauty, but make the walk harder.

I'm not sure what you mean by visiting Croagh Patrick, but you certainly won't miss seeing it along the way to Westport as it towers over the landscape. There is a parking lot at the base but I might suggest stopping at the beach just west of it and enjoying the views across the dunes and back to the mountains. It can be very peaceful there.

Westport is a nice town and you've given yourself enough to to get there and have dinner and collapse. Getting to Achill is certainly out. I spent a full day on the island last september and it just made me want to come back.

The next day would be the biggest problem for me. You have lots of stops planned and there is plenty of driving to do there. You'll most definitely leave some of it out and if Ashford is a goal then make plans to leave some things out enroute. Though only guests are supposed to go in to the hotel, if you act confident, you probably won't have an issue. The grounds are quite nice. In any event, it's good you have some time the next morning to enjoy Dromoland because your arrival could be late in the day if you try to do all of these things.

Hope this is helps.

Bill
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Old May 20th, 2009, 04:57 PM
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My favorite guidebook is Footprint Ireland. I believe Footprint is a British guidebook series that I find to be more informative than normal.
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Old May 31st, 2009, 05:50 AM
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Padraig Pearse's cottage! Yes, I enjoyed visiting here on my driving trip in September 2001, and wandering around the nearby actively-harvested peat bogs.

In Clifden -- which was my second favorite town of the trip, after Clonakilty in County Cork -- I enjoyed Foyles Hotel, which is smackdab in the middle of town and convenient walking distance from pubs, shops, and etcetera.
http://www.foyleshotel.com/

Lisdoonvarna I'm afraid I flat-out disliked. I came away with a lasting impression of seediness, bars, and young men staggering slightly in the daytime. I stayed in Doolin and would definitely recommend that over Lisdoonvarna (which I would skip entirely, were I to do the trip over again).
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Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 06:31 AM
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I don't know how much you are planning on spending for accomodations, but we loved the Killeen House. It is truly a first-class accomodation. You can read more about it on our website where we detail our Ireland trip: http://www.theroadforks.com/trips/ir...Day6MayoGalway
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Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 06:31 AM
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Oops, sorry - Killeen House is in Galway (your night 2).
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Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 06:54 AM
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For Westport, we favor The Olde Railway Hotel. I heard it was being renovated about two years ago..it's an ideal place to stay. A comfortable feeling for the old days....

In Doolin, we liked The Aran View Hotel..nicely placed, short walk to the village.

http://realtravel.com/h-254985-westp..._railway_hotel

http://www.aranview.com/

Stu T.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 07:26 AM
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If you are going to Galway...right outside in Barna..there is a hotel called The Twelve Hotel. It was reasonable and the bar downstairs has awesome food and drinks! The Pins Bar.
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