The Wicked West of Ireland Travel Tips
When most people think of a trip to Ireland they think of visiting Dublin. Sure, it is the largest city, has countless pubs and a big airport but the west of Ireland arguably has more to offer travelers who want to get away for a week or two. Let us introduce you to the Wicked West of Ireland to add some new excitement to your next visit to Ireland.
Visting West Ireland
First of all, getting there is super convenient. Between May and October, the best time to visit Ireland, there are daily flights from Newark to Shannon. Getting in and out of Shannon airport couldn’t be easier. Shorter lines at customs and rental car, and more importantly a smooth exit from the airport. In 10 minutes, you’ll be on the M17, a dual-carriageway (divided highway) to Galway. The M17 is brand new and has very little traffic. Given that you will be driving on the left side of the road and sitting in the right-side driver’s seat, this easy drive will help you get accustomed to driving in Ireland.
One piece of advice though, check Google maps for your route into Galway and to your hotel or Airbnb. Although it is far more manageable than Dublin, you will do yourself a big favor planning your route or having your travel companion help with navigating from their phone or map. If you do lose your way just pull over and ask directions, Galway is a small enough city that if you get a bit lost it’s no big deal.
Getting To Know Galway
Galway will be your best beginning stop for a tour of Ireland’s west coast. During your stay in Galway you can hit all the typical tourist spots, the Spanish Arch, the Latin Quarter, Eyre Square, walk along and across the Salmon weir or take advantage of the daily walking tours. These are things you can easily plan before or after you arrive.
There are however some lesser-known options that will really make your trip a memorable one.
Private Tour Hire
Surrounding Galway City are some of the most picturesque areas of the country including, castles, mountains, coastal drives, lakes and fjords. Corporate Cars Galway is your best bet for a private tour. Brian Jarvis, the owner knows the area around Galway like the back of his hand and they have a fleet of 8 to 10 passenger vans. They offer pre-planned day tours that can also be customized.
Their most popular tour takes you north to the beautiful town of Cong. While in Cong you will see the historic Ashford Castle and stop in at the Quiet Man House, made famous in the John Ford movie starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. You will then head west to the small village of Leenane, probably stop at Hamilton’s pub for lunch and then on to Killary Harbor. After that further west to the Connemara mountains and to the winding coastal roads around Clifden. It is the perfect way to spend the day out of the city and to get to know the Irish countryside.
Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher
Almost everyone who visits the west of Ireland plans a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland. Coming in for a 2- or 4-hour visit is great, what folks don’t know is how much else there is to see and do in the area. If you are staying in Galway during your vacation take a couple of days and stay in the small village of Doolin.
For those who are more adventurous, there is a 2 km walking trail along the coast up to the Cliffs of Moher. You can visit Doolin Cave which is home to the largest free-hanging stalactite in Europe. There are ferries from Doolin to the Aran Islands, on a nice summer day it is a great family trip, you and the kids can rent bikes and ride on Inishmore the largest Island. You can also view the Cliffs of Moher from the sea or from the air.
If you take advantage of any of these activities, you’ll be glad you are staying in Doolin and don’t have to drive back to Galway at the end of the day, you can simply relax in your Hotel or B&B and enjoy a meal and a pint in the village.
Returning to Galway
When you leave Doolin to return to Galway take the short drive down to the seaside town of Lahinch. The town has a beautiful beach and is home to the historic Lahinch Golf Club, a links course right on the water. Some refer to it as the St. Andrews of Ireland. While you are there you can enjoy a short walk on the beach and a casual lunch at one of the seaside restaurants.
Getting back to Galway is simple you just take the N67 road all the way back. When you come to the town of Lisdoonvarna stop at the very popular Burren Smokehouse, a well-known place with locals and tourists alike. You will find some of the best smoked salmon in the world there. Brigitta Curtin, one of the founders offers traditional Irish cold smoked salmon and also hot smoked salmon from her home country of Sweden. Both are made right on the premises, so stop in for a short tour and a sample. When you purchase your smoked salmon to take home, you can conveniently have them ship it for you via UPS.
When you get back on the N67 out of Lisdoonvarna, corkscrew hill will await you about 6 miles or 11 km ahead. Traveling this way, you will descend down the hill, it is a series of switchbacks so you will want to be very careful. Watch your speed and look out for others coming up the hill in the other direction. There are blind turns all the way down, the last thing you want to do is get injured in an accident. The entire trip back will take you about 4 to 6 hours depending on how long you stop in Lahinch and Lisdoonvarna. It is a fine leisurely way to spend most of the day.
Iconic Pub Crawl in Galway
A stay in Galway wouldn’t be complete without an evening walking through the city and stopping at the best pubs. Here we have a recommendation of a crawl that begins near Eyre Square and will take you down by the Spanish Arch. The first stop is An Pucan a fine Irish pub with live music every night of the week in the summer. You can enjoy a pint at the front bar or in the outdoor back bar. A great place to start your crawl especially on a fine night in summer when the days are long.
Next stop is O’Connell’s bar just around the corner which is across from Eyre Square. O’Connell’s is a great spot with live music every night, a large beer garden and if you are hungry Dough Bros pizza open Thursday to Saturday. Locally owned by the Eugene and Ronan Greaney, Dough Bros has a wood-fired oven right in the beer garden, serving delicious thin crust pizza to go along with your pint.
As you leave O’Connell’s turn to the right and head along the far side of Eyre Square down to William St. As you head into the heart of Galway, near the bottom of William St., Garavan’s Bar will be on your right. It is one of the oldest public houses in Galway, now offering a large selection of fine Irish Whiskey. Order one of their tasting trays and sample three different kinds of Whiskey or have one of the best Irish coffees in the world served here in Garavan’s specially designed glasses.
After you warm up with a bit of whiskey, continue down William St. to Shop St., keep left to walk down High St. and just as the street splits you will see Tig Coili on your right. For traditional Irish music, this is the place to be in Galway. They have music on every evening at 6pm and 9:30pm. Local musicians have been known to visit the pub for a relaxing pint after their gig, only to find themselves joining in on one of the sessions.
The last stop on the pub crawl is the Quays Bar. Head down to the bottom of High St., on to Quay St. and you will find the Quays Bar on the left. You will find the music here a bit livelier, with local and international musicians booked in to perform. It is also open late so if you get a late start to your pub crawl the Quays Bar is a great place to finish.
Galway city and the surrounding area is definitely one of the best places to visit in Ireland. It has everything you need in the city, yet it is small enough to easily get out of when you want to visit the countryside.