You’ll find the magical Bay Coast located halfway down the Wild Atlantic Way, hugging the robust coastline of north Mayo and Galway. Nestled among this region’s many jutting bays are sandy beaches, hidden coves and gorgeous inlets, while gazing out to sea you’ll enjoy views of some of the coast’s many islands. This winding three-day itinerary showcases all the Bay Coast has to offer; rich culture, captivating scenery and buzzing villages. Galway city provides the region’s heartbeat; you’ll be offered a warm welcome by friendly locals as you meander through its relaxed and bohemian cobbled streets. It’s a hub of creativity too, and you’ll really experience the Wild Atlantic Way of life when you meet artists, food producers, musicians, craftspeople and storytellers from what’s known locally as the ‘City of the Tribes’. Further south, you’ll move into Connemara; an area of such haunting splendour, it really has to be seen to be believed! The colourful market town of Clifden is unofficially known as its capital, and you’ll have the opportunity during this extensive itinerary to explore it. Other highlights along this awe-inspiring region include the bustling town of Westport, the pretty Great Western Greenway cycling route and the secluded, romantic island of Achill.
Stage 1: Galway city
Day one of this fantastic three-day tour begins in Galway, and we recommend you spend the morning exploring this bustling, arty city. On a walking tour, you’ll pass through its medieval quarter and learn all about the area’s rich history. Opt for a travelling artisan lunch with Galway Food Tours afterwards – you’ll be taken to a whole host of the city’s finest establishments to sample their tasty wares. From cheeses and breads to oysters, and of course, some delicious sweet treats, you’ll get a real sense of Galway’s proud culinary heritage.
Stage 2: Galway to Spiddal via Salthill (18.2km via R336)
When you’ve eaten your fill, hop in the car and make your way via Salthill to the Gaeltacht [Irish-speaking] village of Spiddal (27mins). This is your first glimpse of dreamy Connemara, so take the time to admire those views! From Spiddal, head to Cnoc Suain, a cultural retreat nestled in this wild and enchanting landscape. You’ll experience the Wild Atlantic Way of life through song, dance and fireside storytelling in this unique restored rural village, before stepping outside to breathe in the area’s fresh air and admire its pretty flora and fauna.
A stroll through Derrigimlagh blanket bog
Stage 3: Spiddal to Derrigimlagh and Clifden (120km via R336)
Continue along the Wild Atlantic Way towards Clifden (2hr 33mins). On its outskirts, you’ll find Derrigimlagh, a 6,000-year-old blanket bog that’s witnessed a couple of incredible milestones in technological advancement! As the looped walk and interpretive panels guide you through this magnificent wetland environment, you’ll pass memorials to these great accomplishments. One marks the spot where pioneer pilots Alcock and Brown safely crash-landed in 1919, having made the first transatlantic flight from Newfoundland. You’ll also come upon Irish-Italian innovator Guglielmo Marconi’s Condenser House. Marconi sent the first successful commercial wireless transmission of Morse code across the Atlantic from this beautiful place in 1907. Afterwards, head into Clifden for dinner, but take the time to soak up its warm, buzzing atmosphere and peruse its quirky shops too.
Stage 1: Clifden to Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey & Victorian Walled Garden (44.7km via Sky Road and N59)
Kick day two off with a visit to Connemara National Park (57 minutes from Clifden, taking in the gorgeous Sky Road). A pretty, signposted nature trail runs from the visitor centre through 6,000 hectares of lush mountains, heaths, grassy paths and woodlands. The walk up Diamond Hill is challenging, but well worth it! From the natural vantage point at its peak, you’ll be afforded fabulous panoramic views of the mighty Twelve Bens, as well as the many islands dotted along the Bay Coast. Next up, and just a six-minute drive away) is Kylemore Abbey, an old-worldly, gothic castle perched dramatically on the edge of a shimmering Connemara lake. Its adjoining Victorian Walled Garden is well worth a visit too – in fact, it was so advanced when it constructed back in 1867, it drew comparisons to Kew Gardens in London.
Stage 2: Kylemore Abbey to Westport (72.1km via R335, R378 and N59)
When you’ve finished wandering through this tranquil garden, get back in the car and make your way towards Westport (1hr 30mins). This drive is particularly scenic, and you’ve options to stop along the way in charming little towns and villages like Louisburgh and Leenane (set against the backdrop of the magnificent Maumturk mountains). We also recommend you pause for a photo or two at Killary Harbour, a fjord that forms the border between Galway and Mayo, and is home to some of the region’s most breath-taking scenery. Your final day two destination is Westport, a town full of charisma and colour. Settle down for a fresh seafood dinner and lively traditional Irish music session in one of this buzzing town’s many pubs, where you’ll meet fun-loving locals and visitors alike. Spend the night in one of its cosy accommodation options.
Stage 1: Westport
Spend your final morning really getting to know Westport. A relaxed walking tour of the town will cover everything from the geography of the local landscape to Gráinne Mhaol, a formidable Irish pirate queen who lived in Mayo during the sixteenth century. A feisty figure, she sailed a fleet of ships up and down the west coast, often raiding the islands she came upon! Find out about her, and indeed the area’s rich maritime history, at Westport House, a heritage attraction built on the foundations of one of Gráinne’s ancient castles. Head for a stroll along the tree-lined banks of the Carrowbeg river, before enjoying lunch in one of Westport’s local cafés.
Cycling the Great Western Greenway
Stage 2: Westport to the Great Western Greenway (3km via Quay Road and N5)
The Great Western Greenway is Ireland’s first off-road cycling and walking route, and offers a peaceful and leisurely trek through the unspoilt Mayo countryside. It starts at Westport Quay, running right through the town (where you can rent bikes) before following an old disused railway through Newport and Mulranny. Finally, it finishes on magical Achill Island, over 42 kilometres away. Break up the tour with a well-earned lunch at the Blue Bicycle Tea Rooms or Kelly’s Kitchen in Newport, before continuing onto Achill. On this island (the country’s largest), you’ll find miles of golden, sandy beach. Be sure in particular to visit Keem Bay; this secluded stretch is sheltered by the Benmore Cliffs and Croaghaun Mountain. It’s a blue-flag beach, so perfect for swimming or trying your hand at watersports.
If you don’t fancy cycling the Great Western Greenway, we’ve got a lovely alternative you can drive to; Ballycroy National Park. It’s located on the western seaboard in northwest Mayo (40mins from Westport), and comprises an amazing 11,000 hectares. You’ll find Atlantic blanket bog and mountainous terrain covering a vast uninhabited wilderness, dominated again by the glorious Nephin Beg mountain range. The gentle trails in the park are suitable for all ages and fitness levels, and there’s a lovely visitor centre where you can find out more about the area.
Foodies will love this interactive Taste the Atlantic – A Seafood Journey map, it’s packed full of mouth-watering places to eat along the bustling Bay Coast
Whether you’re following in the footsteps of the one million pilgrims who climb Croagh Patrick each year, or just fancy an invigorating challenge, the views of Clew Bay from this mythical mountain’s peak are spell-binding
Each September, the Clifden Arts Festival celebrates the best of local creativity, from music and theatre to acrobatics and street performance
Overlooked by Croagh Patrick to the south and the Nephin mountain range to the north, Clew Bay is home to a whole host of pretty islands
Soak up local music and culture during your visit to the three Aran Islands, all of which can be visited by ferry
Bay Coast Signature Points
Stretching from the Atlantic shore towards the mighty Twelve Bens, Derrigimlagh is home to the remnants of Irish-Italian innovator Guglielmo Marconi’s transatlantic radio station. From here, he achieved the first successful commercial wireless transmission of Morse code across the Atlantic. It was also at this stark and otherworldly blanket bog that pilots Alcock and Brown crashed-landed to safety. The pair had just completed the world’s first transatlantic flight (from Newfoundland to Ireland) in 1919.
Located in the heart of Connemara, Killary Harbour is one of Ireland’s three fjords and forms a spectacular natural divide between counties Galway and neighbouring Mayo. Here, you will find some of the most dramatic scenery in Ireland, so dramatic in fact that the area was used as the primary location for the film adaption of John B Keane’s play, The Field. From the northern shore rises Mweelrea, the highest mountain in Connacht at 814m (2,671 feet) and to the south you can see the Maumturk Mountains and the Twelve Bens.
This golden stretch of secluded, sandy beach is on Ireland’s largest island, Achill, nestled at the head of a valley between Benmore cliffs and Croaghaun mountain. To reach this idyllic spot, follow the Atlantic Drive to Keel and then head westward via a cliff-top road with spectacular views of the wild Atlantic. Also on the island, you can visit an eerie Deserted Village, abandoned in the early 20th century.
Now that you’ve spent three days exploring the beautiful Bay Coast, why not head along to another region? We’ve got itineraries to suit all timeframes and preferences. Have a browse here.