Highlights of Connemara, Ireland
Updated: Jun 1, 2021
On our second to last day in Ireland, we went on a phenomenal day trip through Galway Tour Company to see the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. Even though we didn’t have quite the view of the cliffs that we wanted, we still had a great time on the trip overall. Seeing as we had no plans for our last day in Ireland, we decided to book another day trip through GTC. This trip was going to take us through Connemara, including a stop at Kylemore Abbey. Kylemore Abbey is pretty well known by visitors to Ireland – even if you don’t know it by name, you’ve certainly seen a picture of it on social media. While it hadn’t been on our radar before, we were all excited to get back into the Irish countryside and see some new sites! This trip took us through the hidden gems of Connemara, the region to the north of Galway, and was worth the €30 we paid (this did not include the entry fee to Kylemore Abbey, which was €9.50 well spent.)
Our first stop of the day was also our main stop of the day tour. Like the Cliffs of Moher, you’ve probably seen many pictures of Kylemore Abbey. It was originally built as a manor house for a wealthy British couple, the Henrys, in the 1870s. In 1920, it was sold to the Benedictine nuns who then opened an all-girls boarding school in the manor. The school was open until 2010 when it closed due to low enrollment. Now the Abbey functions as one of Ireland’s biggest tourist attractions. I was disappointed by the fact that you could only see about five rooms in the manor – I love looking at period homes! However, there are also some massive and beautiful gardens, with all different kinds of plants and flowers. Those were nice to walk through, especially as it was a rare sunny day in Ireland. There is also a little cathedral and crypt that were built and used by the Henry family when they lived there. Kylemore Abbey is set in a valley, with some very beautiful hills covered in rhododendrons surrounding it.
The countryside on this day trip was absolutely stunning. We saw lots of fields with sheep and cows, wild rhododendrons, and hills covered with heather. My favorite moment of the day is when Mike stopped the bus at the top of a hill overlooking a lake in a valley and told us we could get out and walk down to meet the bus at the bottom. This was a great photo opportunity, plus who doesn’t love running through the green hills of Ireland? It was just so picture-perfect, and like yesterday, left me itching to move to Ireland.
Fun fact: Since the sheep in this area are grazed on common lands, the farmers paint their backs with different colors to distinguish whose are whose.
The village of Cong
Cong is a tiny little town on the border of County Mayo and is most commonly known as the place where The Quiet Man (starring John Wayne & Maureen O’Hara) was filmed. Now I’ve never seen the film, but seeing as I’ve been to Cong, I feel like I should take the time to watch it now. There’s not much there, and you can tell the town thrives on the tourism industry. If you have seen The Quiet Man, there is a little museum dedicated to the film and its filming in Cong. Seeing as none of us had seen it, we elected to just look around the town. We checked out their little shops, picked up some souvenirs, and saw the old church, which is mostly just in ruins now. It’s a very cute little quintessential Irish town for sure.
Ross Errilly Friary
Our last stop of the day before heading back into Galway was at Ross Errilly Friary. This is considered the best-preserved friary in Ireland, having thought to have been built in the fourteenth or fifteenth century. Following a long and tumultuous history, the catholic monks were forced to abandon the friary in the 1750s. Since then, it has been slowly falling into ruin, although it is now maintained by the Office of Public Works. The whole thing building setup is kind of like a maze, and it was fun to just wander through the many rooms wondering what they were used for in the past. It was very interesting, and I was glad that we made the stop there.
Overall, it was a very successful day trip, and we were very glad that we decided to do something different with our last day in Ireland. I would highly recommend checking out Connemara, a place that wasn’t even on my radar before getting to Galway. I’m not usually the biggest fan of guided tours, but Galway Tour Company does a great job. We learned so much on our two trips with them. Just like with the Cliffs of Moher tour, Galway Tour Company’s sister company also runs this trip out of Dublin. Definitely, a great option if you’re based in Dublin, but want to get out into the Irish countryside for a day.