Because of how easy it is to travel through the whole region, I’ve included all of my West Ireland tips into one guide!
Where to stay: Where you stay in the West Coast of Ireland will definitely depend on whether or not you’re traveling by car. Seeing the whole region will be much easier if you do have a car, but it’s also certainly doable if you don’t! If you do have a car, I’d highly recommend staying in a smaller town so that you can get a true local experience. I stayed in a town called Kinvarra at an Airbnb rental that was actually a thatched cottage. It was just as perfect and charming as it sounds, and Kinvarra is a really lovely little town! There’s a waterfront area with a fancier restaurant or two, plus two pubs so you’ll have places to eat if you choose to stay in town for an evening. The cottage is also directly across the street from Dunguaire Castle, which made for really amazing views from the window! If you don’t have access to a car, it would be much better if you stayed in nearby Galway, as it’s much easier to get places with public transportation from there. The Airbnb options in Galway are really overpriced, so I would stick with a hostel. Hostelworld has some highly rated and inexpensive options in the city, so I’m sure you’ll be able to find something great!
Where to eat: Little towns in Ireland are all about their local pubs, and there really isn’t a better way to experience the culture than to indulge in one. I personally loved the one I went to in Doolin (very close to the Cliffs of Moher). There’s really only one in the town, so you’ll be able to spot it, but if you go in the evening you’re likely to run into a local band playing traditional music- one of the most incredible experiences I had in Ireland. While you’re in Ireland, be sure to grab a traditional full Irish breakfast at a pub one morning, it’s a meal that’s not to be missed. Because so many of these little towns don’t have a lot of tourism aside from the random tour bus heading through the Burren or to the Cliffs of Moher, you’re likely to have a great meal where ever you go. When you’re in Galway, head down to the waterfront and check out some of the cafés and juice bars, they’re really interesting places!
What to do: There’s an absolute ton to see and do on the west coast of Ireland, so spending 4-5 days there should give you plenty of time to cover it all. Here’s a list of my favorite spots:
- The Cliffs of Moher. You definitely do not want to miss a stop at the Cliffs of Moher. If you have your own car, take your time driving there by stopping in Doolin to see the waterfront from the bottom of the cliffs (and head to the pub!), and then make your way up. There are plenty of amazing viewpoints along the way, so you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to stop off and see all that this area has to offer! I went to see them at sunset, and it was a great decision! The site was not very crowded at all (especially if you go on a weekday), and the sunset was easily the best I’ve seen in my life. If you don’t have a car, there are plenty of companies that run bus tours from Galway.
- The Burren. I spent a lot of time driving through The Burren while exploring the area that it became the joke of the trip, but all jokes aside, it really is a beautiful area of the country. It’s a giant rocky area, though, and something that you can easily see while driving through on your own- not really something you need to book a tour to see.
- Galway. I absolutely loved visiting Galway, and wish that I’d spent more time there. I started by taking a free walking tour, which was a great choice as it explained why Galway was such an amazing place. Make sure to take your time walking around the city, especially around the waterfront, as it’s really a gorgeous place!
- Horseback Riding. If you’re looking to get a good look at the Irish countryside, horseback riding is a great way to do it! I went to Dartfield (just outside of Galway), where they breed their own horses, and took a hack through their property. If you’re a more experienced rider, they have a cross-country trail you can tackle, otherwise just try a ride with their guides- it was definitely a worthwhile experience!
Overall Opinion: The west coast of Ireland is definitely one of my favorite spots in the British Isles- the countryside is really spectacular, the sites are unrivaled, and the people were some of the friendliest I’ve met anywhere in the world. My favorite of all of the places was probably Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher, and our stay in Kinvarra. These small towns really seemed to represent true small-town Ireland, and were really just perfect little places to get to know the heart of Ireland. If you’re headed to Ireland, be sure to take your time visiting this region as it’ll give you a much different perspective on the country and culture than you’ll get in Dublin!