The Wild Atlantic Way - Galway & Mayo
This is the second of our 5 part blog on the Wild Atlantic Way Road Trip with a Caravan (WAW), the longest defined coastal touring route in the world. It stretches for over 2,500km so it’s best to divide it into areas and take your time to explore and see the beauty that Ireland has to offer. However, you don’t have to follow these routes and can cross over into other areas. The best thing is to be flexible and take your time to explore this great country.
There’s adventure and excitement around every corner of the Wild Atlantic Way.
In this blog, we explore the Galway and Mayo area of the Wild Atlantic Way.
For information on caravan & camping parks in these areas click here
Galway with epic coastlines, magnificent beaches, lofty mountain peaks and a city that has a great vibe is the start of this tour of the Wild Atlantic Way
Galway’s unique culture and dramatic landscape captivates all who visit. It appeals to young and old with loads of things to do and see that will appeal to everyone. Galway City must be your first port of call. The cobbled pedestrian streets are where you will experience the vibrancy and buzz of the City of the Tribes. Cute shops and cosy pubs line the streets. You will find a host of on-street performers who will entertain you as you walk around.
Galway City Museum – located in the Spanish Parade area is a must to visit. Admission is free of charge but you must reserve your tickets in advance. The Museum has three floors of galleries (only 2 open at the moment) housing long-term and temporary exhibitions. These exhibitions explore themes of archaeology, history and sea science with a particular focus on Galway.
Salthill Promenade – no trip to Galway would be complete without a visit to Salthill and to walk the famous promenade. Tradition dictates that you should “kick the wall” at the end of the promenade for good luck!! The kids will have a ball in Salthill with plenty of games and arcades for them to enjoy.
Atlantaquaria – located in Salthill, Ireland’s National Aquarium has the country’s largest display of sea life. The enormous 120 tonne Ocean Tank showcases over 200 species and the kids won’t want to miss feeding time at the (fish) zoo, with a regular schedule throughout the day.
Salthill Caravan Park is situated at the edge of Galway Bay. A scenic walking route runs from the park straight to Salthill and into Galway City.
Leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind you it is time to held out of Galway and explore the county. You can travel east and visit the midlands or travel the scenic routes to the west and explore Connemara.
Tour Connemara – Connemara stretches from west of Galway City right out to the tip of Galway taking in the villages of Oughterard, Maam, Recess, Roundstone, Cashel, Carna, Ballyconnelly, Clifden, Cleggan, Claddaghduff, Letterfrack, Renvyle and Leenane.
Some of the most beautiful places you will see or enjoy may be off the beaten track and should be explored on foot, by bicycle or on a boat!
If you are planning to spend a few days in Connemara you have a great selection of sites to pitch up. Leaving Galway you will find PáircSaoire an Spidéil (Spiddal Caravan & Camping Park) a family run small site in the heart of the Gaeltacht. In Clifden, you have Clifden Campsite & Caravan Park, sheltered within the foothills of the Twelve Bens and Clifden Eco Beach Camping & Caravanning Park, a multi-award winning ecological park and Ireland’s first eco-certified carbon-neutral premises. Further, on is Renvyle Beach Caravan & Camping Park located directly on a sandy beach with views of Clew Bay.
Connemara National Park - Open year-round including the Visitor Centre, there are no fees for entry to the grounds, trails or viewing the exhibition. There are two short, gentle trails and you can meet the Park’s pure-bred prized Connemara Ponies along the way. A tougher climb, but still suitable for all ages and stages, is the famous Diamond Hill loop walk, which takes around three hours to complete, and rewards you with incredible views of the gothic turrets in Kylemore Valley, the sensational Twelve Bens mountains, and on a clear day, you might be lucky and catch a glimpse of Inisturk and Inishbofin Islands and the Atlantic in the distance.
Kylemore Abbey - famous for its postcard-perfect scenery, the iconic image of a baronial castle reflected in a Connemara lake. From the love story that started it all, to engineering initiatives, model farms, royal visits, and Abbey's former role as a girl’s boarding school learn about Kylemore’s rich history. Choirs travel from all over the world to perform in the neo-gothic church of Kylemore Abbey and experience its superb acoustics.
Aran Islands – no trip to Galway or Clare would be complete without visiting the Aran Islands. 35 minutes from Galway City at Rossaveal you will be able to hop on a ferry to bring you over to the Aran Islands. You might be lucky to even spot some basking sharks on the ferry trip across. You can visit any of the 3 islands - Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer. You can also take a flight from Connemara Airport. Cycling is a fantastic way to explore the Aran Islands, and bike hire is available. Discover scenic hikes and leisurely walks with incredible views of land and the ocean.
Look out for An Loch Mór, the Big Lake, and the Plassey shipwreck along the way. Or why not enjoy a traditional pony and trap tour around Inishmore. You can stop off at magnificent DúnAonghasa as you travel around. Also, worth a visit is Poll nabPeist – The Wormhole. Here you will find many underground channels which connect to the ocean. When the tide is in, water rushes into the hole via an underground cave and forces the water over the edges, filling the hole from above. Located on the west side of Inishmore this is a naturally formed pool and was the first stop on the 2017 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. Located on InisMór you will find Aran Islands Camping & Glamping where you can pitch your tent or stay in one of their eco-friendly glamping lodges located right by the beach.
Omey Island – located near Claddaghduff. It can only be reached at low tide so make sure you check tide times before travelling. You can walk, cycle or drive to the Island but make sure you have time to get back!
Boat tour of Killary Fjord - Take a 90 minute trip on a luxury boat for uninterrupted views of the spectacular scenery on Killary fjord. The inlet boasts some of the finest scenery in the West of Ireland and because of its sheltered nature, the waters are always calm. The boats leave from Nancy’s Point and operate daily. Booking is essential.
Mayo – there is so much for you to do in Mayo. You will be spoilt for choice – Island hopping, cycling along the coast, cliff walks, vibrant towns and loads to see and do.
Westport - The buzz and beauty of Westport on the shores of Clew Bay makes it a great place to start your trip to Mayo. Wander down the colourful streets and you’ll soon have a mile-long list of award-winning restaurants and historical buildings to visit. No trip to Westport would be complete without a visit to Westport House beautiful parklands, lakes and the family favourite Pirate Adventure Park. The house has 30 stunning rooms to visit and 6 permanent exhibitions. The Pirate Adventure Park is an action-packed activity centre for children under 12. There are lots of rides, slides, and boats. You can go for a paddle on the giant swan pedal boats on the lake or take a turn on the bouncy castle or go-karting. Finish off your visit with afternoon tea in the Tea Rooms and a walk through the stunning grounds. Situated in the old orchard of the estate is Westport House Caravan & Camping Park, imagine having the house as your backdrop every morning.
Croagh Patrick – not for the faint-hearted but a visit to Mayo must include a trek on one of Ireland’s most iconic mountains. St Patrick is believed to have fasted at the summit for 40 days and 40 nights in 441, and every year many walkers, some without shoes, make the pilgrimage up the rocky trails to the chapel at the top. The climb takes about three and a half hours, so come prepared and reward yourself with panoramic views of Clew Bay.
Cycle Great Western Greenway - 43.5km along the old rail route between Westport and Achill is Ireland’s longest greenway. The smooth, level track is ideal for cycling and if you don’t have your own bike it is easy to rent a bike for the day. You can also take advantage of drop off points and free shuttle service at different locations along the greenway so you don’t have to commit to doing the whole trip in one go. If you don’t want to do the whole route in one go it can be broken into 3 routes:
- Westport to Newport 12.5km
- Newport to Mulranny 18km
- Mulranny to Achill Sound 13km
Located in Castlebar, on the Greenway route is Lough Lannagh Caravan Park which you could use as your base if you are cycling the route.
Island hopping – Off the coast of Mayo are some fantastic Islands waiting to be explored.
Innisturk and Clare Island are accessible by a short ferry ride but Achill Island can be reached by road. Even the ferry trips to the Islands provide spectacular views and scenery before you even dock. Both Inishturk Island and Clare Island are accessible by a ferry from Roonagh Pier. Clare Island has an approximate population of 250 and is the largest island in the bay. Inishturk is a small island between Inishbofin and Clare Island. Worth seeing is the GAA pitch cut into the hills. Achill Island is connected to the mainland by a swing bridge and therefore is accessible all year round. Head west along the coast and discover the stunning Keel Beach before making your way to one of Ireland’s most incredible spots, Keem Bay. With its crystal clear water, golden sand and cliffside walk - it’s one of the best things to do on Achill Island. The Achill Experience and Aquarium comprises an aquarium, a deserted village experience, a visitor centre and a gift shop. The visitor centre includes exhibitions on history, emigration, local art, music and audiovisual presentations. On Achill Island, you will find 2 caravan parks – Achill Seal Caves Caravan & Camping which stretches up Dugort Hill and Keel Sandybanks Caravan & Camping Park which overlooks Keel Beach.
Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park - home to one of Western Europe’s last intact active blanket bogs, Owenduff Bog. With trails to suit every walking level, keep an eye out for the local Greenland White-Fronted geese, golden plover and otters.
Céide Fields - Journey back 5,000 years at Céide Fields, the most extensive Stone Age site on the planet, featuring ancient stone walls and tombs that survived beneath the bog. The amazing geology, archaeology, botany and wildlife of this North Mayo region is interpreted at the Céide Fields Visitor Centre, with the aid of an audio-visual presentation and exhibitions. The Centre, at Ballycastle, is an unusual part limestone, part peat-clad, pyramid-shaped building.
Cong – A trip to the pretty village of Cong in County Mayo, where the 1952 Oscar-winning movie, The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, was filmed is a must. Take a visit to the 12th century Cong Abbey, Ashford Castle, Cong Wood and of course locations associated with the film while in the area. Located just over 1km from the village is Cong Camping & Caravan Park where you can watch the nightly showing of The Quiet Man. You can also hire a glamping tent for a few nights at Cong.
Louisburgh - Famous for its unspoiled beaches and sandy coves, Louisburgh is a dream spot for a dip in the sea, paddling and a picnic. Families love Silver Strand, sheltered by the rocky headlands and high sand dunes, and the views towards Inishturk and Inishbofin are unbeatable. Don’t forget to include a trip to the Lost Valley. Book a guided tour and explore the West’s cultural heritage through the ruined famine village or take on the hike up the steep walking trail with older kids for powerful views of the valley.
Moving inland you also have a selection of great caravan & camping parks to use as your base when you are touring. Located 3km from Ballina is Belleek Park Caravan & Camping and near Castlebar, you have Carra Caravan & Camping Park and Carrowkeel Camping & Caravan Park. All great locations for everyone to enjoy.
This is just a small selection of what is on offer along with the Wild Atlantic Way counties of Mayo and Galway. The towns and villages of the area are vibrant, pretty locations where you can stop off for some food or buy some local produce to cook when you get back to your pitch at night. The West is truly away in Galway and Mayo.
Click below for other blogs on the Wild Atlantic Way:
Part 4b Wild Atlantic Way – Cork
Caravan & Camping in Ireland
There is no better way to see the country with all your own home comforts. Click Camping Ireland to find information on all the great caravan & camping sites throughout Ireland before you travel. It is always wise to book ahead so you won’t be disappointed or have a wasted journey. Download the Camping Ireland App which you can use to browse and search for approved sites with ease while you are travelling around. For more information on the app click here
There are over 100 quality approved caravan & camping parks throughout Ireland. Sites offer top-class facilities with many onsite amenities.
There is a variety of sites around Ireland. Maybe you are looking for a quiet site where you can pitch up and use the site as a base for travelling around. Maybe you want a site where there is a playground for your kids or even sites where there are a host of onsite activities for all the family to enjoy.
Whatever you want Camping Ireland has something for everyone.
Don’t forget to order your Camping Key Europe Card which offers great discounts and savings at campsites, visitor attractions and many more outlets. The card is accepted in over 2,800 sites in Ireland and Europe. It also includes free third-party insurance. You can order the card here
For information on these sites, the facilities they offer and other information log onto our website Camping Ireland Enjoy the independence and flexibility that camping in Ireland can offer in quality approved sites. We look forward to welcoming you to outdoor living.
(Information correct at time of publishing)