Friendly people, beautiful scenery, and a pint of beer. Together, these three things form the basis of some of my most enjoyable and memorable travel experiences. For those who share some (or all) of these interests, go to Ireland. There are few places on earth where these three ingredients are more in abundance.

While living and working in Europe, I took a short (and cheap) flight to Ireland and spent a week exploring a fraction of what this amazing country has to offer. After a few exciting days in Dublin, we traveled west to Galway which served as our base for exploring the scenic, laid back, and much less populated west coast. To get you into the Irish spirit, here is a photo itinerary of our epic drive through Connemara. You can also scroll to the bottom to find our route mapped out.


 

Road Trip in Ireland - Galway Bay

Starting out in Galway on a gloomy day threatening rain, we rented a car and headed for the highway. There were a couple of initial panic moments as we got used to driving on the left side of the road, but the early morning roads were clear and easy to navigate.


 

Road Trip in Ireland - Ashford Castle

Just less than an hour driving north on the N84 and R334, we arrived at Ashford Castle, a medieval castle turned luxury hotel near Cong, where we were greeted by the friendliest security guard I’ve ever encountered. He provided us with some detailed history of the castle, which dates back to thirteenth century, and what to see on its extensive grounds which are open to the public for a small donation. Unfortunately, the interior of the castle is only accessible to guests of the hotel.


 

Road Trip in Ireland - Cong

A few minutes after exiting Ashford, we arrived in Cong, right on the border of County Galway and County Mayo. We had an excellent opportunity to take photos of the Cong Canal, pictured above, as we were behind a tour bus who had gotten stuck on a bridge trying to navigate the narrow roads littered with illegally parked cars of churchgoers (note: to avoid similar delays, don’t go Sunday morning). Make sure to check out Cong Abbey,a 12th century Augustinian abbey on the same site as a monastery dating back to 623 AD.


Road Trip in Ireland - Lough Mask

Traveling more north, we pass Lough Mask and make our way up to the Atlantic coast to Westport, one of the larger cities in County Mayo. With a quaint downtown strip filled with traditional pubs, artsy shops, and modern restaurants, this was a perfect place to stop for a driving break. J.J. O’Malleys is a good low key lunch spot with some excellent seafood options.


 

Road Trip in Ireland - Westport

The short coastal drive between Westport and Murrisk provides brilliant scenery, which can make the 10km drive seem much longer with the constant stops for photo-ops.


 

Road Trip in Ireland - Murrisk Abbey

The ruins of Murrisk Abbey and cemetery, founded in 1457, are quite peaceful and serene on a sunny day such as the one we had. The abbey served as a starting point for the pilgrimage up to Croagh Patrick and its ruins consist of the narrow church structure and the east wing. The Protestant Reformation drove the Augustinians from the site.


 

Road Trip in Ireland - Clew Bay

Bertra Beach on Clew Bay is just a short walk from Murrisk Abbey. If you are interested in exploring more on foot, there are several hiking trails.


Road Trip in Ireland - Horses

We stopped our car along the coast between Murrisk and Louisburgh to take photos of these horses. The roads are not congested and it is very easy to pull over if you want to see more. Be warned though, that once you start pulling over for photo-ops, you won’t stop – the landscape is awe inspiring at every turn.


Road Trip in Ireland - Doolough Valley

At Louisburgh we traveled south on the R335 into the Doolough Valley, a breathtaking stretch of landscape that was truly the highlight of our drive.


 

Road Trip in Ireland - Doolough Valley

When we arrived in the Doolough Valley, we spent quite some time both admiring the breathtaking scenery, and reading about the tragedy that took place here in 1849, when, during the Great Famine, over 600 people were forced to walk through the night to Delphi in search of food after being turned away from Louisburgh. Sadly, harsh weather and exacerbating hunger meant that many didn’t survive the journey. The cross seen in this photo is a memorial to those who died during the trek.


Road Trip in Ireland - Sheep

Toronto workers are known for having one of the longest average commutes in the world. Because we spend over 80 minutes each way going to and from work, it should be easy to understand why we loved not only this trip, but this photograph in particular, so much. This was some of the first traffic we had encountered in quite a while.


Road Trip in Ireland - Erriff River

As we continued on our journey, we took a few minutes to stop on the bridge over the River Erriff to take in the scenery. While this was a quick stop for us, the Erriff is widely recognized as one of Ireland’s premier spots to fish for salmon, with a number of lodges and B&Bs located in the area.


Road Trip in Ireland - Kylemore Abbey.

Before heading back to Galway, we made a stop at Kylemore Abbey. Built in 1867 and containing more than 70 rooms, this former private residency to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester, became a boarding school and Benedictine monastery following World War I and remained as such until 2010 when it was forced to close. The beautiful property is now open to the public.


Road Trip in Ireland - Tim Hortons

Despite our Canadian heritage, we’re probably not the first to admit that there is better coffee out there (especially in Europe) than the Tim Horton’s Double Double that so many Canadian’s start their day with. Regardless, we were pretty excited to find a Tim Hortons kiosk inside a gas station as we wrapped up our trip. The coffee tasted just as we remembered (not great) and made us feel a bit nostalgic in this remote corner of Ireland.


Map the Route

While Google advises that this trip can be made in roughly four hours, we highly recommend taking a full two days (at least) to enjoy the sights, scenery, and beautiful towns that dot the route. We did the trip in roughly 10 hours but are eager to go back and spend more time in the area.


View Larger Map


Photos from our road trip in Ireland are courtesy of Lauren Barth and JP Bervoets

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Lauren Barth

Lauren Barth

Lauren Barth co-founded Departful in 2012 and is the Managing Director of Departful Media. Since then she has worked between North America and Europe and has published content in partnership with a variety of tourism boards and businesses based around the world. Lauren is currently based in Toronto, Canada.

Departful is a travel magazine that provides accessible, relevant, and thoughtful travel tips and ideas to inspire people to explore the world around them. We feature travel articles, travel tips, and photography based on our own experiences from over 100 countries covering all things adventure, culture, food and drink, technology, and gear. Made with ❤ in Toronto.

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