Stepwise: Western Ireland
Leenane [ Leenaun, An Líonán – the filling pool, das Teig] is considered to be the “gateway to the Connemara” and is at the mouth of the Killary Habor. It is the crossroads of trails into the Maam Valley, Clifden and Westport, and hikers have access to Mweelrea, Sheefry, Paltry and Maumturk Mountains. The harbor is bounded by a high fjord that extends for 16km westward. “The Field” was filmed here and the Kelly Family recorded an album here. One can mingle with the local fisherman and sheep farmers in An Carraig, Gaynors or Hamiltons pubs.
Maam [The Pass] is a village in an ancient wood in the shadow of the Maamturk Mountains with their numerous pre-historic and early historic sites. The Western Way, a long distance walking trail runs from the southern end of the Maam Valley to the ancient site of Mámean. On the way there is 'Leaba Pháiric' [Patrick's bed], a rock recess and 'Tobar Pháraic' [Patrick's well] mark places of pilgrimage. The well is believed to cure cattle as well as human ills. The town is the filming location for the “Quiet Man” starring John Wayne in 1952. The nearby market has centuries old traditions, including a harvest festival in October.
Most of the drainage is underground caves, but unless one is an experienced spelunker they are not recommended, as they become flooded rivers in times of rain. Explore The Burren underworld in comfort within the developed cave at Aillwee, near Ballyvaughan.
Man has settled here since the stone-age. Evidence of his habitations and tombs are all around; massive dolmens, tombs and stone forts called cahers, (the homesteads of farmers of long ago), survive in various stages of preservation. Churches and castles indicate later periods of settlement.
The Burren is also famous for its plantlife. Foxgloves and rock roses grow here and rock's microclimates also support plants found in the Artic, Alpine and Mediterranean regions. Botanists have been unable to give a comprehensive answer to this. Many of the views around The Burren are truly spectacular: Corkscrew Hill and its view across Galway Bay or the journey around Black Head or the view from Ballinalacken Hill across to the Aran Islands.
Clifden [An clochán – bee-hive cell] – with Clifden Sky Road with castle ruins, Kylemore Abbey is at the edge of the Connemara with access to several islands and the mountain ranges of the area. Kylemore, [Coill Mor – the Big Wood] dominates the valley with its magnificent architecture and gardens, especially the Victorian Walled Garden. Today it is a convent run by Benedictine nuns, but the woman for whom the castle is built is entombed in the neighboring church, like Lenin. Oughterard with its tower ruins is also on the Clifden Sky Road. Marconi’s wireless station here was the first to transmit a radio signal across the Atlantic.
Liscannor [Lios Ceannúir – Ringfort of Ceannúr] seaside village 3 km from the Cliffs of Moher between Doolin and Lahinch, with castle ruins, cemetery, St. Brigid’s well and rich local folklore. The Cliffs are 8 km long and 214 m high. The tower at the cliffs was built by Cornelius O'Brien, a descendant of Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland. From here one can easily view the cliffs, the Aran Islands, and Galway Bay as well as the Twelve Bens and the Maum Turk mountains to the north in Connemara and Loop Head to the south. The submarine was invented here.
Other villages in County Galway to visit are Kinvara [Cinn Mhara – Head of the Sea] at the southern end of Galway Bay with Dunguaire Castle and Claregalway with its abbey and Burgo Castle ruins.
Consider walking the islands to see the sights, time permitting. It is easy to walk on the roads between sights and one is more likely to really begin to understand the scale of the islands and the feel of the place. But, keep in mind, it is best to plan to be back before dark as the roads are not lit and ferries do not run at all hours.
Dun Aengus is a fort situated on the edge of a cliff at a height of 100 meters overlooking the Atlantic on the Aran Islands, Inishmore. It consists of a series of concentric circular walls, the innermost; the citadel encloses an area approximately 50 m in diameter with 4 m thick walls of stone. These walls have been rebuilt to a height of 6 m and have wall walks, chambers, and flights of stairs too.