Explore the wild atlantic way
The majestic Wild Atlantic Way is the world's longest defined coastal touring route, stretching from Donegal’s famous Inishowen Peninsula in the north to the picturesque heritage town of Kinsale in the south. It's inspiring, renewing, relaxing and invigorating and Marless House is the perfect base to explore two of the six regions of the world's most spectacular coastline: the "Bay Coast" of counties Mayo and Galway and the "Cliff Coast" of county Clare.
If you're interested in hiking the Wild Atlantic Way, Hillwalk Tours offer self-guided tours, where you decide how far to walk each day, and with whom. They'll transfer your bags, tell you all about Irish history and folklore and help you find the tastiest food and the best pint of Guinness.
Connemara, long regarded as the real emerald of Ireland, is one of the most scenic regions the country, with its many bogs, rugged mountains, blue lakes and rivers running down to many beach lined shores. Drive along the coast road through this natural and unspoilt environment with the Atlantic ocean on your left. In the many little towns you’ll be greeted by the warm, friendly locals, extending a hospitality which is the essence of Ireland.
Not to be missed is the picturesque town of Clifden with the stunning backdrop of the 'Twelve Bens' mountains; the Sky road, an exhilarating 7 miles circular drive north of Clifden; the famous Kylemore Abbey, the National Park. Here the pace of life is relaxed. Return by the lakes via Oughterard, where fishing is abundant. Artists from all over the world have come to paint this region with its ever changing light.
In August the town hosts the famous Connemara Pony Show. Visit the Connemara National Park, a 2000 hectare State owned conversation centre made up of mountains, bogs and grasslands with spectacular wildlife. There are also many ancient sites, nature trails and picnic areas in the park. Fans of the classic 1951 film ‘The Quiet Man’, starring John Ford and Maureen O’Hara, can visit the Maam Cross and Maam Bridge area, where parts of the film were made. This is also the main area where the farmers dig the peat from the bog.
Oughterard, a town on the banks of the Lough Corrib, has one of the best fishing lakes in Ireland and is one on Ireland’s leading anglers’ resorts. Here you will find Aughanore Castle, a 15th century Tower House. One wall of the banqueting hall still stands and its windows contain some of the finest specimens of floral decorative stone carving of their period. Open during the summer months.
Also located in this area is the Glengowla Silver and Lead Mines dating back to the 19th century and Brigit’s Garden, comprising four Celtic inspired beautiful gardens. Last stop is the Connemara Marble factory in Moycullen before returning to Galway. The Connemara region is truly a magical area. Artists from all over the world have come to paint this landscape with its ever-changing light.
The Aran Islands
On the edge of the Atlantic, at the mouth of Galway Bay are the world famous Aran Islands, a maze of stone walls and tiny fields, high cliffs and incredible rugged landscapes. They are renowned for their unique way of life, where age-old traditions co-exist with modern living. The islands are rich in history, with ancient monuments, from both pre-historic and Christian times. The three islands, Inis Mór Island (Big Island), Inis Meáin Island (Middle island) and Inis Oírr Island (East island) are situated at the mouth of Galway Bay, Ireland. The Irish (Gaelic) language is still spoken here and in the twenty first century all native born islanders are bilingual in both Irish and English.
There are daily boat trips with Aran Island Ferries to the Aran Islands from Rosaveal or one can fly with Aer Aran from Inverin airport, with connecting coach service from Galway city and direct from Marless House to both Roasaveal and Connemara airport.
On Inis Mor, the largest island, is the Dun Aengus fort. ‘Dún Aonghasa’, a world heritage site, is a semi-circular stone fort situated on the edge of a three hundred foot high cliff over looking the Atlantic. It is deemed to be one of the best examples of its kind in Europe. The views from it are breathtakingly spectacular. The Island’s main port town is Kilronan, where you can hire bicycles, a minibus, or jaunting car to take you round this rugged island.
Inis Meain is the middle island, where one should see what remains of the old, traditional lifestyle, stone houses with thatched roofs. The smallest island, Inis Oirr boasts the remains of some ancient churches and a holy well. This island is a haven for bird watchers, and those interested in flora and fauna.
The Cliffs of Moher and the burren
A day trip to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren incorporates Dunguaire Castle, a16th century Tower House open to visitors by day, and holds Medieval Banquets nightly during the summer months; the Ailwee Caves with its stalactites, stalagmites, relics of bears and a waterfall and the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a 5000 year old megalithic burial tomb.
The Burren is a unique 160 square kms of limestone with rare flora and fauna growing among the rock formations contains examples of all the major habitats within the Burren: Limestone Pavement, Calcareous Grassland, Hazel scrub, Ash/Hazel Woodland, Turloughs, Lakes, Petrifying Springs, Cliffs and Fen. When Cromwell’s envoy visited The Burren, he brought back reports of “a savage land, yielding neither, water enough to drown a man, nor a tree to hang him, nor soil enough to bury him”. Round stone forts, souterrains and burial chambers of the people who inhabited this land can also be found.
Going south are the majestic Cliffs of Moher, dropping 700 feet to the heavy selling Atlantic Ocean on the west coast to Clare. Extending for 5 miles, these spectacular natural monuments are now home to puffins and guillenots, cormorants and rare fossils. At the foot of Abbey Hill, the ruin of the12th century Cistercian Abbey of Corcomroe rises unexpectedly among the rocks. Return by the coast road towards Blackhead lighthouse with breathtaking views of Fanore beach, the blue Atlantic and the Connemara coast with the Aran Islands in the distance.
Other Day Tours
The Connemara & Cong Tour departs daily at 10am from Merchants Road in Galway City. To see the hidden Ireland off the main tourist track this tour is a must with the first stop at Ross Errily Friary, a hidden but atmospheric 14th century monastery before entering Cong Village where you have time to explore Cong Woods to see Ashford Castle or stroll the town famous for being the location for the 1950s classic movie, 'The Quiet Man'- or simply have a coffee on the edge of Lough Corrib, the largest lake in the Republic of Ireland.
The bustling town of Gort is situated 20 miles south of Galway city. Close-by is Thoor Ballylee, a delightful 16th Century Tower House, once the home of the poet W.B. Yeats during the 1920′s. Recently restored by Bord Failte, it now houses an interpretative centre on Yeat’s life and works. Nearby is Coole Park, once the home of Lady Gregory. At the turn of the 19th century, during the Celtic Literacy renewal, Lady Gregory played host to leading lliterary figures of the day, W.B.Yeats; George Bernard Shaw; Sean O’Casey; Oliver St. John gogarty and many more.Coole House was demolished in the 1950′s. Only the famous Yew walk, garden and autograph tree remain, to remind us of the part this played in the Irish literary renaissance. The stables have been converted to an interpretative centre and tearooms. The grounds are now a National Park and Wildlife Park and are open to the public from May to September.
Athenry is unique in that it is the only walled town in Ireland whose still intact medieval walls are clearly visible to the approaching visitor. It has five towers and a town entrance known as the North Gate. The Arts and Heritage centre is located amid the ruins of the 13th century St Mary’s church. Among the exhibits are the town’s 14th century Civic Mace and Seal that were returned to the people of Athenry after an absence of 160 years. Other places of interest are Athenry Castle (1235); Dominican Priory (1241); Athenry’s medieval Walls (1313); the North Gate (15th century); Market Cross (15th Century). The town is situated about 15 minutes (by car or train) east of Galway City, in the heart of rich country, made famous by the popular song, “The Fields of Athenry”.