When you are planning a trip to the western coast of Ireland, Galway should definitely be your destination. It is filled with lively pubs, quaint shops, and medieval attractions. This city will keep you moving forward while transporting you back in time with its beautiful Irish architecture. And the best museums in Galway are ready for exploration on the days you'll stay in town.
But when the urge hits to see surroundings outside the city, you will feel right at home as you explore some of the natural wonders of Ireland beyond Galway. We've compiled some of the best day trips to marvel at Mother Nature’s handiwork, including the Cliffs of Moher.
Whether you want to stroll along the beach, climb the grassy hills, or explore medieval ruins, you will find a day trip from Galway city to suit you. Don’t drag your luggage or any extra gear along on your excursion-filled adventure. Leave your bags at a luggage locker in Galway for the day and your belongings will be safe and easily collected when you return to town.
How to get out of Galway
Depending on where you are headed on your day trip from Galway, public transportation is usually the best way to get out of the city, especially if you are not familiar with driving in Ireland. There are several bus routes that crisscross the country and leave from Galway. By taking a bus, you are able to sit back and relax while soaking up the amazing lush Irish countryside.
You hire a taxi to take you to your destination, however, this can be very pricey and some areas do not have taxi services that will take you back to Galway after exploring the area for the day.
From Galway to Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey was once the castle of a wealthy family turned abbey by a group of Benedictine nuns who fled Belgium during the first World War. The abbey is still in operation complete with nuns that live and work there. Parts of the castle have been fully restored and opened for the public to visit. The gardens have been recreated and are also open to the public.
The castle was first built by Mitchell and Margaret Henry in the countryside of Galway during the 19th century. The beautiful lake in front of the home was the perfect place for lawn parties and picnics. The six-acre walled garden to the back of the property was once one of the best Victorian gardens in all of Ireland.
Once you leave the abbey, take a short walk to the neo-Gothic church located along the Lough Pollacapull. The church was designed to look like a miniature cathedral and as if it were built in the 14th century complete with a Gothic façade and arched interior. Mitchell Henry had the church built in the late 1800s after his wife died. Both Mitchell and Margaret Henry are buried in the mausoleum of the small church.
There is a small café, Mitchell’s Café, on the grounds where you can get delicious refreshments after spending a few hours checking out the sights in and around the abbey. Before you head back to Galway, stop by the village of Lennane and check out Killary Fjord.
How to get to Kylemore Abbey
The best way to reach Kylemore Abbey from Galway is by bus. The trip will take just over an hour and a half, but you will get to see the beautiful countryside roll by and the time will pass quickly. You can also travel by taxi but it can get expensive and getting a taxi back to the city can be time-consuming. Driving is also an option but if you are not sure of the area you may get lost.
From Galway to Connemara National Park
There are six national parks in Ireland and Connemara National Park is just a short distance from Galway city. Wear sturdy shoes and spend the day traipsing through grasslands, mountains, and bogs. The best hike in Connemara is Diamond Hill. The trail and summit are well-marked for visitors to easily follow.
There are even a few prehistoric sites and ruins in the park that you can explore. Climb Diamond Hill, the tallest peak in Connemara, slosh through a bog or two, and pick a few wildflowers in the heathland. Pack a picnic lunch and find a spot with amazing views to enjoy your meal.
If a picnic is not your thing, stop by the Connemara National Park Tea Room to enjoy traditional Irish toasted sandwiches and a bowl of hearty vegetable soup. The Tea Room is open seven days a week except during January when it is open only on the weekends.
There are three fantastic hiking trails that you may want to try:
Ellis Wood Nature Trail
This is the shortest trail in Connemara and usually only takes about 15 minutes for a leisurely stroll. The Ellis Wood Nature Trail makes a loop around the visitor’s center where you will see stunning scenery.
This trail is a little longer than the Ellis Wood trail but is still an easy hike for all skill levels, even with a few uphill areas along the trail. It should take about 30 minutes to walk this trail with its amazing scenery.
Diamond Trails (Upper and Lower)
Both trails are usually hiked together and take you to the summit of Diamond Hill. Most hikers make the journey along both trails in about two and a half hours. If you are not up to hiking to the summit you can still complete the Lower Diamond Trail which will take about an hour.
Drop by the visitor center when you first arrive to pick up some maps to find some of the recommended trails. The visitor’s center was once a part of the Letterfrack Industrial School and dates back to 1890. As you make your way through the park keep your eyes open for the large herd of Connemara ponies that live there.
Pay a visit to Clifden Castle located just outside Connemara National Park. You can request a private tour or stroll through by yourself. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a wonderful place to visit.
How to get to Connemara National Park
If you are pressed for time, you may want to drive yourself or hire a taxi which can be expensive. However, if you do not mind a long bus ride, this is the most economical way to get to Connemara National Park from Galway. Expect to spend just under two hours on the bus. Thankfully, the scenery you pass is breathtaking.
From Galway to the Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are one of the best things to experience in Ireland. Look out over the Atlantic Ocean and stroll along the windswept cliffs. The unparalleled views of the coast will leave you breathless. Located in Clare County, the Cliffs of Moher are only a short distance from Galway city.
Climb O’Brien’s Tower, the highest point of the cliffs, for some of the best views of the Atlantic Ocean and even the Cliffs of Moher themselves. Depending on the weather, you can see the Aran Islands to the west or the Twelve Bens in Connemara National Park to the north. O'Brien's Tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stop by the visitor’s center where you can warm up after spending time in the brisk coastal air. Enjoy some refreshments in the tea room and then wander through the center to look at the geology exhibits. It is one of the best day trips from Galway. Stop by Dunguaire Castle on your way back from the Cliffs of Moher.
Walk to the village of Doolin during your day trip. This quaint seaside village is a wonderful place to visit and listen to traditional Irish music. You can also reach the Aran Islands from Doolin.
How to get to Cliffs of Moher
If you are comfortable driving yourself along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way, this really is your best option to get from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher and should take only about an hour. The bus is your next best option but will take over two hours to get to the Cliffs; take Bus Éireann from the Ceannt Station. You can always spring for a taxi, but this is not budget-friendly.
From Galway to Doolin
This seaside village is very close to the Cliffs of Moher and most people combine the two into one day trip from Galway. Doolin is a vibrant place filled with music and laughter. There are several adorable shops in the village as well as restaurants and pubs. Enjoy a flavorful lunch at one of the local pubs.
Stroll to the outskirts of Doolin and check out fantastic views of Doonagore Castle as well as the rolling hills and pastures of the Irish countryside. If you are including the Cliffs of Moher in this day trip, start in Doolin and then walk to the cliffs instead of driving. You will see so much more as you hike that you would otherwise miss.
How to get to Doolin
Driving along the Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland is a beautiful drive and if you are able to rent a car and make the drive you will not be sorry. The drive from Galway to Doolin will take you about an hour. You can also take Bus Éireann from Ceannt Station in Galway to Doolin but this will take about two hours. A taxi is an option but it can get expensive.
From Galway to the Burren
The interesting and uncharacteristically beautiful limestone plateaus of the Burren are something you do not want to miss. The bleak area between County Galway and County Clare makes the unexpectedness of the Burren so spectacular. You leave the lush, vibrant fields behind and enter an area of limestone.
How to get to the Burren
Most people combine a trip to the Cliffs of Moher with a day trip to the Burren since they are so close. Take the Bus Éireann’s 350 to get to Lisdoonvarna located in the Burren. But, you really will want to drive yourself so you can see more of the landscape. The Burren is only about an hour from Galway city. If you are driving yourself, be sure to fill your tank before reaching the Burren, there are no service stations.
From Galway to the Aran Islands
Located in Galway Bay off the west coast of Ireland, Aran Islands is a fantastic place to plan day trips from Galway. The Aran Islands are an island chain of three islands and are easy to reach from Doolin. The ferry runs from the Aran Islands to Doolin and Rossaveal across the Galway Bay.
There are only about 1,200 people living on the Aran Islands making the islands feel remote and a little bit wild. Take a seaside walk, explore ancient ruins, and tour a few castles. Stop by one of the traditional Irish pubs for a drink or a quick lunch. Everyone speaks English even though the islands are considered to be part of the Gaeltacht, or the region where Irish is spoken.
Start your tour of the Aran Islands on Inishmaan, the biggest island in the chain. There are several ancient sites and ruins for you to explore either by yourself or with a guided tour. The ruins of the Dún Chonchúir fort are particularly interesting.
How to get to the Aran Islands
Being a group of islands, you will have to take the Rossaveel Ferry or the Inishmaan Ferry. The best way to travel from Galway to the Aran Islands is by hopping on bus line 525, which departs twice a day from Galway and then taking a ferry over to the islands. You can drive yourself from Galway and then take the Inishmaan or Rossaveel Ferry if you choose.
Day Trips Beyond Galway City
There are several popular tourist attractions along Ireland's West Coast including dramatic cliffs, beautiful beaches, and scenic landscapes. The limestone landscape of the Burren is a vast contrast to the greenery of the rest of Ireland. When you visit Ireland, you will want to spend time along the Atlantic coast.
Even before you land at the Dublin Airport to make your way to Galway, you will want to have a plan in place and know which day trips from Galway you want to check out while here. A trip along the Wild Atlantic Way is always great fun, and learning about Irish history is also very interesting, especially since County Galway is the traditional music capital.
Whether you are planning to tour Kylemore Abbey, Dunguaire Castle, Clifden Castle, or the Cliffs of Moher, your Ireland trip will be filled with adventure, excitement, and great fun. Aside from visiting the popular tourist attractions, check out some of the lesser-known places.