Galway, Mayo and Donegal are the two largest counties in the Ireland West region and Donegal has the longest coastline in Ireland giving it two outstanding features that make it stand out from most other counties – magnificent beaches and one of the best surfing climate and areas in the world. The beaches, vast and desolate in many cases, are the best in all of Ireland and to add to the seaside attractions that go with them are many magnificent links golf courses such as Ballyliffen with its two courses on the Inishowen Peninsula and Murvagh in South Donegal. The powerful Atlantic Ocean currents and rugged coastline create a natural combination of forces to produce the best surfing opportunities possible and thousands of avid participants visit every year. Add in the magnificent Glenveigh National Park , The Rosses, Dungloe and Letterkenny, the county town and visiting Donegal is more akin to a trip to another country.
Sligo has a smaller coastline that includes the well known Rosses Point Golf course and beach area together with Strandhill beach near the pretty town of Sligo. The county has one of the most noteworthy landmarks in Ireland in Ben Bulben Mountain over looking the grave of poet WB Yeats with whom the county is so associated. It also has some lovely lakes to the east of the county on the Leitrim border.
Leitrim , to the surprise of many, actually has 10-kilometre coastline, wedged between Sligo and Donegal, but is more famous for the abundance of lakes and rivers it possesses. Both Roscommon and Leitrim make up for their lack of seaside resorts by having wonderful lake and river amenities.
Roscommon gains great benefit from the presence of the River Shannon running through it like an artery. It attracts thousand of visitors interested in cruising and fishing holidays each year. The lovely village and marina of Roosky in south Roscommon is often the starting point for cruise adventures south through Athlone and onto Lough Ree and Lough Derg at the middle and southern areas of the great River Shannon. The county is also blessed with Lough Key and its surrounding Lough Key Forest Park, one of the most versatile and well-used amenities in Roscommon.
By far the most famous area in the Ireland West Region is Connemara, a vast area of outstanding and breathtaking natural beauty that attracts millions of visitors every year. Most of the Connemara area is situated in County Galway but to the north, it stretches up to Louisburgh in County Mayo, west of Westport. The capital of Connemara is Clifden, some 80 kilometres west of the city of Galway. This wonderful vibrating town, so full of character, epitomises the laid-back mentality of the western Irish people that so endears them to visitors. Here there is no hurry. Haste is not a word that enters the local vocabulary, most of which anyway is spoken in Gaelic native tongue. Even if you could understand them, there is still no hurry!
Connemara has everything to offer from lakes and mountains, golf fishing, horse riding, adventure centres and the stunning Connemara National Park , home to such a variety of wildlife and nature.
Galway City is the capital of the West of Ireland and noted as the most fun place in Ireland, ahead of even Dublin the capital city of the country. (See our Cities of Ireland section). Festivals are a full time occupation in Galway, it seems. Every week in the summer months there is something different on with the most famous of many events being the Galway Races held in July/August every year. The seven-day festival attracts hundreds of thousands, many with not with the slightest interest in racing; there just for all the other side shows and what the Irish know as the craic!
Other festivals include the world-renowned Galway Arts Festival and two Oyster Festivals along with a noted drama Festival. The compact centre of Galway offers great shopping restaurants and most of all great pubs to quench the thirst and enjoy the company.
County Mayo , whilst not being as populated as Galway, nonetheless offers a magnificent choice of scenery, towns and activities. Castlebar is the county town capital, a modern thriving town that is the gateway to west of the county. The most noteworthy town in the county however is not actually the biggest but is definitely the most beautiful. Westport has the distinction of being the only town in Ireland architecturally designed and the place is gorgeous. Winner of the Irish Tidy Towns on numerous occasions, it is a great base to explore all of Mayo, but particularly the southern part of the county and Achill Island and Clare island. Achill has a bridge to access it but Clare Island, sparsely inhabited and Inis Turk can only be reached by boat. Westport offers everything from superb accommodation and a host of leisure activities to a great choice of culinary excellence to satisfy all budgets. It is location of one the most famous mountains in Ireland, Croagh Patrick, just west of the town. Named after Saint Patrick who founded a church at its summit, the mountain attracts visitors all year round but particularly on what is known as “Reek Sunday” when thousand partake in a pilgrimage to the top where Mass is celebrated. From here, you have outstanding views of Clew Bay and the reputed 365 islands situated in it. (There are actually 117 rather than one for every day of the year, but who is counting!)
Further north, Ballina is the second largest town in Mayo and is a busy market town that is perfectly located for the pursuit of the rich fishing lakes that surround it. It is a ideal base for exploring the north Mayo coast where one can find exceptional links golf courses, such as Carne/Belmullet Golf Club. Don’t forget to take in the wonderful sights of the megalithic Ceide Fields for a unique look into the past.
The Ireland West Region is a vast area, much of completely natural and unspoilt. Here the visitor has the choice of seclusion and tranquillity or having a party time in Galway City and the towns of the area. One can have many holidays wrapped up in one!
For more information: www.discoverireland.com/west