It is hard to imagine two more contrasting landscapes. ‘Burren’ is derived from the Irish word boireann meaning ‘place of stone’, and the name could not be more apt. There is no part of Ireland where rock so obviously dominates the landscape as it does in the Northwest corner of County Clare.
The Burren covers an area of some 260 square kilometres and is famous for its bare limestone pavements dissected by deep crevices and traversed by countless stone walls. Surprisingly, this bizarre and apparently hostile environment is a botanist’s paradise as around ¾ of Ireland’s plant species are found in the Burren (more than any other region).
By contrast - Connemara is an imposing landscape of lakes, moorland and rugged mountains. It has some of the most extensive areas of blanket bog in Europe and is home to many heathland and bogland plants such as the insectivorous sundew and butterwort and a rich variety of heaths and heathers. The two main mountain groups – the Twelve Bens of Connemara and the Maamturk Mountains – are separated by the deep valley in which Lough Inagh lies. One of the most typical Connemara scenes is to see the jagged peaks glistening with quartz reflected in the still waters of a bogland pool.
In between these 2 contrasting landscapes lie the Aran Islands, Inisheer (near island), Inishmaan (Middle Island) and Inishmore (big island). Although the Aran Islands belong to Co. Galway, geologically they are similar to the Burren in Co. Clare with many of the fields consisting of little more than bare limestone. The islanders have eked out a living by improving the soil over generations with sand and seaweed.
Aran is also a bastion of Irish culture. Irish is still the everyday language of most islanders, making it the strongest Gaeltacht in the country. Many traditions that have been lost on the mainland have been maintained here. It also has a wealth of archaeological and historical remains, notably its prehistoric stone forts and Early Christian sites. Aran has been a mecca for scholars and discerning travellers ever since John Millington Synge’s brilliant depiction of the islanders’ life in The Playboy of the Western World.
Your holiday begins in the cultural city of Galway – a city that thrives both on a fascinating and historical past & a traditional & proudly Irish present. Your Guide will meet you at 16.00 hours inthe centre of Galway, and then a courtesy transfer by minivan takes you to your holiday start location on the southern shores of Connemara. From here, your Guide will introduce you to your group & brief you on the coming days of your holiday.
You will then walk to a nearby restaurant for your first dinner together & return later to your accommodation for your overnight. If you wish to make your own way to your first accommodation in Connemara ahead of time – you are most welcome & your Guide will meet you there. Should you wish to explore Galway in more detail & spend an extra night or two there before (or after) your holiday – we will be happy to book accommodation for you.
Your first walk is a wonderful introduction to the beauty of Connemara and the contrasts of bogland & beach that makes this part of Ireland so enthralling. After your full Irish breakfast and with your picnic lunch in your backpack, you have a choice of 2 walks:
A short drive takes you to the pristine white beach of Dog’s Bay. From here, you have a magnificent walk around this rugged tombola, with the sea beside you throughout your walk. Following the coastline, you walk into the little fishing village of Roundstone to enjoy some refreshment before returning to your accommodation for your 2nd overnight.
A wonderful track gradually becomes a little “sheep trail” as you follow a beautiful walk to Errisbeg mountain. With glorious views across Roundstone Bog to the Twelve Bens & the Maamturks, a vista unfolds to give you a stunning landscape to admire that makes Connemara so famous & so popular with nature lovers.
To your west, you overlook the coast and the Wild Atlantic way off to the horizon, while to your east, you overlook bogland & mountains. Descend from here and follow the coastline back to your accommodation. Today is a super opportunity for a swim in the clear & refreshing waters of the west of Ireland and your Guide will ensure you have time to do so if you wish.
After your walk, you will return to your accommodation for your dinner & overnight
Driving a short distance, you reach the little village of Letterfrack and Connemara National Park. Here, you will have time to enjoy the Visitor Centre, where you may wish to learn more about the formation of this fascinating landscape & its early settlers. From here the then have a choice of walks:-
Diamond Hill is one of the most iconic of the Twelve Bens range of mountains & stands proudly in the centre of Connemara National Park. There is a lovely circuit that goes around the base of this mountain, introducing you to Connemara Ponies and the rich flora & fauna that this region abounds in. Returning to the Visitor Centre, you may wish to enjoy a lovely video on the region before moving on to Killary Harbour.
Following a board walk, you climb to the top of Diamond Hill in the centre of Connemara National Park to reach the summit of one of the Twelve Bens. With a terrific 360 degree view from the top, your Guide will point out the many different locations around you and will explain the significance of them in relation to the region. Descending from here, you return to the Visitor Centre in the National Park where you may wish to soak in more of the atmosphere & information on this region.
At the end of your walk, you will then continue on to the famous & impressive Killary Harbour – Ireland’s only fjord and if energy allows, enjoy a short walk here.
Those who wish, will have the opportunity to meet a local farmer, immerse themselves into this diverse way of life, get hands on experience with farming sheep & if you wish – cutting turf. Return to your accommodation afterwards for a free evening at your leisure.
Today you transfer to Galway Bay & reach the largest of the Aran Islands and Inishmore where you will spend your next 2 nights. Taking a small ferry from Galway, your crossing takes approx. 1 hour.
On reaching the island, you drop off your luggage at your accommodation & then continue on to have a wonderful walk around the south eastern region of the island. Learning some of the rich history of these islands, you will also have time to visit an old fortress before returning to your accommodation for your dinner & overnight.
Today you will have the opportunity to discover Inish Mor in all its glory. Leaving your accommodation, and overlooking the southern shores of the island, you reach the centre of Inishmor at Kilmurvey. Today you have a choice of the following walks:
Following a lovely old trail, you will be brought across the limestone pavements to reach the fascinating “Poll na bPeist” or Serpents Lair. This amazing natural swimming pool is a wonderful location to learn more about this ancient landscape.
With its rough and severe tidal currents, it soon becomes clear on why the sea forms so much of island conversations. Continue on to reach the impressive stone fortress of Dun Aonghasa and your breath will be taken away with the wonderful views from here. Returning by minivan to your accommodation, you will have a free evening to enjoy the island at your own leisure.
Following the same route as outlined above, you continue from Dun Aonghasa fortress, along the northern shores of the island to reach a seal sanctuary. With time to enjoy this coastline, and visit some of the older churches on the island, you then return to your accommodation to enjoy an evening at your own leisure.
Those that wish to learn more on the history of the island will be given the opportunity to meet one of the locals & hear more about island life and the changing times over hundreds of years.
Leaving the island this morning, you return to the mainland and drive south, around Galway Bay to reach the Burren. This is a completely different & contrasting landscape to Connemara & also boasts one of the most diverse arrays of flowers that any keen botanist would wish to find. Your choice of walks is as follows:
Just outside the village of Ballyvaughan, you reach Abbey Hill. From here, you follow a trail to the foothills of its peak, before climbing across the limestone pavements to reach the top. Overlooking Ballyvaughan Bay & Galway Bay beyond, you will be able to see Connemara where you have already been and the Aran Islands inbetween. Continuing on from there, you reach your accommodation in Doolin where you spend your next 2 nights.
At the very northern tip of the Burren coast is Black Head lighthouse and from there, a beautiful mix of fertile valleys and limestone payments open out before you. Your walk takes you around this glorious headland with magnificent views across Galway Bay to Connemara and the Aran Islands. At the end of your walk you continue on to your accommodation in Doolin for your final 2 nights.
At the end of your walk, your Guide will point you in the direction of some super places to eat & enjoy some of the lively traditional music that makes Doolin such a “mecca” for Irish music lovers.
When visiting Doolin – one of the most talked about “must-do’s” is to visit the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher. These impressive cliffs form a protective barrier from the Wild Atlantic Way to the rich & fertile land at the southern end of the Burren region. Standing proudly above the ocean their towering dominance is a spectacle that can best be appreciated on foot. Your choice of walks is as follows:-
Walking from your accommodation in Doolin, you walk south to reach the foothills of the Cliffs of Moher. Climbing gradually, you can see the lower levels and layering of rock formations that continue to climb to their 300mt wall of beauty. Reaching the Visitor Centre you may wish to learn more on the formation of the cliffs, or just enjoy some light refreshments there. Afterwards, an optional boat trip under the cliffs can be arranged for those that wish.
Following the walk as outlined above, your walk continues south from the Visitor Centre to reach the southern point of the cliffs at Hags Head. This is the place that originally gave the cliffs their name & from here, you have wonderful views south over Lahinch, the Shannon Estuary & Kerry in the distance. Transferring by bus back to Doolin, those that wish will have time for a well-earned “pint” to celebrate your week of walking.
At the end of your walk, you return to the delightful village of Doolin to enjoy your final farewell dinner together, compare stories, reminisce and enjoy some great music before your onward journeys tomorrow.
After your final and substantial Irish Breakfast, you will be taken by minivan to reach the bus & train station in Ennis. From here, you can then avail of the excellent bus/train service to all major airports, cities & ferry ports in Ireland. Your estimated arrival time to Ennis is approx. 10.30am. Please note that Ennis is approx. 20 mins (drive time) from Shannon Airport.
Please note : - It is extremely important that you read & understand the WALK DETAILS for each day & that you are able to achieve this. If you would like to discuss your Walking Ability with one of our experts – please arrange a telephone conversation & we will be delighted to assist you with your holiday choice.
Should you require extra night’s accommodation before or after your holiday, please advise us at the time of booking.
Please visit www.irishrail.ie or www.buseireann.ie for public transport in Ireland
Not Included: Any boat trips, personal drinks, entrance fees to theatres, parks or museums etc., medical expenses or gratuities.
Comfortable: Terrain varied & occasionally wet underfoot. Best suited to people capable of walking up to 12kms (7.5 miles) daily. You encounter uphill & downhill sections with a max. height of 600 metres (1,950 feet) approx. Ideal first walking holiday or less experienced walkers.
Moderate: Takes you across open-mountain & bogland (wet conditions). Terrain is varied each day with uphill & downhill hiking, some of which may be steep. Max. height is 950 metres (3,100 feet) approx. Suitable for people with good level of fitness & capable of walking up to 20kms (12.5 miles) a day.
Please note that Ireland can be a bit ‘damp’ both underfoot and overhead, with some liquid sunshine! Irish weather is unpredictable and the nature of hikes can change quickly and dramatically because of the weather. This is one of the many pleasant aspects of hiking in Ireland. Benny's Ireland Vacations, Inc. reserves the right to alter this itinerary due to weather conditions or the walking ability of each group.
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I've lived most of my life on the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland. My Itineraries demonstrate my knowledge of Ireland. which is why you will be in the best hands.You will be assured that your vacation will be most memorable. Benny's Ireland Vacations is proudly partnered with the most able, reliable & experienced ground handlers in the business in Ireland, The Abbey Group.
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