This is a useful and enjoyable tour, easily completed in a half day if you skip one or two stops, but interesting enough to take longer if you have the time available.
It is specifically intended for any one travelling from Shannon to Galway on arrival in Ireland, but can also serve as a link day for travelling from the South West to the West, and of course it can be reversed and done in the other direction.
Featured image: Kilmacduagh by bestbib&tucker
The tour begins in Shannon Airport (A)
B. Quin Abbey
Not that many tourists make it to Quin Abbey, so it will probably be very quiet here.
The Abbey was built on the ruins of a 13th century Norman castle, which was itself built on the site of an earlier church. Although the abbey has been here since 1433, it is still easy to pick out the remains of the castle that preceded it.
Although now a ruin, there are interesting passageways and stairways to explore and a lovely peaceful cloister where it is easy to imagine monks in silent prayer.
The adjoining graveyard is fascinating; people are still buried here today as they have been for the last 6 centuries or more and there are some wonderful headstones.
C. Ennis & Ennis Friary
Ennis is a busy and attractive medieval town of narrow streets and lanes, lots of interesting shops and great pubs!
If you have time, the walking tour which leaves from the tourist office is well worth doing as it points out many features of the town which you might not otherwise notice.
Ennis Friary was founded by the Franciscans in the 13th century and has a beautiful interior with a number of interesting 15th and 16th century sculptures.
D. Dromore Wood
Dromore is a nature reserve covering about 1000 acres and has a number of trail walks ideal for those who are longing for some fresh air and exercise after a long flight! There are marked trail walks of various lengths, the terrain is gentle and flat and maps are available at the visitor centre near the carpark.
It is always peaceful and serene in Dromore and it’s not unusual to complete a walk without meeting anyone else at all.
There is a huge variety of natural features – including a river, lakes, turloughs, callows (flodded meadows), limestone pavement, fen peat, reed beds and native woodland – and as a result great diversity of plant and animal life. It is a popular spot for birdwatching, and there are regular sightings of Peregrine and Goosnader as well as the occasional White Tailed Eagle.
You’ll come across many signs of settlement as you explore the woods, including ancient ring forts, an old lime kiln and beside the lake the ruin of the 17th century O’Brien Castle.
Corofin is an attractive village at the edge of the Burren, with good restaurants and shops and is a perfect place to break for lunch or a snack.
The round tower at Kilmacduagh is Ireland’s tallest and is located at the centre of a scattered monastic settlement and against a backdrop of the hills of the Burren.
Unlike the better known Glendalough, there will be no tour buses or crowds here, nor is there a visitor centre, in fact to get access to the building you must borrow a key from a local house.
This is a beautiful and serene place, and well worth the short detour. The route can be a little tricky – watch carefully for the turn on the left as you travel from Ennis.
G. Coole Park
Remains of House at CooleCoole Park was once home to Lady Gregory who regularly played host to Irish poet W.B.Yeats. There is a good visitor centre at the park and guided tours are available.
Yeats loved this place, wrote about it often and it featured in several poems, most famously “The Wild Swans at Coole”
“The trees are in their autumn beauty, The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones Are nine-and-fifty Swans.”
The swans are still there, though perhaps not precisely 59 of them, but the house is sadly long gone.
The magnificent grounds and lake are well worth visiting and it is a great place to stretch your legs after a long journey. Look out for the autograph tree where many famous (and not so famous!) people have carved their initials over the years – somehow the tree survived.
H. Thoor Ballylee
Thoor Ballylee (F)W.B. Yeats lived at Thoor Ballylee, a small castle with an adjoining house which he restored as a family home. That he was concerned to preserve its character while restoring it is clear from his words in a 1918 letter:
“I dream of making a house that may encourage people to avoid ugly manufactured things – an ideal poor man’s house. Except a very few things imported as models we should get all made in Galway or Limerick. I am told that our neighbours are pleased that we are not getting ‘grand things’ but old Irish furniture”.
The castle now houses a Yeats Museum but it is not hard to imagine it as a home and the surrounding area is much as it was in Yeates time.
I. Kilcolagan & Moran’s Oyster Cottage
If you fancy dinner or lunch before heading into Galway, this is the place to stop. Moran’s is a pub in a thatched cottage, is more than 300 years old and beautifully situated overlooking Galway Bay. None of that would matter if the food was just ok, but it’s not – it’s wonderful, you’ll get freshest of seafood (not just Oysters), the most delicious of brown bread and a great pint of Guinness to wash it down.
This isn’t an ad – I just love the place, even writing about it now just makes me want to jump in the car and go down there for one of their famous seafood platters.
From Moran’s it’s a short and direct drive to Galway city.