Way out West Tour (8 Night)

Itinerary for the 8 Night Way out West Self Drive/Chauffeured Tour of Ireland

In order to give you an idea of the detail that we at IrishTourism.com place in our itineraries, below is the first part of the 42 page detailed itinerary that we have painstakingly put together for this tour. Regardless of the depth of information that is contained within these itineraries, your dedicated agent is always a quick phone call or e-mail away should you require assistance in any way, whether it be before your arrival in Ireland or during your time here.

Overnights:

  • County Clare for 1 night
  • Galway City for 1 night
  • Westport County Mayo for 2 nights
  • Connemara/Galway for 2 nights
  • Bunratty, County Clare for 2 nights

Shannon Airport to Doolin, County Clare

This route will take in the region of 80 minutes or so (driving time only). Departing Bunratty, take the N18 north to the provincial town of Ennis in County Clare.

Ennis
As well as presenting a typical example of Irish town life, Ennis is the capital of County Clare. Music, informally in many of the pubs and more organised in the Glór Irish Music Centre, is one of the main attractions of this town and easy to experience, particularly from May onwards. While in Ennis, the Ennis Friary is well worth a visit. The oldest building in Ennis, the 13th century friary, roofless for generations contains some gems of medieval sculpture. Its history is palpable. This 13th century Franciscan Friary, founded by the O’Briens, has numerous 15/16th century sculptures carved in the local hard limestone. The visitor can see the figure of St. Francis displaying the stigmata, an elaborately ornamented screen, a representation of the Virgin and Child and the Ecce Homo. The Chancel is lit by the magnificent East Window. On the North side is the beautifully carved McMahon tomb.

Kilfenora
Continuing on from Ennis on the R476, you will find the village of Kilfenora (30 minutes away).

In the picturesque village of Kilfenora, The Burren Centre gives the visitor an introduction to the visual delights and ancient mysteries which are waiting to be discovered in this unspoiled corner of Ireland. This ‘walk through time’ will take you back through the ages to a time when this area lay beneath a warm tropical sea. Follow the story of thec formation of the Burren's lunar landscape where man hunted bear, and wolves roamed the forests. See how, thousands of years ago, man left his mark on the landscape in the form of Dolmens and burial chambers. They still stand today, stone sentinels at the gates of our civilization’s history. Take the journey with us, watch history unfold in front of your eyes, listen to the sounds and feel the atmosphere of thousands of years ago.

The Cliffs of Moher
From Kilfenora, travel to the magnificent. Departing Kilfenora take the R481 into Lahinch. From here take the R478 to Liscannor and onto the Cliffs. The majestic Cliffs of Moher are without doubt one of Ireland’s most spectacular sights and overlook the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of West Clare. Located just north of Lahinch they are 8km long and 214m high, it is here that one can most easily get a feel for the wildness of the terrain over which the Celts wandered, for although they built imposing castles, very often they preferred the outdoor nomadic life and enjoyed the hunt.

The Cliffs lay claim to one of the most astonishing views in Ireland, on a clear day the Aran Islands are visible in Galway Bay as well as the valleys and hills of the Connemara region. The Cliffs of Moher rise from Hag's Head to the south and reach their highest point (214 meters) just north of O'Briens Tower.

The sea-stack, covered with seabirds, just below the tower is called Bréanán Mor and is over 70 meters high. During springtime the cliffs are a bird-watchers delight with guillemots, kittiwakes, shags, choughs, and puffins, you will be fascinated by the bird colonies nestling on the cliffs. The cliffs are formed by layers of siltstone, shale and sandstone with the oldest rocks at the bottom of the cliff. It is here that one can most easily get a feel for the wildness of the terrain over which the Celts wandered, for although they built imposing castles, very often they preferred the outdoor nomadic life and enjoyed the hunt.

The new Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre promises to provide a fantastic experience for everyone. It opened in 2007 with superb visitor facilities, cafés, guide services, auditorium and exhibition areas in a specially designed building suited to the Cliffs of Moher. The foyer is modern and spacious and gives access to the retail shop, tourist information office, exhibition centre and the café. Upstairs the restaurant provides panoramic views of the Cliffs and Liscannor Bay.

A circular ramp will bring the visitor from the exhibition centre to the auditorium for the audio visual displays. The domed exhibition centre is designed to cater for varying degrees of interest with interactive participation and is structured by the interweaving of four themed strands ‘Ocean’ ‘Rock’, ‘Nature’ and ‘Man’. It promises to make up for those days with inclement weather.

O'Brien's Tower
O’Briens Tower was built in 1835 by Cornelius O'Brien a descendant of Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland and the O'Brien's of Bunratty Castle, Kings of Thomond, as an observation point for the hundreds of tourists who even then, visited the Cliffs. It is the best location from which to view the Cliffs, from this vantage point one can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, as well as The Twelve Pins and the Maum Turk Mountains to the north in Connemara and Loop Head to the South. O’Brien’s Tower stands proudly on a headland of the majestic Cliffs of Moher. Here again we see the extent of the O’Brien’s influence on the history of the Celtic tribes. Cornelius O’Brien built the Tower in 1835.

Cornelius was a man ahead of his time, believing that the development of tourism would benefit the local economy and bring people out of poverty. He also built a wall of Moher flagstones along the Cliffs and it was said in the locality that ‘he built everything around here except the Cliffs’. He died in 1857 and his remains lie in the O’Brien vault in the graveyard adjoining St. Brigid’s Well.

O’Brien’s Tower is located a short distance from the village of Liscannor – famous for its slate ‘flagstones’ which were used at the time for fencing purposes. In fact the story goes that Cornelius O’Brien, one time member of the parliament for County Clare won a bet with his English counterparts that he could build a fence ‘a mile long, a yard high and an inch thick’. These were the dimensions of the flagstones and they were quickly adapted as building material as well as floor covering in farmhouses throughout the 19th century. This is evidenced in Bunratty Folk Park at Mac’s Pub. The flagstones bear the remarkable feature of the imprint of fossilized eels compacted over thousands of years.

Vast colonies of birds nestle along the cliff ledges - fulmaras, shags, puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes and razorbills together with varieties of gulls.

The Village of Doolin
Close to the Cliffs is the coastal village of Doolin. Doolin is a small fishing village, also known as Fisherstreet, on a sandy bay some 3km from Aill Na Searrach, the northern end of the Cliffs of Moher. Doolin is world-famous for its wealth of Irish folk music and in recent years has been attracting crowds to spontaneous sessions and festivals or 'fleadhanna' of Irish and international music. There are many music pubs and restaurants to be found in this village.

The Aran Islands
The smallest of the Aran Islands, Inisheer, is only 10km from the mainland at Doolin. A ferry operating a daily service can take groups of up to 150 people across to the islands in less than 30 minutes - making it the fastest route to the islands. Overlooked by Doonagore Castle, you will see an unusual circular tower within a walled “bawn” enclosure, which has been restored as a residence. Nearer the sea, Iron Age burial mounds dot the surrounding landscape.

Inishmore schedule: The 140 passenger superferry departs Doolin pier for Inishmore every Morning at 9am or as soon thereafter as tide allows. There is also an evening Departure from Doolin close to 5pm daily. Extra lunchtime sailing available on Certain Days. Please contact the office for more information on times for your selected day/days. Travel time to Inishmore is under 1 hour.

Inisheer schedule: It departs Doolin pier for Inisheer from 9am Tide allowing and then every 90minutes until 3pm. An evening sailing is also available Daily. Please contact the office for more information on times for your selected day/days. Travel time to Inisheer is 20 minutes.

Inishmaan schedule: Inishmaan is served daily by the interisland ferry. Please contact the office for more information on times for your selected day/days.

Doolin to Galway

This route will take in the region of 2 hours driving time although you may end up making numerous side trips as you travel, such is the nature of the County Clare and Burren region. Heading north from Doolin, the wonderful Aillwee caves await you.

Aillwee Caves
This stunning creation of nature was formed by the melt waters of a prehistoric ice age. The caves, carved out of limestone, cut into the heart of the mountain.

The story of Aillwee Cave began millions of years ago when streams sinking underground on Aillwee Mountain started dissolving channels through the lines of weakness in the limestone. About one million years ago the ice age began and from then until fifteen thousand years ago Ireland's climate alternated between artic coldness and warmer periods, freezing and melting, freezing and melting over the centuries. This melting water roared and crashed it's way through an unde rground channel greatly enlarging the passage and bringing with it large quantities of sand and silts which are still present in the inner cave today. Aillwee is one of the most ancient caves in the Burren.

Aillwee Cave is so much more than just another cave. It is an introduction to the geology of the Burren. A fun day out packed full of exciting things to do. Cave Tour , Woodland Walk, Mountain Walk , Gift Shop, Potato Bar, Cafe , Farm Shop, Garden Centre , Story Telling Evenings, Santa's Workshop and Cheese Making.

Just below the Aillwee caves, you will find a shop that specializes in Award winning Farmhouse cheeses and other specialities.

Guided tours every 5-15 minutes. Tours take approximately 35 minutes. School groups: one teacher/adult free with every 15 children. To qualify for group rates, groups must number 15 persons or more and booking and payment made by the group leader. Lunch menus are available, at all prices, upon request. Cheese tour available before 12 noon.

The Burren
The Burren, from the Gaelic word Boireann is an area of limestone rock covering imposing majestic mountains, and tranquil valleys with gently meandering streams. With its innate sense of spiritual peace, extraordinary array of flora and wildlife, and megalithic tombs and monuments older than Egypt's pyramids, the Burren creates a tapestry of colour and a seductively magical aura which few people leave without wanting to experience again.

The Burren upland region is located along Ireland's mid-Western coast, stretching across approximately 36,000 ha of north Clare and south Galway. The term 'upland' is somewhat misleading however, as the region extends from sea level to modest heights of just over 300m: it is however used to distinguish this region from the adjacent 'Burren lowland' region which extends over 20,000ha to the east.

Formed some 340 million years ago at the bottom of a warm, shallow sea, the visibly fossil-rich layers of limestone that characterise the Burren have been modified by millions of years of glacial, tectonic, solutional and human processes. The result is a wonderfully rich, undulating series of swirls, tiers, cliffs, caves, hollows and bare pavements, classical features of what is described as a 'karst' landscape. The heat retention capacity of this massive block of limestone, over 700m thick in places, and the ample shelter afforded by its dynamic geomorphology, contributed to its use as a winter holding area for livestock. It has been stated that water, not rock, is the key to the Burren. Ironically, water-flows in the Burren are rarely visible, most having assumed a subterranean course over time, as the natural acidity of rain water gradually eroded a path through the soluble limestone.

However, the impact of water on the Burren landscape is ubiquitous, from the extensive karst features to the rich array of micro-solutional forms known as 'karren' - runnels, grooves, and little hollows - that appear in the bare pavement. The relative scarcity of surface water in summer time is also an important factor in the evolution of the agricultural tradition of winter grazing in these areas. An initial appraisal of the Burren uplands would suggest rather a hostile agricultural landscape. However, on closer perusal, these hills are seen to provide surprisingly ample, albeit intermittent, grazing for livestock, particularly on the level plateaus, and on the steps that divide them. The soils found in these areas are usually described as rendzinas - thin, dark, well-drained, organic soils - though brown earth and (possibly) loessic soils are also found. These thin soils, and the species-rich vegetation layer that binds them, are resistant to poaching in winter time, thereby providing out-wintering animals with a warm, dry bed on which to graze and rest.

Understanding the landscape of the Burren is fundamentally important in order to appreciate the unique agricultural traditions that developed on it, and to achieve a greater understanding of the phenomenally rich natural and cultural heritage that has evolved as a result of these traditions.

The Burren Perfumery
The Burren Perfumery was founded 35 years ago at the centre of a quiet valley in the heart of the Burren. The Burren is a limestone plateau on the West Coast of Ireland, famous for its wildness and the diversity of its plant life. There are more than 700 species of flowering plants here, roughly three-quarters or Ireland’s native flora. The flowers of the Burren inspired the original Perfumery fragrances: Man of Aran, Ilaun, Frond and Fraoch.

The Perfumery is now owned and run by Sadie Chowen. Her philosophy is to continue the Perfumery tradition of creating products inspired by the landscape and environment that surrounds it, and to increase the simplicity and purity of the formulae. In 2005 she designed the Burren Botanicals, a range of contemporary floral waters that evoke the scents and moods of being outside at different seasons of the year. They are free from parabens and sodium lauryl sulphate, ingredients that are suspected of being harmful and are present in many of today's perfume products.

The Burren Perfumery is in Carron, Co. Clare approximately one hour driving time from Shannon or Galway. Visitors can see a free audio visual on the Burren, view the distillation and soap making areas, visit the herb garden and organic tea rooms and, of course, try out Perfumery fragrances, creams, balms and other products.

Dunguaire Castle
Before continuing on to County Galway, make sure to stop at Dunguaire castle in the village of Kinvara on the N67. Dunguaire Castle has for hundreds of years stood proudly on the site of the 7th century stronghold of Guaire, the King of Connaught, and its majesty dominating the shore of Galway Bay. The Castle bridges 13 centuries of Irish history, from the skirmishes, battles and sieges that characterize its colourful past, through to the literary revival of the early 20th century. In 1924, Oliver St. John Gogarty surgeon, poet, author and wit, a contemporary and friend of WB Yeats and Lady Gregory, acquired the Castle as a place of quiet retreat.

Today the Castle gives an insight into the lifestyle of the people who lived there from 1520 to modern times. During the summer evenings the castle hosts medieval banquets. It is necessary to book these well in advance. When booking your tour, please advise of and this can be arranged. From Kinvara, take the 25 minute drive to ‘The City of the Tribes’, Galway City taking the N18 in Kilcolgan.

Galway
If there was an official Cultural or even festival Capital of the country, then it would have to be Galway City. That’s because visitors to the Capital of The West become enchanted by its magnetic combination of youthful energy and enduring charm; they often linger longer than intended. Around the glue-pot pubs of Shop Street and Quay Street you may even bump into Danes and Dubliners who came for a festival weekend...in 1987!

Galway Cathedral
The Galway Cathedral is one of the largest and most impressive buildings in the city. Built between 1958 and 1965, it stands on the site of the old city jail. The architecture of the Cathedral draws on many influences. The dome and pillars reflect a Renaissance style. Other features, including the rose windows and mosaics, echo the broad tradition of Christian art. The Cathedral dome, at a height of 145 ft, is a prominent landmark on the city skyline.

What really makes the Cathedral into an impressive whole is the variety of art that has gone into its making. The exterior west end has a welcoming statue of the Virgin by Imogen Stuart, who also did the intriguing bronze panels and handles on the west door. Inside, the eye is immediately drawn to the large Crucifixion mosaic in the east wall designed by Patrick Pollen, who was also responsible for the mosaic of St Joseph the Worker. More importantly, however, he also executed many of the stained-glass windows in the mortuary, Blessed Sacrament and St. Colman chapels. These, and others by Gillian Deeney and Manus Walsh, make a reasonably homogeneous group on the ground floor, which were put in by Bishop Browne in 1965, along with the very colourful rose windows by the painter George Campbell.

Eyre Square
Eyre Square sits Albert Power's sculpture of Galway author Pádhraig Ó Conaire. Unveiled in 1934, it is one of the cities most cherished monuments. The limestone statue immortalises the writer, sitting at his work. Pádhraig's birthplace was a pub in the docks area, not far from where his statue stands today. In his short lifespan (1882 - 1928), he produced 24 books, including 100 short stories, all written in the Irish language.

Known locally as “the square”, this central plot was officially presented to the city in 1710 by Mayor Edward Eyre, from who it took its name.

County Galway is a great destination for travellers in quest of the true Ireland. It has two contrasting regions, separated by colossal Lough Corrib. To the west is mountainous Connemara where ponies roam, rare heathers bloom, Gaelic culture thrives and half the population speaks Irish as its first language. East Galway, on the other hand, is a living museum of Anglo-Irish history with mysterious monuments, monastic ruins, towering castles and magnificent mansions rising from a gentle terrain criss-crossed by dry-stone walls.

The remaining details of this itinerary are included with your booking.