Connemara, a largely Irish-speaking region, is composed of a lacy net of inlets and islands, a gang of inland mountains, and desolate stretches of bog. This thinly populated region of northwest County Galway harbors some of Ireland’s most breathtaking scenery, from rocky offshore islands to the green slopes of the area’s two major mountain ranges, the Twelve Bens and the Maamturks.


Busy, English-speaking Clifden has more amenities than its old-world, Irishspeaking neighbors. Clifden’s proximity to the scenic bogs and mountains of Connemara attracts crowds of tourists, who use it as a base for exploring the region. The Connemara Walking Centre, on Market St. runs tours of the bogs and explores the history, folklore, and geology of Connemara, (a 21 379. Open Mar.-Oct. M-Sa 10am-6pm. 1-2 tours per day. ‚19-32.) Bus Eireann goes from the library on Market St. to Galway via Oughterard (2hr. 1-6 per day, ‚9) and Westport via Leenane (lHhr. late June to Aug. M-Sa, 1-3 per day). Michael Nee runs a bus from the courthouse to Galway (June-Sept. 2 per day, ‚11). Rent a bike at Mannion’s, on Bridge St. (a21 160. ‚9 per day, ‚60 per week; deposit ‚20. Open Su 10am-lpm and 5-7pm, M-Sa 9:30am-6:30pm.) The tourist office is on Galway Rd. (a21 163. Open July-Aug. M-Sa 9am-6pm, Su noon-4pm; June M-Sa 10am-6pm; Sept.-Oct. and Mar.-May M-Sa 10am-5pm.) B&Bs are everywhere and start at ‚25 per person. Clifden Town Hostel (IHH) O, on Market St. has great facilities and spotless rooms in a 180-year-old house near the pubs. (21 076. Call ahead Nov.-Feb. Dorms ‚12-15; doubles ‚32- 34; triples ‚32; quads ‚56-60.) Tranquil Shanaheever Campsite O is 1.5km outside Clifden on Westport Rd. ( 21 018. Showers. Laundry ‚6. ‚12 per person with tent or trailer.) Most restaurants in Clifden are attached to pubs and serve the standard fare. Cullen’s Bistro & Coffee Shop , Market St. is a fam- ily-run establishment that cooks up hearty meals and delicious desserts. ( 21 983. Thick Irish stew ‚13. Open daily llam-lOpm.) O’Connor’s Supervalu supermarket is on Market St. (Open M-F 9am-7pm, Su 10am-6pm.)


Connemara National Park occupies 12.5 square kilometers of mountainous countryside that thousands of birds call home. Bogs constitute much of the park’s terrain, often thinly covered by a deceptive screen of grass and flowers; be prepared to get muddy. The Snuffaunboy Nature and Eliis Wood trails are easy 20min. hikes. Trails lead from the back of the Ellis Wood trail and along Bog Road onto Diamond Hill. Although erosion control efforts have kept Diamond Hill trail closed for the past 2 years, it’s worth a call to the Visitors Centre (see below) to check if it’s reopened; the 2hr. hike rewards hikers with views of the bog and the harbor. Experienced hikers often head for the Twelve Bens (Na Benna Beola; the Twelve Pins), a rugged range that reaches 2200m heights. (The range is not recommended for beginning hikers.) A tour of all 12 bens takes experienced hikers about lOhr. Biking the 65km circle through Clifden, Letterfrack, and the Inagh Valley is truly captivating, but only appropriate for fit bikers. A guidebook mapping out walks (‚6.40) is available at the Visitors Centre, where the staff helps plan longer hikes. They’ll also explain the differences between hummocks and tussocks. (a 41 054. Open July- Aug. daily 9:30am-6:30pm; June 10am-6:30pm; May and Sept. 10am-5:30pm. ‚2.50, students ‚1.25.) Hikers often base themselves at the Ben Lettery Hostel (An OigeHI) , in Ballinafad, 13km east of Clifden. (a 51 136. Dorms ‚10-12.)

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