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Discover the white sandy beaches and rugged beauty of Connemara

Beaches, a John Wayne bridge and boutique food trucks, what more could you want?

The Journal is partnering with Allianz Insurance to bring you a series showcasing some of the most beautiful drives around the country. Whether it’s with friends, family or by yourself, Ireland’s Best Drives will make you want to get in the car and explore.

We’re taking in beautiful Galway and in particular, the windswept corner known as Connemara. If you are looking for an area which captures the rugged and varied beauty of Ireland, then Connemara will do quite nicely.

  • Where: Co Galway.
  • The route: From Galway city, head out the N59 towards Oughterard. From there we’re stopping off at The Quiet Man bridge over the River Leam. Go through Maam and out to Leenaun and Killary Harbour. Next it’s on to Glassilaun Beach before a hike in Diamond Hill. A quick stop off in Kylemore Abbey before finishing in Barna.
  • Photo opportunities: Killary Harbour, Kylemore Abbey, Glassilaun Beach and numerous other stops along the way.
  • Pitstops: Be sure to grab coffee in My Little Flower in Oughterard. Have your lunch in the Misunderstood Heron. Swim in Glassilaun Beach and have your dinner in O’Grady’s in Barna on the way home.
  • Something different: Eating your lunch at The Misunderstood Heron while looking out on Killary Harbour is spectacular.

From the Twelve Bens mountains to the dramatic Atlantic coastline, the landscape tangles and unravels before your eyes, revealing white sandy beaches, misty boglands, green fields and even a glacial fjord at Killary Harbour.

Starting in Galway city, enjoy a leisurely drive along the N59 past Moycullen and onto the lovely village of Oughterard. Nestled beside Lough Corrib at the start of the Connemara Mountain Range, Oughterard is the first stop on our drive and it is impossible to pass this traditional village without stopping for a coffee in My Little Flower. This little gem was named as one of the top ten cafés in Ireland in the Irish Independent’s Weekend magazine.

Next your journey will take you towards Maam, but before that there’s a stop off on the way at The Quiet Man bridge over the River Leam. The bridge was made famous in the 1950s classic The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, so it’s definitely worth a look.

From there you have a beautiful drive through Maam with the mountains and valleys opening in front of you before arriving in Leenaun and the stunning Killary Harbour. Park up and stretch the legs and – providing the weather has held up – soak in the beauty of one of just three fjords in Ireland.

A short drive away is The Misunderstood Heron, the most picturesque and tastiest street food truck in Ireland. Have your lunch on the benches with Killary as your real-life screensaver on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

Now that your hunger has been sated, it is back on the road again out towards Glassilaun Beach in Connemara. It is a white sandy beach with a stunning mountain backdrop where you can enjoy a dip in crystal clear water, provided you’ve waited an hour or so for your food to settle!

On the home stretch now, but you can’t go to Connemara without stopping in Kylemore Abbey and its superb picturesque lakeside setting, surrounded by woodlands at the foot of the Twelve Bens Mountains. The abbey has a long history dating back to the 1800s and is the oldest of the Irish Benedictine Abbeys. Take in the gorgeous gardens and its cafe is famous for its brown bread so grab some to go for later.

From there, it is the coast road back toward Galway passing through Screebe and Inverin before our final stopping point in Barna, where O’Grady’s on the Pier is quite simply unmissable for dinner. The pan fried turbot is delicious if you’re undecided but you can’t go wrong on their menu.

Insure your next road trip with Allianz and get 15% off online. *


Allianz p.l.c. is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Standard acceptance criteria, terms & conditions apply. A minimum premium of €284 applies.