Boundless Journeys - vacations and travel

Ireland Walking The Western Islands

Ireland, Europe

from $3,695* per person 8 Days June, August
Boutique accommodations Exertion level: 4
Operator: Boundless Journeys 10 people max
  • Ennis airport, ireland
  • Active & Adventure trips
National Geographic Traveler's Tours of a Lifetime 2010
The islands of Western Ireland have long been a draw for those few travelers looking to get off the beaten track and experience true Irish life, complete with rugged landscapes, hard working people, and small towns standing up to the harsh Atlantic winters. Summer brings softer weather, and long days ideal for exploring the many islands dotting the coast, including Achill Island with its deserted famine village; Clare Island, once home to Grace O'Malley, the "Pirate Queen"; and the Aran Islands, known worldwide for their miles upon miles of stone walls and unique geology.

Our easy to moderate daily hikes are complemented by picnic lunches in scenic coastal countryside and bustling Irish villages far from the usual tourist routes. Our accommodations, charming and comfortable B & Bs, reflect the simple but welcoming way of life that exists here, in these rarely visited islands of western Ireland.

Locations visited/nearby

Ireland, Europe

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Itinerary

DAY 1
Achill Island

Walk – easy to moderate, about two hours.

We depart Ennis this morning for Achill Island. As we drive north, the landscape becomes increasingly rugged, with stark mountains lording over hidden lakes. We’ll stop in one of the quaint villages along the way before our first walk on Mulranny Beach.

We cross by bridge to Achill Island, our home for the next two nights. After settling into our inn located on the seaside site of a former coast guard station, we gather for a welcome dinner.
The Bervie, Keel, Achill Island

DAY 2
Achill Island: Famine Village and Croaghaun Mountain Cliffs

Hike – moderate to strenuous, 3-4 hours.

After a traditional Irish breakfast, we begin the day with a visit to the deserted famine village on the island for a poignant look at the history of this area. We then head for the west of the island and spectacular Keem Bay. Many would say the cliffs of Croaghaun Mountain are the most spectacular in the country, rising steeply from the sea to summit.

From the beach we climb the steep hill to the old Marconi lookout tower and follow the amazing cliff edge to Achill Head, for the best views of the cliff face. Taking our time as we climb up and down the rugged cliffs along the edge of Europe, you will surely be impressed by this stunning walk. Finally, we descend from Achill Head and encounter the remains of the old booleying (shepherding) settlement, before following a small stream back to Keem Bay.

This afternoon there is time to enjoy the views from our inn, before dinner on your own in the neighboring small village of Keel.
The Bervie, Keel, Achill Island

DAY 3
Transfer to Clare Island

Walk – easy to moderate, 2-3 hours.

After breakfast we say farewell to Achill Island and return to the mainland. En route to Clare Island we stop in the colorful town of Westport. Here we have time to meander, do some shopping, or just have a coffee and tune into life in this great western Ireland town. Westport has many pubs offering superb lunches, from homemade seafood chowder or crab salad to more traditional Irish pub fare. After lunch we continue our journey (about another 1/2 hour) along the shores of Clew Bay to Roonagh Quay at Louisburgh, where we board a small ferry for the short crossing to Clare Island. Our inn is right by the quay overlooking the harbor. After checking in we begin our exploration with a walk on a quiet road to the western part of the island and its remote signal tower.

Tonight we enjoy a fine four-course meal together at our inn.
O’Grady’s Guesthouse, Clare Island

DAY 4
Clare Island Exploration

Walk – moderate, 4-5 hours; shorter option of 2-3 hours available.

Clare Island was once home to the famed Irish “Pirate Queen” Grace O’Malley, whose castle overlooks the harbor. This morning your guide introduces you to stories of Grace’s exploits on the sea while touring her small castle. Afterward, our walk takes us past the island’s lighthouse, detouring to visit a quaint harbor along the way. From the lighthouse, there is the option to return to the harbor or continue following the magnificent cliffs to the low slopes of Knockmore – the highest mountain on the island. This breathtaking walk offers expansive views across the water to Keem Bay and Achill Island. Just as the slopes begin to rise to Knockmore, we will take a lovely greenway back to the harbor past the smaller hill of Knocknaveen.
There is time to relax before dinner, and if the weather is pleasant, perhaps take a swim from the inn’s beach.
O’Grady’s Guesthouse, Clare Island

DAY 5
Killary Fjord

Walk – easy to moderate, 2-3 hours.

We take the early ferry from Clare Island back to Roonagh Quay this morning. Driving through stunning scenery, we pass Doo Lough and the highest mountain range in Connemara. After stocking up on snacks in Leenane, we stop mid-morning near Killary Fjord, where we follow an old famine trail to Rosroe Pier. This lovely walk skirts along the shores of Ireland’s only fjord. As we view the long strip of deep water, we see evidence of mussel farming, for which the fjord is ideal.

We check into our inn for the next three nights, with a lovely location on the shores of Kylemore Lake, before driving to nearby Clifden for dinner at our favorite local restaurant.
Kylemore House, Kylemore

DAY 6
Inishmore Island

Walk – moderate, about 4 hours.

After breakfast, we head for Rossveal to catch the ferry to Inishmore Island, the largest of the famed Aran Islands dotting Galway Bay. Depending on the energy of the group, we may hike across the island five miles or so to the Iron Age stone fort of Dun Aoengus, spectacularly set atop a 300-foot cliff. Dun Aoengus is thought to have originally been constructed hundreds of yards from the coast, with its current cliffside position being the result of centuries of erosion. We explore the archeology of this important site before returning by island bus to the pier for a late-afternoon return to the mainland.

This evening you are free to dine out in the town of Letterfrack; your guide will be happy to recommend the best local spots.
Kylemore House, Kylemore

DAY 7
Inishbofin Island

Walk – easy to moderate, about 3 hours.

Isishbofin, or “Island of the White Cow”, lies seven miles off the coast of Galway, and was once one of the most important shipping havens on the west coast of Ireland. From Cleggan Pier we board a ferry for the scenic ride to this small, stone wall-strewn island. Here we enjoy a half-day of exploration, taking in the fascinating and long history of this island that has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, with its current population of 200 down from an estimated high of about 1,000.

Among other important sites, Inishbofin is home to Dún Gráinne, the remains of a fort used by the “Pirate Queen” Grace O’Malley, whom we first met on Clare Island, as well as a Cromwellian “star fort”. We have the opportunity to take in both during our three-hour walk among the island’s stone walls before returning to the mainland for our last evening.

Tonight we enjoy a final celebratory dinner at another favorite local restaurant.
Kylemore House, Kylemore

DAY 8
Transfer to Shannon

After a final Irish breakfast we depart for Shannon airport, arriving by noon. Here we bid each other farewell before afternoon flights home.

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