The Kinlay Hostel Guide to Connemara!

Are you thinking about coming to Galway and hoping to take in the beautiful sights that the Connemara region has to offer? Afraid you’ll miss out on the main parts of it? Don’t worry, we at Kinlay Hostel Galway have written your own personal guide to ensure you get the best out of your trip that you can!!

The view from the top of Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park

Connemara lies just north of Galway and is full of unspoilt and varying landscapes. The regions natural beauty is simply breathtaking with its jagged coastline and hidden beaches, the rugged Twelve Bens (a.k.a Twelve Pins by the locals ) mountain range surrounded by windswept bog lands, as well as lakes and rivers! There are a variety of activities that you can partake in here such as hill walks, cycling, hiking, fishing, golf, horse-riding and even scuba diving. The Emerald Isle shines brightest here as you breath in the fresh sea air and escape the city.



Kylemore Abbey

Within the 1,000 acre estate nestled beneath a mountain range, overlooking a lake towards several of the Twelve Bens is where you will find Kylemore Abbey completed in 1871. The Victorian Walled Garden completed in the same year was so advanced for its time it has been compared to the Kew Gardens in London. With a history that spans 150 years there is much to learn about the tales of romance, tragedy, courage, sadness and folklore.

Upon entering the ticketed area of the Kylemore estate you have the option of taking the free shuttle bus or walking along the nature trail to the magnificent 6 acre Victorian Walled Garden. Return to explore the restored rooms of the Abbey and learn about it’s history including what the Benedictine Nuns did within the estate since they bought it in 1920. Continue on through the woodlands and along the lakeshore to the beautiful Gothic Church and Mausoleum. There is a large stone and an amazing sculpture that lie a couple of minutes walk past the Mausoleum; ask at the ticket desk about the folklore behind this mysterious and often unvisited spot.

If you arrive peckish, Mitchell’s Café welcomes visitors 7 days a week, all year; an entrance ticket to the Kylemore Abbey estate is not required to dine there. Located by the Walled Gardens is the Tea House which is only open during the Summer months; an entrance ticket is required to get there however. We suggest taking a packed lunch though and sitting at one of the many peaceful and scenic locations around the estate.

The Picturesque Kylemore Abbey in the heart of Connemara

Admission prices:

Adults – €13.00

Seniors – €10.00
Students – €9.00
Accompanied Children aged 10 years and under  – Free

Please not if you you book in advance online at you will save 10%!
Entrance fee when part of a tour group is not included but is available at a discounted rate

of €8.00 per person

How to get there


The endless beauty Connemara has to offer…

By Car: Take the N59 for Clifden out of Galway and continue through Oughterard and Maam

Cross until you pass through Recess. Turn right on the R344 signposted Letterfrack. This will

bring you through the Inagh Valley and then you will turn left on to the N59 loop for Kylemore

and follow the road as it winds around the lake until you reach Kylemore Abbey on your right

hand side. (Distance approx. 80kms)

By Public Transport: We recommend joining one of the tour companies that departs Galway daily as the public the Citilink bus will only take you as far as Letterfrack and then it is another 5km walk to the Abbey along a winding, narrow road busy with traffic.

Connemara National Park
Connemara as a whole is beautiful, but the 2,957 hectare National Park is magnificent. When

the Twelve Bens, the mountain range within the park, come into sight you know you’re soon to be in for a treat. Whether your drive around the outskirts past the woodlands and bogs

looking up at the mountains or hike through the park and over the mountains you are certain to be left speechless. This is one of those places in the world where photos, just don’t do it justice – you have to see it for yourself to see its true beauty!

Sheep roaming free on the side of the road in Connemara

Letterfrack is home to the National Park’s visitor centre where you can get information on trails, maps of the area and learn about the history of the park. Diamond Hill loop walk is the most common hike visitors will do within the park, as it has been designed so that people of all ages and fitness can explore this beautiful

location. There are four trails that can be accessed directly from the visitor centre and there is even a playground at the base for children and Tea Rooms for those that simply want to admire the view.


Admission is free into the park and is open all year round.

If you are after a bite to eat before your climb or need to restore your energy with food after you return from the peak there are few options to choose from. Within Letterfrack there are a couple of restaurants or pubs, a supermarket or at the Visitor Centre you can purchase lights snacks at the café. We highly recommend taking a packed lunch and eating at the peak of Diamond Hill though so you can admire the view for longer.

How to get there

Lough Inagh – The perfect setting to a horror moive!

By Car: Take the N59 for Clifden out of Galway and follow the signs in Clifden that lead to Letterfrack. Staying on the N59 you will see a sign for the National Park on the right hands side of the road just before entering the village of Letterfrack. Turn right here and follow the road to the carpark. (Distance approx 93kms)


By Public Transport:​ Citylink run a daily service to and from Letterfrack dropping you off and picking you up within a short walk of the Visitiors Centre.
Click here for bus times and prices!

Clifden and the Sky Road

The Wandering Sky Road in Clifden

Clifden is Connemara’s largest town and used to be where visitors simply breezed through, but this is no longer the case and we encourage you to stop here as well. What used to be a quiet town and the end of the train line from Galway, is now a town full of

colourful storefronts, fine restaurants, tea-shops and a buzz with tourists and locals alike.

Within the town there are beautiful boutiques, antique shops and

souvenir stores to meander in.

There are two churches to visit also, but one of the main highlights of Clifden lay 5 minutes west of the town. The Sky Road is an 11km circular route that takes you on a journey out along the coast line and is easily accessible by foot, bike or car. ( Kinlay Tip: we suggest taking the upper road when it splits in two. Whilst the lower road still allows for great views, being higher up enables you to take in all that Connemara has to offer; from the mountains, the islands, the grasslands and onwards out to where the sky meets the sea.)

How to get there

By Car: Take the N59 for Clifden out of Galway and follow the Wild Atlantic Way signs in Clifden that lead to The Sky Road.

By Public Transport:​ Citylink run a daily service to and from Clifden. Click here for bus times and prices

Ask our reception staff for the variety of tour options that take you to see stunning Connemara. Or if you have a car, be sure to swing by reception and we’ll give you a map and show you our favourite spots. Wild Atlantic Way Tours take in the Sky Road on their tour and Galway Tour Company go around the outskirts of the National Park stopping in Cong where The Quiet Man was filmed, both allowing time to visit Kylemore Abbey and both highly recommended.

Upcoming Festivals in Galway

Thinking about coming to Galway but not sure what excuse you can use for the visit? Why not tie your visit in with one of the many upcoming festivals happening in Galway over the next few months… But lets face it, you know you don’t need an excuse to visit our beautifil city May:
Galway Early Music Festival
Transport back in time and explore the medieval, renaissance and baroque music making all around Galway. Three days starting 19th of May, packed full of fun and music whilst being enveloped in the most colourful and rich medieval city in Europe: Galway. The days involve dance workshops, music on the streets and even a drop in coffee concert. Tickets can be booked through Town Hall Theatre and most all events are family friendly.

Galway International Arts Festival

One of the most exciting times in Galway city, come and find out why Galway was voted 2020 European Capital of Culture! The 40th anniversary of the International Arts Fest kicks off on the 17th of July and lasts till the 30th. The festival is a celebration of the arts and for people of all ages to enjoy. Four world premier theater productions have already been announced; and tons more soon to come! Two artists that you can’t miss are Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys and Irish singer and song write Gavin James. Galway will be a buzz of culture! Come for the arts and stay for the craic!

See a full list of events for #GIAF17 here.

Galway Fringe Festival

The Galway Fringe Festival is a multidisciplinary Arts Festival based in Galway City. The festival has an international roster of talented artists and encompasses visual art, music, theatre, dance, literature, cabaret and exciting street spectacles. The Galway Fringe Festival also realises the vital importance of providing a platform for home-grown artists and aims to showcase our national talent to the world and to Galway. Running from July 15th until the 30th, it adds to the amazing atmosphere around the city!

For more information of the Fringe Festical, click here.

Galway Pride Festival
The ever so eclectic LGBT community will be pleasing the masses this year with all kinds of events and activities planned for the week starting 11th of August. Come out to show your support and have some fun with the events planned! Stay tuned for updates!

Galway Races
Galway’s pride and joy: Galway Races. The race track (located in Ballybrit) will be a buzz with stunning fashion and an eclectic atmosphere. First race is Monday July 31st and will go through the 6th of August. Take part in daily events such as Ladies Day and family days with a mad hatter competition. You can place bets on course or just stick around for the craic. Check out the website for ticket information here.

Galway Theatre Festival



That’s right blog enthusiasts – the festival spirit that Galway is famous for is starting to rear its wonderful head and with it, the first signs of summer are in the air! (yes, we get summer here. And no, the weather doesn’t improve much. Well apart from that one week where the sun will split the stones and you’ll see enough pastey Irish men to do you for a lifetime, other than that, I apologise for my country’s temperamental weather!). But what we lack in Mediterranean climate during the summer, we make up for in European bohemian vibes! The months of April to September are basically a litany of festivals for every possible discerning taste, but I have to admit, the arts festivals are my favourite amongst them! They bring a wonderful energy to Galway as well as people that want to explore and find out what makes the city tick. And what better way to do this than through the arts! That’s what makes travelling to the city for the arts so inviting, it’s like feeling the heartbeat of Galway all around you, and you can’t help but get swept up!Galway_Theatre_Festival_Kinlay_Hostel

This year’s Galway Theatre Festival, the 9th for those of you counting, is the perfect example of this. Galway’s own indigenous artists mingle with those from further afield to showcase an eclectic programme, full of the different varieties of the performing arts. But it is the situation and nature of Galway itself that allows for this diversity. Galway is basically as far west as you can go in mainland Europe (I’m looking at you Cabo da Roca, Portugal) and people from incredibly varied backgrounds settle here. It has become a melting pot of experiences and voices, and this makes it the perfect hub to nurture all these different forms of art and self-expression.

The Festival kicks off on 29th of April and runs until 7th May, and let me tell you, you’re not gonna be bored in Galway for those dates! A few shows pre-empt the festival on the 27th and 28th, one of which is The Blue Boy presented by the GTF guest artists, BrokenTalkers. The company has already toured extensively within and beyond Ireland with the show, but due to a huge demand the show is being mounted again. Although it deals with the experiences of men and women who were incarcerated as children in Catholic residential care institutions, the show is highly physical and multi-disciplinary, so it promises an unforgettable theatre experience. The opening bank holiday weekend of the festival further highlights a hugely diverse range of theatre and art, with productions such as My Poet Dark and Slender by MmmTheatre, TURF by The Rowan Tolley Company, Sisters of the Rising by Christiane O’ Mahony and Expectations by Sarah Hoover. These range from devised theatre based on a Padraic O’ Conaire poem, an installation art piece about, well, turf!, a play centred on two women’s involvement in the 1916 Rising and a durational performance art piece. These pieces are taking place in theatres and spaces all across Galway city, so check for all the details (as well as all the other shows I haven’t mentioned here!)

Featured during this weekend as well is the Dance Theatre Triple Bill that’ll be in An Taibhdhearc theatre on Middle Street. There are 3 shows on as part of this (in case you didn’t know what triple bill means :P), 2 of which your humble blog writer is involved in! I’m directing and choreographing a show called GHOSTS, a dance piece based on The Divine Comedy by Dante Aligheri, which is on the 30th April and 1st May at 4.30pm. We’re also performing it under the banner of #wakingthefeministswest, which if you haven’t heard of, go and look it up right now! I’m also doing it under the name of my new theatre company, Sonar Theatre, so if you’d like to keep up to date with what we’re up to, follow us on Twitter @sonar_theatre or find our facebook page! And then from directing and choreographing, I’m performing in a show called eXXcYpt (said like “except”) at 6pm on the same dates (I’m gonna be a busy man!). eXxcYpt is a movement piece created by Jérémie Cyr-Cooke and myself, about the Irish and English languages and their influence upon each other, both historically and culturally. Basically a great day of theatre altogether and you guys should all definitely come and support us and be great 😛
But everything I’ve mentioned here is just a tiny tiny taster of what the whole festival has to offer. Ones to look out for for the rest of the festival are Always Alone Together by Game Theory, Mary Mary Mary by Fregoli Theatre, Wasted by NoRopes Theatre Company, a series of events by #wakingthefeministswest and the show with my personal favourite title, What Good Is Looking Well When You’re Rotten On The Inside, by Emma O’ Grady. It’s set to be a wonderful few days in Galway and the first injection of summer festival fun! So please check out the website, support the artists and have a wonderful time while doing it! You can get tickets for the shows at, or just ringing The Town Hall Theatre on 091-569777. Hopefully I’ll be seeing your lovely faces in a theatre some time soon 😉 See you next week for regularly scheduled blogging!

– Martin at Kinlay Reception