The Irish city of Galway is one of the most popular places to visit along the west coast of Ireland. Aside from the city’s history, restaurants, and pubs, its location places it in an ideal location for day trips around the Galway area.
Whether you’re hoping to see iconic sights like the Cliffs of Moher or get off the beaten path in the Burren, this guide has 10 of the best day trips from Galway.
10 Best Day Trips from Galway
I explored the Galway area as part of this 10-day Ireland road trip itinerary. I based myself for 2 nights in Galway as I visited popular sights from the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren to Kylemore Abbey and the Connemara.
If you prefer staying longer in 1 place instead of road-tripping from place to place, Galway is one of a few cities around Ireland that make a great base to explore the Irish countryside. You can plan many a day trip from Galway, all without the need to pack up every night to head to a new hotel.
Ready to explore the Galway area? Let’s go!
1. Cliffs of Moher
A Cliffs of Moher tour from Galway is unquestionably the most popular sight to see near Galway, and in all of Ireland for that matter.
The Cliffs of Moher stretch for nearly 5 miles along the Atlantic coastline, reaching 700 feet high in some places. From the pathway leading in either direction from the visitor’s center, the spectacular views stretch as far as the eye can see.
But it’s the accordion-like layout of the Cliffs of Moher that creates its one-of-a-kind natural beauty. The further you walk the more of the cliffs you can see and timed right, the sun’s rays shimmer off the face of the cliffs. They’re truly a can’t miss on your Ireland trip!
How to Get There:
If you’re driving, the trip from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
While it’s possible to spend an entire day at the Cliffs of Moher if you plan on walking a lot or all of the coastal paths between Hags Head or Doolin, most visitors spend a few hours (a morning or an afternoon) enjoying the cliffs. This makes it possible to visit other places on a full day’s outing.
You could easily spend some time in the Burren, visit the town of Doolin, or make castle stops at Doonagore and Dunguiare.
Cliffs of Moher Bus Tours from Galway
If you don’t have a car, there are also day tours from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher by bus. Each tour is a bit different so it’s important to read what each includes before you book.
- This popular Cliffs of Moher tour stops at Dunguaire Castle and drives through the Burren, making a stop at Corcomroe Abbey, before stopping for 2 hours at the Cliffs of Moher. Afterward, you’ll stop at Doolin Pier for photos and then continue on to the town of Doolin for a self-guided lunch stop. You can also choose to add on a Cliffs of Moher cruise to your day for an extra fee.
- If your time is limited, this half-day trip to the Cliffs of Moher from Galway spends 2 hours at the Cliffs before returning back to the city.
- You can also join a Cliffs of Moher Explorer tour that allows you time to walk the coastal cliff path from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher.
- This Cliffs of Moher tour focuses only on the Cliffs and the nearby town of Doolin. The later start makes for a more laid-back day of sightseeing.
2. Aran Islands
The Aran Islands consist of 3 islands just off the Galway coastline, Inis Mor, Inis Meain, and Inis Oirr. These islands are overflowing with natural beauty, old-world culture, and ancient history.
The locals are Irish-speaking first, although not to worry, English is still widely spoken. The islands have historic sites dating back to the stone age including, Dun Aengus, a stone fort from the 1500s B.C., the Seven Churches, and the round tower.
You can rent a bike to explore the islands, along the way taking in the coastal views, plenty of Celtic and Early Christian sites, and the vast stretches of stone walls carving the landscape.
How to Get There:
There are ferries that run from just outside of Galway (Rossaveal) to the islands all year long or from Doolin, March-October. You can visit 1 of the islands or hop between them all.
Day Trip to Aran Islands from Galway
There are also tours that depart from Galway if you are in the area without a car to drive to the ferry.
- This Aran Island day trip from Galway allows for 2 hours of exploration on Inis Oirr, the smallest of the Aran Islands. After, you’ll have an hour to enjoy the views at the Cliffs of Moher.
- This Galway to the Aran Islands tour spends 4 1/2 hours on Inis Mor. The return ferry trip travels along the Cliffs of Moher so you can appreciate their size from the Atlantic Ocean.
- Another similar day trip from Galway to the Aran Islands includes cruising along the Cliffs of Moher but stops for 2 hours on Inis Oirr instead.
Ireland’s rugged beauty, the Connemara, is set just an hour north and west of Galway City. The puzzle pieces of the region’s mountains, valleys, lakes, and harbors create a spectacular panorama with soft yellows in spring to oranges and reds in fall. The colors reminded me of the scenic roads in County Wicklow.
The Connemara is known for the historic Kylemore Abbey and the Connemara National Park. But as you drive its scenic routes, you’ll discover castles, Wild Atlantic Way viewpoints, turquoise water beaches, colorful seaside villages, and lots of sheep!
How to Get There:
From Galway, N59 leads you towards the Connemara and eventually into the Connemara Loop, a scenic roadway circling 50 miles of the region. If you head straight to Kylemore Abbey, the drive from Galway is roughly 75 minutes.
Connemara Tour from Galway
Connemara day trips from Galway are among the most popular things to do while in this part of Ireland. Even without a car, there’s no need to miss out on this stunning corner of the Irish countryside.
- On this tour, you’ll get a taste of all the Connemara has to offer. Visit Killary Fjord and the seaside town of Leenane. Spend time at Kylemore Abbey and enjoy the mountain and beach landscapes within the region.
- Spend a full day at Connemara National Park on this day trip from Galway. To and from the national park, you’ll make photo stops throughout the Connemara. At the national park, you’ll have a few hours to hike.
4. Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way is an epic coastal route spanning from Ireland’s southern coast near Cork and along the country’s entire west coast to the northern point of Derry. In total, it winds 1,600 miles of Ireland’s Atlantic coastline and countryside.
Most visitors drive sections of this road and, luckily, it’s easy to chunk the route into separate drives depending on where you are in Ireland.
How to Get There:
From Galway, you can drive the route to Clifden and onto the Sky Road Loop in the Connemara, enjoying views of Dog’s Bay, the Twelve Bens, and visiting Clifden Castle. Another stretch of the road connects Clifden to Westport with places like Connemara National Park, Kylemore Abbey, and Killary Harbor along the way.
You could also drive south of Galway. The Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, and The Burren are all along the Wild Atlantic Way, as well.
Wild Atlantic Way Tours from Galway:
- This Wild Atlantic Way day trip passes through seaside villages and into the Connemara. You’ll also have 3 hours to explore Connemara National Park, as well as take in the ocean views from the Sky Road Loop.
5. Castles Near Galway
You can never see enough castles on your Ireland trip! Whether restored or beautifully decaying, castles speckle Ireland’s countryside.
If you’re based in Galway or just near the city, you can easily plan a day of castle exploration. Aughnanure, Ballynahinch, Clifden, Doonagore, Dunguaire, Bunratty, King John’s, and Ashford castles are just a few of the more well-known stops near Galway.
How to Get There:
Depending on any other Galway day tours you might have planned, some of these castles could be part of that exploration. Plan a route, then, around the remaining castles that you’re interested in seeing.
For example, Aughnanure, Ballynahinch, and Clifden (along with other Connemara stops) can be grouped together. Bunratty Castle and King John’s Castle are near or in Limerick and can easily be visited in a single day.
Castle Day Tours from Galway:
- This day tour from Galway is a full day of castles, history, and beautiful architecture. Stops include Aughnanure, Ballynahinch, and Clifden castles, as well as time at Kylemore Abbey.
6. The Burren
The Burren (together with the Cliffs of Moher) make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The limestone landscape of the Burren transports you all at once to another planet and back to the Stone Age.
Here you’ll find stone forts and Neolithic tombs, as well as a one-of-a-kind ecology. In Burren National Park, you can use the walking trails to take in the vast scenery and wonder over the plants and animals (and the Stone Age humans!) that survive(d) here.
There’s also the beautifully eerie Corcomroe Abbey, abandoned and a symbol of the more recent medieval time period.
It’s possible to group a visit to the Burren with seeing the Cliffs of Moher. But it’s just as easy to spend a day “getting lost” in the Burren’s sights, history, small villages, and culture.
How to Get There:
From Galway to Corcomroe Abbey at the northern end of the Burren, it’s just a 45-minute drive. Burren National Park is an hour by car.
Burren Day Tours from Galway:
The easiest way to see the Burren without a car is to go on a group tour. These tours often combine time at the Cliffs of Moher with some exploration of the Burren.
- This tour combines the Burren with the Cliffs of Moher. Notable stops in the Burren include the Stone Age tombs of Gleninsheen Wedge Tomb and the Poulnabrone Dolmen.
- Another incredible natural feature of the Burren is its system of caves. This tour explores Aillwee Cave, one of the most popular in the region, before eventually stopping at the Cliffs of Moher.
7. Bunratty Castle
While you may not need an entire day at Bunratty Castle, you could easily spend a few hours touring the castle and the village of historic Irish houses to learn more about the area and the classes of people who lived here.
Bunratty Castle is also notably very family-friendly. If you’re traveling with young children, this could be a great way to engage them with Ireland’s past in a real and interactive way.
With a full day, you could also visit nearby Limerick, Ennis, or even spend half a day in the Burren. Either way, it’s best to book your Bunratty Castle tickets in advance to avoid the line.
How to Get There:
Bunratty Castle is just an hour south of Galway. For reference, you will pass through the Burren and to the east of the Cliffs of Moher.
Bunratty Castle Day Tour from Galway:
Unfortunately, there aren’t any group tours to Bunratty Castle from Galway that allow you to spend time visiting the castle.
8. Dog’s Bay Beach
Depending on the time of year you visit Ireland, you may be able to spend a day at the beach! To be honest, Ireland’s beaches were one of the biggest surprises on my trip. I never imagined the color of the water would look so…Caribbean-esque!
If you’d like a beach day, from Galway, you won’t find a prettier spot than Dog’s Bay Beach. Nearby Gurteen Beach also makes a fabulous spot to put your toes in the sand.
Both beaches have soft white sand and are in coves that keep the waters calmer than open-ocean beaches.
How to Get There:
By car, both beaches are about 75 minutes northwest of Galway. You’ll also be heading towards and into the Connemara, making it possible to spend a half-day in each place.
Unlike the other ideas on this Galway day trip list, you’ll need a car to reach Dog’s Bay and Gurteen Beaches.
Cong is a village north of Galway. It has a storied past including the notoriety that came because the 1952 romantic comedy “The Quiet Man” was filmed there.
The movie starred John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. There’s a small museum dedicated to the movie and a statue to honor the film.
Cong is also steeped in history. In the village, you can visit the ruins of Cong Abbey which dates back to the 12th-century. The Cong Cross, which is now on display in Dublin, was discovered here. It’s believed it was made in the early 1100s.
Just a few minutes from Cong, you can also visit Ashford Castle. The castle is an operating hotel so there are no castle tours. However, visitors can enjoy the grounds, and activities, as well as make reservations for lunch to glimpse the inside.
How to Get There:
Cong is 40 minutes from Galway. Depending on how you plan your day, it’s possible to spend time in the Cong area and loop back through part of the Connemara before returning to Galway.
Cong Day Tours from Galway:
- Combine a visit to Cong and the Connemara on this full-day tour. Sights include places like the 12th-century Cong Abbey and the popular Kylemore Abbey.
10. Dunguaire Castle
Dunguaire Castle was built in the early part of the 1500s. The tower-house-style castle is beautifully positioned on the shores of Galway Bay. In fact, it’s one of the most photographed castles in all of Ireland.
The defensive walls and castle have been restored to reflect its 16th-century history. In addition to touring the castle, you can attend a castle banquet to enjoy the ambiance of the castle after dark.
How to Get There:
Dunguaire Castle is only 30 minutes by car from Galway. Given its location just south of the city, it’s also possible to combine a castle visit time at the Cliffs of Moher or exploring the Burren.
While there aren’t any day tours that focus specifically on Dunguaire Castle, this tour makes a stop there so visitors can see the castle from the outside before heading into the Burren and then to the Cliffs of Moher.
One Day Trip From Galway NOT to Take
If you’re considering a trip to the Dingle Peninsula, absolutely do it! It’s one of the prettiest places in all of Ireland to experience. Just don’t do it as a day trip from Galway.
From Galway to Dingle, the colorful seaside town on the peninsula, takes 3 hours one way. And, this is before you drive the Slea Head Loop on the far western end of the peninsula.
There are a lot of things to do on the Dingle Peninsula. It deserves at least a full day of your Ireland itinerary.
If you’re arriving in Galway from Dublin, consider spending a night or 2 further south to enjoy some time on the Dingle Peninsula. If you’re heading to Galway from the southern part of Ireland, use a town like Killarney or even Dingle itself to explore the area.
How to Get from Dublin to Galway
Renting a car is the fastest way to get from Dublin to Galway. It also allows for total flexibility to explore places near Galway. The drive takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes along well-maintained highway roads.
You can also take a bus from Dublin to Galway. There are private bus companies that operate services between the 2 city’s transportation terminals. It’s also possible to take a bus right from Dublin Airport. You can check prices and schedules at GoBus and Eireann.
Lastly, it’s possible to take the train from Dublin to Galway. The journey takes about 2 1/2 hours, departing from Dublin’s Heuston’s Station. The Irish Rail website has information about timetables and tickets.
Galway Day Trips for the Win!
Galway’s ideal location positions it next to many of Ireland’s top sights and things to do!
Whether you plan to spend a weekend in Galway or a few days during your trip to Ireland, you can easily use the city as a base to take advantage of all the natural beauty, historic sites, castles, and scenic roads the area has to offer.
What are your questions about the best day trips from Galway?
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