Wild Photography Holidays - Photographic Adventure Travel: West Coast of Ireland – Connemara, Galway & County Mayo

Roundstone Peat Bog, Connemara

West Coast of Ireland – Connemara, Galway & County Mayo

Highlights include…

  • Dramatic Atlantic Coastline
  • Omey Sands
  • Lough Corrib
  • Kylemore Abbey
  • Pristine beaches
  • Rock architecture of Moyrus
  • Roundstone Peatbog landscapce
  • The Twelve Bens
  • Galway Harbour City
  • Achill Island
  • Dun Briste Sea stack
  • Connemara Ponies
  • Loch Inagh Valley
  • Ballinasloe Horse Fair

Connemara, Galway and County Mayo

Introducing a visually exciting new photographic adventure exploring the coastline, landscapes and culture of Connemara, Galway and County Mayo. Connemara comprises a well known and scenic broad peninsula between Killary Harbour and Kilkieran Bay to the west of County Galway. Its name is derived from Conmhaicne Mara meaning ‘descendants of the sea’. County Mayo stretches further west into the Gulf Stream and is one of Western Europe’s wildest parts. Here we will encounter a scenic vista of bogs, valleys and lakes. The spectacular and intricate coastline enclosing the dramatic Twelve Pins, Na Beanna Beola, Maamturk Mountains plus the holy mountain of Croagh Patrick commonly known as ’The Reek’. Facing west where the wild Atlantic waves break dramatically onto the shore, this area of Ireland boasts quiet little winding roads, quaint, traditional villages and a majestic landscape awash with greenery and soft light. Nowhere on the Emerald Isle is this palette of colour, light and bluster more striking than in the heart of ‘Gaeltacht’. The culture and ancient landscape have long entranced poets and painters. Artists and writers have talked often about the strange and illuminating impression the Connemara landscape has had on them. Many have returned time and again to dig a little deeper into its soul.

More recently, photographers have begun to explore the wilder frontiers of Ireland. Our own journey will be influenced by the tides and weather. Broadly speaking we will shimmy along the wild coastline of County Mayo before heading south to explore the landscape around the four Connemara settlements of Clean, Clifton, Ballyconneely & Roundstone. There may be an opportunity to visit the Island of Inishbofin, a short ferry ride from Cleggan. A highlight of our time in Galway will be the Ballinasloe Horse Fair, Europe’s oldest and largest. Paul’s experience as a documentary and landscape photographer will be instrumental in developing your appreciation of the landscape together with an understanding of the elements that make up the bigger picture story. You can expect to return home with a unique and descriptive portfolio of professionally crafted images.

Photographic Tutor

Paul Harris has been involved in photographic education for several years leading adventure tours to Ladakh, Iceland, Greenland Chile, Bhutan & Vietnam. He is a regular columnist for Outdoor Photography magazine, a seasoned judge for Wanderlust magazine’s Photographer of the year competition and has collaborated on the 2020 VISION project, an ambitious conservation and visual media initiative to document Wild Britain.

Daily Itinerary

For full details please download the trip description PDF

Our itinerary will depend on the local weather conditions and state of the tides but broadly speaking we plan to visit as much of the cultural and physical landscapes as is possible with emphasis on building your own visual story of Connemara. Given favourable weather, we will aim to catch dawn and dusk most days. All but the worst conditions will see us out in the landscape, hamlets and villages. There will also be time for viewing and critiquing of the images we take.

Day 1: Arrival in County Mayo

Today there will be a transfer from Knock airport to our scenically located hotel in Westport, please refer to joining arrangements for further information. Our hotel base is perfectly located for exploring the County Mayo coastline.
Accommodation: Hotel Westport

Days 2,3: County Mayo

The dramatic sacred mountain of Croagh Patrick rises above our initial base of Westport. Over the next two days we will take our time to explore and venture along the south coast of Mayo, where we will find rock strewn beaches, crashing Atlantic rollers and interesting fishing village. Beyond the patterned wetlands of Mulranny lies Achill island, the largest of Ireland’s isles and the remote Mullet Peninsula. To the North at Downpatrick Head we encounter the gloriously weathered sea stack of Dun Briste ‘the broken fort’, once home to the ogre Geodruisge who plagued the life of St Patrick.
Accommodation: Hotel Westport

Day 4,5,6,7: Connemara, Ballyconneely

After sunrise and a hearty breakfast we take time driving to our next base in Connemara. Our accommodation for the next four nights is a lovely house where all guests will have their own room with private bathrooms. The spacious and beautifully situated house is perfect for socialising and working together on our images. Here we will be privately catered for by Sian who will cook us some lovely meals with locally sourced products. The house is situated in the village Ballyconneely, ten kilometres south from Clifden. It is the entry point to the Errismore Peninsula an ideal place from which to explore the many fine beaches situated along the nearby Ballyconneely and Mannion Bays.

The following are locations we will visit while we are based in Connemara.

The Twelve Bens
Northeast of the village of Roundstone lies an extensive mountain range known as the Twelve Bens or Twelve Pins rising to just over 700m. The traditional name of ‘Na Beanna Beola’ refers to Beola, a giant chieftain of an ancient tribe called, Fir Bolg. Shrouded in sea mist or catching first and last light, these mountains can be seen from just about everywhere in Connemara. They provide us with a wonderful backdrop to the surrounding valleys, lakes and peat bogs.

Kylemore Abbey
Set at the foot of a wooded hill Kylemore Abbey is a Benedictine monastery founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle. The Estate includes an extensive walled Victorian Garden.

Strands of Connemara – Moyrus, Gurteen, Ballyconeely
Characteristically white and pristine, the beaches, which pepper the convoluted coastline of Connemara are a wonderful source of imagery, especially where they merge with rocky promontories and shorelines.

Currachs & Hookers
The use of traditional boats are still very much a part of daily life along the coast of Connemara. Once a busy trading and fishing boat between the islands, with its distinct dark red and orange sails, the Galway Hookers now compete in local races from Kinvarra to Clifden. During the Great famine of the 1840s, John Bailey stated that “If you owned a hooker you would be classified as a millionaire”.

Cleggan
‘An Cloigeann’ is the Gaelic word for head or skull and generally refers to the nearby coastal headland. It is a traditional fishing village and also the jumping off point for the ferry to Inisbofin Island. It also has one of the most atmospheric pubs in Galway – Oliver’s Bar.

Omey Island
One of the most beautiful strands in Connemara is revealed in its entirety at low tide and enclosed with dark crimson granite rocks allowing foot access to the island. It was the ancestral home of the Connemara O’Toole’s, who moved westward with the O’Flahertys in the middle ages. It was also one of the key sites for the monastic order of St Fechin, an important figure in the spreading of the Irish monastic tradition in the 7th Century.

Aughrus Peninsula
About 20 mins drive north west of Clifden lies a dramatic rocky peninsula, one of the most westerly points of Connemara, and indeed of Ireland. The lichen covered rock above the tideline contrasts with seams of quartzite exposed as the tide recedes. On a windy late afternoon, the elements coincide to give a real sense of being on the edge of the world.

Day 8,9,10: Galway Harbour City

This morning after breakfast we will drive the very scenic coastal route to Galway a small but vibrant city on the west coast. Galway is popular with local Irish and tourists alike, it is often referred to as the “Cultural Heart of Ireland” as it is most associated with the Irish language, music, song and dance traditions. Galway City is on the doorstep of Galway’s Gaeltacht, an area where Irish is spoken. While it’s considered to be the gateway to Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way the great pubs and traditional live music scene have given this west coast city the reputation of having the best craic in Ireland. In the best traditions of street photography we will collect images from Eyre Square, along the River Corrib and the Latin Quarter liveliest part of the city with its colourful shops, flags and banners.

We have timed this particular trip to enable a day visit to the Ballinasloe Horse Fair. This is one of the oldest fairs in Europe. While now predominantly associated with the horse, in its heyday the October Fair was an agricultural event of much greater significance, serving as a market for the sale of cattle and sheep by the farmers of the West to their counterparts in the East of Ireland. Today, the horse fair still attracts horse sellers, enthusiasts, gypsies and tinkers from across Europe and beyond. The characters and horse trading on the Green provide a wealth of photographic potential during our penultimate day in Ireland.
Accommodation: Hotel Galway

Day 11: Transfer to Knock Airport

This morning after breakfast there will be a transfer to Knock Airport. These will be included if your flight departure time coincides with the departure of the trip leaders. If not, please refer to joining arrangements below.

What’s Included

  • 10 nights accommodation
  • No extra charge for single rooms
  • All meals
  • Airport transfers

What’s not Included

  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Travel & medical insurance
  • International flights
  • Anything not mentioned above

Joining Arrangements, Transfers and Flight Information

The tour officially starts on Day 1 at our Westport Hotel. Transfers to/from Knock Airport will be available depending on your flight arrival/departure times. For information please contact the office for advice, we will do our very best to accommodate you. There is also a regular bus service from Knock Airport to Westport (our first night hotel) and Galway (our last night hotel) to Knock Airport. Note there is a €10 airport departure tax at Knock Airport.

Flybe, Aer Lingus and Ryanair have regular scheduled flights from London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and Edinburgh
Aer Lingus and British Airways fly direct to Knock Airport and United Airlines fly via Dublin.

Complete Itinerary and Full Details

This page is only a brief summary. A complete itinerary and more details can be found in our trip description PDF
It is important that you read this full day-to-day description and further information for this holiday before making your booking.

Image Credits

Gallery images by Helen Lawson and Paul Harris.