The far northwestern corners of Ireland must surely be one of Europe's least-visited wildernesses.
Donegal, Sligo, Mayo and Galway comprise the northwestern coastal section of the Wild Atlantic Way touring route.
These are must-see destinations if you are lucky enough to visit Ireland in 2024 or 2025.
After reading this blog, make sure you check our 7 Day Vagabond Magnetic North Adventure, which tours this amazing region.
But for now, intrepid Vagabond, read on to discover all the wonders of the west and northwest of Ireland.
On a drive through Connemara, you'll soon discover why its wild, barren and treeless landscapes have inspired countless poets and artists.
Amid the gaping moorlands, dramatic mountain ranges, dark lakes and endless dry stone walls, you'll marvel at how humans and their livestock scratched a living here over the centuries.
Coastal highlights include unbelievably pristine sand beaches, like those around Roundstone, and compact seaside towns, such as Clifden.
A drive through Connemara National Park inevitably leads you to Kylemore Abbey.
This stunning historic building is set on the shores of a beautiful lake with steep hills to its rear. It's without a doubt one of Ireland's most photographed spots.
The abbey, originally built as a Gothic Revival-style castle in the 19th century, later became the home of Benedictine nuns. They ran a girls boarding school here.
Nowadays, you can walk through the exquisitely renovated rooms, imagining all the characters who have done the same over preceding centuries.
The walled garden is also not to be missed.
But the best bit of a visit to Kylemore Abbey is undoubtedly tucking into tea and scones, replete with fruit preserves made by the nuns afterwards!
Killary Harbour is a beautiful, glacial fjord.
It is one of only two fjords on the island of Ireland, and the only one on the western coastline.
The narrow shores of Killary stretch 16km inland from the Atlantic Ocean, forming a natural border between counties Galway and Mayo.
You can explore Killary Harbour by boat or sea kayak, on one of our small-group tours. Or even by diving into the fjord's 45m depths
For elevated vistas of the Twelve Bens and the Maamturk Mountains, hike the mountain trail on Mweelrea, to a height of 814m.
At the head of the fjord is the tiny village of Leenane. This is a great spot for post-hiking refreshments.
Drop into Gaynors pub for a fireside pint of Guinness and to see where many of the scenes of The Field (1990) were filmed.
Hundreds of tiny islands lie scattered across this bay in Mayo.
It's undoubtedly one of Ireland's most scenic places.
Clew Bay is dominated to the south by Croagh Patrick, a conical mountain.
You don't have to scale the 764m (2500ft) summit of Croagh Patrick to enjoy panoramic views of Clew Bay. Many of our tour guests make the short stroll to the statue of Saint Patrick at the mountain's base from where a lovely vista opens up.
The annual Croagh Patrick pilgrimage sees thousands of believers climb the mountain, some of them barefoot (for penance).
To the north of Clew Bay stands the Great Western Greenway, Achill Island and yet more mountains.
At the head of Clew Bay lies the town of Westport. If you're passing this fun town, pay a visit to the stately home of Westport House or drop into Matt Molloy's pub for a traditional music session on any night of the year.
The Céide Fields comprise the most ancient field system yet known on planet earth.
Lying under the surface of this remote headland in Mayo, they are also the largest Stone Age monument in the world.
The huge network of fields have stone walls and cover 100s of hectares.
Archaeologists have dated their last use to approximately 6,000 years ago.
Sligo and Leitrim were the beloved haunts of Nobel Prize-winning poet, WB Yeats.
By exploring the scenery of Yeats Country - as Sligo is known - you will also be exploring this incredible artist's work and inspiration.
Lough Gill sits at the heart of any Sligo journey. This beautiful lake is surrounded by woods and walking trails.
Another favourite of our VagaGuides is the tiny island of Innisfree which can be reached on a boat trip.
Even if you're not familiar with Yeats' poetry, don't miss Glencar Lough, in Leitrim, and its stunning waterfall further north.
Statley Lissadell House, where the poet often stayed, is the ancestral home of another amazing Sligo native; Countess Markiewicz.
Yeats died in 1939 and is buried in Drumcliff churchyard, just north of Sligo town.
The epitaph on his gravestone reads:
Cast a cold eye on life, on death.
Horseman pass by.
Overlooking the surf hotspot of Strandhill, the flat-topped hill of Knocknarea is a short climb that only steepens at its finale.
Reach the 327m summit and you'll be rewarded with astounding views over the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding Sligo countryside.
The large stone cairn — or tomb — located on the top of Knocknarea is said to be the final resting place of legendary warrior Queen Maeve.
Archaeologists think the as-yet-unexcavated cairn contains a Neolithic passage tomb, similar in age to Newgrange.
A mountain dropping sheer into the ocean, Slieve League plunges from a height of more than 600m straight down.
This remote spot in south Donegal is where you'll find some of Europe's highest sea cliffs.
Slieve League — sometimes spelt Sliabh Liag, in the Irish way — is actually three times the height of the Cliffs of Moher.
You'll certainly need a good head for heights to hike to the summit.
Glenveagh National Park is one of Donegal's best-kept secrets.
Covering more than 16,000 hectares, it not only features woodlands, lakes and mountains, but also a romantic castle and its own herd of native red deer.
Glenveagh Castle itself was built around 1870. Take afternoon tea in the elegant tearoom after a stroll around the walled garden.
Another way to experience Glenveagh is by walking its trails. There's something for all abilities, with short nature trails and lakeside walks to longer trails with elevated views.
A trail bus will drop you to starting points for walks.
Inishowen in Donegal is Irelands most northerly peninsula and the largest of the Donegal peninsulas.
The area is full of history, with ruins of castles and forts. Visitors will be rewarded with stunning views of the natural landscape as well as rugged coastal scenery and pristine beaches.
Start or finish your drive at Grianán of Aileach, an impressive circular stone fort which is believed to date back to around the 5th century BC
Towering above the Inishowen Peninsula, Grianán of Aileach boasts views in all directions.
Get in touch if you'd like to know more about the north west of Ireland: email@example.com
Thanks to Miles Iwes, Rube Xove and Mitch Hodge on Unsplash