From Galway, we’ll head east and south. We’ll pass through Kinvarra, a popular honeypot town on the shores of Galway Bay. We’ll follow the N18 around the shores of Galway Bay, lined with native European Flat Oyster beds, and continue along the N67 towards the Burren which hugs the coast following the route of the Wild Atlantic Way. We might check out New Quay (Ceibh Nua), on the Finavarra Peninsula, apparently a quiet and rather bucolic break from the rocky rigours of the Burren, and the Flaggy Shore, west of New Quay, a particularly fine stretch of coastline where limestone terraces step down to the sea, where we might wading birds and otters.
From Bellharbour there’s an excellent walk that begins behind St Patrick’s church and goes north along Abbey Hill. If you walk 1km down the Ballyvaughan road, look out for a large green farm shed on the right. Follow the path down to the shore to see seals and hundreds of birds. Doesn’t that sound delightful?
Ballyvaughan (population 260) was built in 1829 to assist the fishing industry. The harbour saw the village develop as a major trading centre and, not long afterwards, steamers began to ply between there and Galway, bringing visitors and establishing the tourist trade. It’s an eye-catching village, especially when the sun gleams on its predominantly white and cream houses, and is an ideal base for exploring the Burren. Roads south from Ballyvaughan lead to a wealth of ancient and some medieval sites. Something of a hub for the otherwise dispersed charms of the Burren, Ballyvaughan (Baile Uí Bheacháin) sits between the hard land of the hills and a quiet leafy corner of Galway Bay. The Burren Smokehouse will tempt you with its smoked salmon and tantalizing range of local artisan gourmet foods.
Just west of the junction is the quay, built in 1829 at a time when boats traded with the Aran Islands and Galway, exporting grain and bacon and bringing in peat – a scarce commodity in the windswept rocks of Burren. A few metres past the harbour, a signposted track leads to a seashore bird shelter offering good views of the tidal shallows. Ólólainn PUB (highly recommended in both Lonely Planet and Rough Guide travel guides) is tiny family-run place on the left as you head out to the pier, the place for a timeless moment or two in old-fashioned snugs. Count us in. 🙂
About 6km south of Ballyvaughan on the Lisdoonvarna road (N67) is a series of severe bends climbing up Corkscrew Hill. The road was built as part of a Great Famine relief scheme in the 1840s. From the top there are spectacular views of the northern Burren and Galway Bay, with Aillwee Mountain and the caves on the right, Cappanawalla Hill on the left, and the partially restored 16th-century Newtown Castle.
* Descriptions are from Lonely Planet and Rough Guide.