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The best of the west

If you have your eye on the ideal autumn getaway, then a Galway and Mayo staycation is just what you need. By Daragh Keany

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Best of the West Travel feature September 26 Diamond Hill Keany

Best of the West Travel feature September 26 Diamond Hill Keany

Best of the West Travel feature September 26 Ashford Castle Lodge Keany

Best of the West Travel feature September 26 Ashford Castle Lodge Keany

The Quiet Man Museum in Cong

The Quiet Man Museum in Cong

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Best of the West Travel feature September 26 Diamond Hill Keany

It may be another year (or longer) before Sam Maguire heads west of the Shannon but luckily the rest of us don’t have to wait to enjoy the best of the west. From the rolling tundra of the Connemara hills to the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean – Mayo and Galway are proof that you don’t have to get your passport stamped to enjoy a memorable holiday.

Here are a few autumn ideas to whet your appetite.

1. HIKE THE HILLS OF CONNEMARA

Connemara is famed for its natural beauty and there are so many hiking routes and trails through the hills of Connemara that you could try a different one each day of your trip. For those not used to hiking I recommend the Mount Gable Trail (an easy five hours) and for those looking for a nit of a challenge then the Diamond Hill is ideal and only takes three hours.

2. TAKE A DAY TRIP TO GALWAY CITY

There is so much to see and do in this vibrant city that an entire day could be dedicated to exploring its every nook and cranny. Shop till you drop in the many boutiques and stores in the city centre, stop and watch the street entertainers and buskers on Shop Street and taste the flavours of the West in one of the many restaurants on Quay Street. I’ve been there well over a dozen times and it has never disappointed.

3. STAR-GAZE AT DARK SKY PARK

If you are a fan of the night sky, you need to put the International Dark Sky Park on your travel list. Tucked between the remote Nephin Mountain Range and the unspoiled Atlantic coastline, the Dark Sky Park extends across an area of 150km sq, far removed from any light pollution. If you’re lucky enough to be in the park on a clear night, you can survey the twinkling of over 4,000 stars, witness a meteor shower or even seek out planets and the constellations with the naked eye.

4. STAY ON THE ASHFORD ESTATE

Okay, here me out on this. I know it’s a 5-star palace and most people wouldn’t even consider it but there are definitely deals (especially in The Lodge) to be had and it’s time to treat yourself after the last couple of years. Situated just outside Cong village, in Mayo it has been transformed into a charming country house hotel which prides itself on fabulous food, friendly hospitality, and cosy interiors. The great outdoors is part of the estate’s quintessential charm and there are 25 activities on the estate grounds to choose from including zip-lining, horse riding, archery and fishing.

5. ERRIS HEAD

One of the best places to witness the wild Atlantic is at Erris, Co. Mayo, a well-known surfing spot for those who dare to take on the huge swells. Stretching from Ballycroy National Park to Mullet peninsula, a walk along Erris Head will clear your mind of any cobwebs with fresh sea air and stunning sights to behold.

6. STROLL THROUGH CONG VILLAGE

For movie buffs, a visit to the quaint village of Cong in Co Mayo, is a must. A parish filled with character, this is the location for the 1952 Hollywood classic, The Quiet Man. Explore The Quiet Man Museum and other locations from the movie set before moving on to check out the ancient stone circle, Guinness tower, pigeon hole caves and the ruins of Cong Abbey, all of which are just a short walk away.

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7. EXPLORE KYLEMORE ABBEY

Located on the shores of the Kylemore Lough on the edge of Connemara National Park, Kylemore Abbey is a sight to behold at any time of the year but especially in the upcimming autumn months as the woodlands that surround the historic building change from a vivid green to tones of yellow, red and brown.

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