Ireland’s Music and Culture Star in This 7-Day, Food-Filled Itinerary

Explore crafts, food, and music in the West and Northwest of Ireland on this weeklong trip.

A view of stone walls and lakes over Sky Road in Galway County

Clew Bay lies on Ireland’s western edge.

Courtesy of Katja Möller/Unsplash

There’s a reason traditional Irish music and poems by Yeats are celebrated the world over. Experience the rich cultural life of Ireland and the landscapes that inspire it for yourself with this itinerary and more deeply understand the island described in songs, craft, and literature. You’ll connect with people upholding their local heritage and traditions by working the land and sea as they produce food and make objects by hand, with plenty of live music along the way.

Over seven days, travel around the west and northwest of Ireland. Scenery ranges from mountains and loughs in County Galway to green forests and fields in County Mayo and County Sligo’s Atlantic beaches and limestone cliffs. Collect and shuck oysters in Clew Bay, and taste local produce at Ashford Castle. See the craft of making wool, including sheepdogs herding flocks, spinning, and weaving. Listen and get lost in the melodies (or sing along) as musicians perform in centuries-old pubs. It’s a journey to find sustenance for the soul as well as enjoy edible bounty.


Trip Highlight

Live Music

At visits to local pubs, you’ll have the chance to immerse yourself in the eclectic mixture of live music. Serendipity will offer different styles, players, and instruments. logo, green text with a shamrock

Trip Designer

Tourism Ireland

From Ireland’s energetic cities to the island’s awe-inspiring landscapes, has everything you need for planning a life-changing journey. Discover scenic train journeys, immersive road trips, culture-rich towns and villages, outdoor adventures, and more for the ultimate travel experience.
Views of the mountains and town of Clifden, Ireland

Enjoy mountain views from Clifden.

Courtesy of Big Smoke Studio/Tourism Ireland

Day 1:Live Music in Clifden

Arrive at Shannon Airport, collect your rental car, and drive north towards County Galway. Stop for lunch at Oliver’s on Cleggan Pier, where you can watch fishing boats unload their catch in the harbor.

Drive to Clifden and check into Abbeyglen Castle Hotel to start the evening by their fire, which burns turf, the traditional local fuel. Walk 10 minutes to Ravi’s Bar for a pint of beer (try a Red Ale) and dinner with live music. If you want to hear more, follow that with Griffin’s Bar and Lowry’s Bar to catch music sessions with everything from fiddle and tin whistle to percussive spoon playing.

If you’d like to spend a day near Shannon instead in County Clare, stretch your legs with a walk around Mooghaun Hill Fort, a preserved Bronze Age site, have lunch and a pint at Knox’s Pub in Ennis, and stay at Dromoland Castle.
A view of the river and 16th-century design overpass and buildings in Westport, Ireland

The charm of Westport comes from a 16th-century design based on form and function.

Courtesy of Pic.Pawel Sadowski/Tourism Ireland

Day 2:A Scenic Drive to Westport (and More Music)

Driving on N59, pass views of Kylemore Lough and Killary Fjord and stop at Erriff Woods to wander in ancient oak forest, a remnant of the Celtic Rainforest that used to cover the Emerald Isle. Continue to Westport, County Mayo and check into the Wyatt Hotel. Westport’s visual appeal is thanks to James Wyatt who in 1780 came up with the planned town’s design, driven by function and aesthetics.

Dine at An Port Mór, which serves local ingredients in modern style. A more rustic option is The Pantry & Corkscrew, open over summer and fall. At The Porter House, listen—and perhaps join in dancing—to live music. Pop into Matt Molloy’s Pub where the flautist owner plays sets when not on tour. You might also luck out with live Irish dancing from Riverdance alums, as an AFAR writer experienced when visiting.
A view of stone walls and lakes over Sky Road in Galway County

Clew Bay lies on Ireland’s western edge.

Courtesy of Katja Möller/Unsplash

Day 3:Museums and More on the Way to Ballina

While still in Mayo, connect with tides and the sea on a tour at Croagh Patrick Seafoods on Clew Bay to harvest and shuck oysters before driving to the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life. Permanent and temporary exhibits on cycling and the natural environment illustrate and explain rural living in Ireland.

At Foxford, stop for a snack at the mill’s café where you can also browse historic memorabilia, and buy blankets and bed linen from Foxford Woollen Mill. The Irish brand was established to help sustain rural livelihoods.

After lunch, drive north to Ballina. With the advent of electric refrigeration the ice store on the banks of the River Moy in Ballina fell out of function and has since been restored and augmented as the Ice House Hotel. Stay in a riverside suite to luxuriate in the view across the River to Beleek Wood from your private balcony.
A view of the white and blue exterior of the Old Cliff Baths on the seaside of Enniscrone, Ireland

The Old Cliff Baths are part of the seaside bathing heritage of Enniscrone that travelers can still enjoy at local bathhouses.

Courtesy of Tourism Ireland

Day 4:See Ruins in County Sligo

Following breakfast, cross the river and head north of Ballina to Rosskerk Friary ruins, an essential stop for seeing Gothic architecture. Built for Franciscan friars in 1460, the structure was burnt by England’s governor of the Connacht in 1590, but you can still see its magnificent arches, stone carvings, and fireplaces.

On your way towards County Sligo, try the Edwardian bathhouse still in operation in Enniscrone for the must-try experience of a seaweed bath when in Sligo. You’ll dip into tradition as hot water releases a high concentration of iodine from the local seaweed to help relieve pain.

Next, you can have another bygone experience, the uncommon sight of roofs made of thatch, dried reeds, or straw. Stop for lunch at Beach Bar on Aughris Beach to see the traditional thatched roof as well as crashing Atlantic waves.

Then drive on to Sligo Town and check in for two nights at The Glasshouse, a modern building in the center of town on the waterfront of the Garvogue River. Nearby, Shoot The Crows is a pub featuring embossed wallpaper on the ceiling and gig posters lining the walls, a lively setting for an evening of live music.
A view of the steep, cascading green Benbulben mountain in Sligo, Ireland

Benbulben mountain in Sligo, Ireland

Courtesy of Gareth McCormack/Tourism Ireland

Day 5:Visiting a Farm in Sligo

Today, dive into the ways that Sligo played muse to Yeats. To understand the poet, Nobel Laureate, and senator of the Irish Free State, book a tour of The Poetic Mind of WB Yeats Exhibition and guided walk around town with the Yeats Society Sligo.

Drive out to visit Atlantic Sheepdogs and be amazed by the partnership between humans and dogs working together to guide sheep. Ben Bulben, a flat topped rock formation in the Dartry Mountains, looms on the literary horizon in Yeats’ poem Under Ben Bulben. You can stop for a walk in its shadow on the Benbulben Forest Walk. Cross into County Leitrim and visit Glencar Waterfall for immersion into the world of Yeats. In his poem The Stolen Child, this waterfall evokes wild magic and wonder. Returning to Sligo, have dinner at the Harp Tavern, accompanied by live music.
A woman looking out from within one of the Caves of Kesh, Ireland

More than a stunning viewpoint, the Caves of Kesh are wrapped in myth and history

Courtesy of Tourism Ireland/

Day 6:Visit the Caves of Kesh and Drumshanbo Distillery

On your way south, visit Caves of Kesh, large enough to be seen from a distance and worth the walk up to them. On the path through working farmland remember to leave gates shut, avoid startling livestock, and take your litter with you. Over millennia, the use of the caves has changed from the Mesolithic and Iron Age association with offerings and the afterlife to being occupied for short periods during the Medieval era. Folklore describes them as otherworldly and views there give a feeling of remoteness.

Go to Drumshanbo Distillery in County Leitrim, where you’ll see their medieval-style copper stills in action making whisky, gin, and vodka. On the Shed Distillery Tour you can taste spirits at the bar inside a glasshouse. Or simply make use of their café that serves traditional Irish dishes such as boxty (potato pancakes) alongside standard fare.

Head back to County Mayo and check-in to Ashford Castle, which makes a striking impression when you arrive and see it against the backdrop of Lough Corrib. You’ll stay here for two nights.
Stay at Ashford Castle, on the shore of Lough Corrib.

Stay at Ashford Castle, on the shore of Lough Corrib.

Courtesy of Jack Hardy/Tourism Ireland

Day 7:Explore Ashford Castle Estate

On the Clay & Cloth Meet the Makers day, available by request for Ashford Castle guests and designed to bring you closer to local artisans and craftspeople, explore landscape and culture with a triptych of exclusive experiences. First, visit a mountain farm and follow wool making from sheep to spinning wheel. Have lunch in the home of a biodynamic and organic vegetable grower, and then spend the afternoon with a ceramicist.

Take time to look around inside the castle before going to dinner in the George V dining room. Awash in silver and blue, accompanied by wood paneling, it’s a stunning setting for tasting culinary art made with Irish produce, including ingredients from the castle’s kitchen garden, and a fitting final meal before heading back to Shannon for your return flight the next day. (With U.S. preclearance at Shannon Airport, you can clear customs before landing back in the States to make your trip that much more of a delight.)
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