Clifden (An Clochán, "stepping stones") is a small town on the northwest coast of County Galway in the west of Ireland. It grew up as a harbour and market town, then after the Famine became a coast resort with its present Victorian architecture. Clifden's population in 2016 was only 1597, but this greatly swells in summer, as it's the main commercial and tourist centre for Connemara.
The TIC is on Main St, open M-F 09:00-17:00.
Citylink Bus 923 and Bus Éireann 419 between them run every hour or two from Galway via Oughterard and Maam Cross to Clifden (90 min); a couple of buses continue to Letterfrack and Cleggan. This is a scenic drive across Connemara with views of Lough Corrib, numerous smaller lakes and the Twelve Bens mountain range. Train and bus connections are available from Dublin, Cork and Limerick in Galway.
Bus Éireann 423 runs three times a day from Westport in County Mayo, taking 90 min via Leenane, along the bank of Killary Fjord and Letterfrack to Clifden. Some departures are timed to connect with trains from Dublin at Westport.
The 1 bus stop is on Main St.
Clifden Town is accessible on foot. There are taxi firms in town.
Mannion Bike Hire are on Bridge St, open M-Sa 10:00-18:00 and Su 10:00-13:00, 17:00-18:00.
- Beach Road is a pleasant stroll north side of the bay, leading eventually to the beach sheltered by a spit of land.
- The Station House Museum in Clifden was closed in early 2020.
- 1 Clifden Castle is a picturesque ruined mansion in Gothic Revival style. It was the home of John D'Arcy (1785–1839), who founded Clifden, but his successors went bankrupt during the great potato famine. The next owners were absentees then the estate suffered land raids; in the 20th century the place fell derelict. You can stroll up the lane from Sky Road but the building is unsafe to enter. It's inhabited by cows, who have made themselves comfortable, so you could reasonably call it "Clifden Cattle".
- 2 Slyne Head Lighthouse stands on an island beyond the golf course.
- 3 Alcock & Brown's landing site is at the end of Marconi St, 10 km south of Clifden off R341. In 1913 the Daily Mail of London put up a prize of £10,000 for the first transatlantic flight: the competition was suspended for the First World War but resumed after the Armistice. Captain Jack Alcock (1892-1919) and 2nd Lieutenant Teddie Brown (1886-1948) had both been shot down during the war and taken prisoner - Alcock near Gallipoli and Brown near Arras in Pas de Calais. Postwar they found their way to Vickers the aircraft manufacturers, and a Vickers Vimy IV twin-engined bomber was converted for the attempt. They wobbled into the sky at 13:45 on 14 June 1919 from Lester's Field in St John's, Newfoundland, stealing a march on the Handley Page team who weren't quite ready. Alcock was pilot and Brown was navigator: all their skills were tested to the limit. The aircraft generator failed, taking out the radio, intercom and heating; the carburettor and trim control aso failed. They endured fog, snow and freezing rain. They flew 1890 miles (3040 km) in 15 hours 57 minutes at an average speed of 115 mph (185 km/h), and 08:40 next morning found them crossing the Galway coast. They had enough fuel to press on to England but in bad weather opted to land here, in a promising big green field - gloop! Sure enough they'd found themselves a bog, the wheels dug in and the aircraft nose-planted. But they'd flown across the Atlantic, and it only remained to squelch a few yards to the Marconi transmitting station, to send word of their triumph.
- 4 Dog's Bay and Gurteen Bay are the two sides of a tombola on the coast further south. The two beaches are made of tiny shells of Foraminifera or marine borers.
- 5 Roundstone (Cloch na Rón) is a picture-perfect harbour village. Roundstone Musical Instruments & Crafts, open daily, makes traditional bodhran and has become a tourist attraction. (See Inis Oírr for the annual bodhran festival.) Stroll up Mt Errisbeg (298 m) just behind the village for great views.
- 6 Connemara Heritage and History Centre is a small museum on N59 five km east of town, recreating a 1800 homestead. It's open Apr-Oct daily 10:00-18:00, adult €8.50.
- 7 Cleggan is a tiny fishing hamlet. It has a couple of bars, a restaurant, some B&Bs and a riding centre. Ferries sail from here to Inishbofin and occasionally to Inishturk.
- 8 Claddaghduff is the start of the tidal crossing to Omey Island.
- 9 Inishbofin Island is reached by ferry from Cleggan. It's low-lying and treeless, with a Cromwell-era fort and Iron Age fortifications.
- 10 Inishturk: beware, there are three. This one, north of Inishbofin, is inhabited and can be reached by boat from Cleggan; but it's in County Mayo and more usually reached from Roonagh. Another, known as Inishturk South, is uninhabited and is seen just off the headland of the Sky Road. And there's the privately-owned Inishturk Beg in Clew Bay in Mayo.
- See Letterfrack for Connemara National Park and the "Twelve Bens".
- Drive or cycle the Sky Road, the scenic loop of lane around the Atlantic headland. This forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way: once Sky Road loops back to N59, the suggested route is to branch west along the lane to Claddaghduff (for Omey Island) and Cleggan, then return to N59 to reach Letterfrack. From Galway to Clifden by that route, hug the coast through Spiddal, Costello, Inver, Carna, Dog's Bay and Ballyconneelly.
- 1 Connemara Championship Golf Course, Creggoduff, Ballyconneely H71 N243, ☏ . Links course, usually with a stiff Atlantic breeze trying to whisk your ball away in the general direction of Dublin. Yellow tees 6235 yards, par 72. €130.
- Clifden Boat Club, Beach Rd (1.km past pier, beside the beach). Offers sailing lessons during the summer, also a small friendly bar restaurant offering good food and craic.
- Fishing is available on the river and nearby lakes, and sea-angling boats put out from Clifden and Cleggan.
- Cleggan Beach Riding Centre (+353 83 388 8135) are near Cleggan pier. They offer lessons and trekking.
- Traditional Music Festival is in early April. The next is probably Th 1 - Su 4 April 2021, tbc.
- Connemara Marathon is in April; there are also half- and ultra-marathons. The next is on Su 18 April 2021.
- Connemara Pony Show is in August. The next is 9-15 Aug 2021.
- Clifden Arts Festival is in late September. The next is probably 15-26 Sept 2021 but tbc.
Lidl and Aldi are on the main road, east edge of town.
- Off The Square on Main St serves traditional fare daily 09:30-21:30.
- Mitchell's Restaurant, Market St, ☏ . Daily 12:00-22:00. Long-established seafood restaurant continues to delight.
- Mullarkeys is within Foyle's Hotel, bar is cash only.
- Mannions Seafood Bar, 1 Market St, ☏ . Su-Th 10:30-23:30, F Sa 10:0-00:30. Great pub grub, often has live music.
- Guys Bar & Snug, Main St, ☏ , email@example.com. M-Th 10:30-23:00, F Sa 10:30-00:00, Su 12:30-23:00. Great food, early and late music sessions.
- 1 Clifden Town Hostel, Market St, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 2 Ben Lettery Hostel, Ballynahinch (10 km east of Clifden on N59), ☏ . This HI/YHA hostel is in an ideal location in the mountains of Connemara. It is a good base for hikes in the region, including that around the 12 Bens.
- 3 Alcock & Brown Hotel, Town Square H71 KN29, ☏ , email@example.com. Ugly boxy 1960s building, but rooms and service are okay. On three floors, no lift. B&B double €130.
- 4 Foyle's Hotel, Main St, ☏ . Old-world charm but rooms are comfy and well-maintained. B&B double from €110.
- Blue Quay Rooms, 2 Seaview H71 N224, ☏ . Bright blue building and the decor within is just as striking in this splendid B&B. Open Apr-Oct, no children under 12 or dogs, cash only. B&B double €90.
- 5 Buttermilk Lodge, Westport Rd H71 VF25, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Pleasant family-run B&B 500 m from centre of town. Open Mar-Oct. B&B double from €90.
- 6 Kingstown House B&B, Bridge St H71 HO22, ☏ , email@example.com. Cosy welcoming B&B. B&B double €75.
- Ben View House B&B, Bridge St, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Great little B&B, super welcoming. B&B double €80.
- Sea Mist House, Seaview, Clifden H71 NV63, ☏ . Welcoming small B&B open Mar-Oct. Four rooms but none suitable with limited mobility. No children under 4 or dogs. B&B double €100.
- 7 Quay House, Beach Rd, Clifden, ☏ . Excellent B&B stuffed with quirky antiques in harbourside knock-through. Open Apr-Oct, no dogs. B&B double €150.
- 8 Mallmore House, Ballyconneely road, Ardbear H71 PY98, ☏ . Quirky Georgian property, now a B&B in woodland overlooking the bay. B&B double €100.
- 9 Connemara Sands Hotel, Mannin Bay, Ballyconneely H71 TY79, ☏ . Upscale spa hotel in modern chalets on the coast. They also have self-catering. B&B double €190.
- 10 Lough Inagh Lodge, Recess H91 E3Y8 (east bank of lough 3 km from Recess), ☏ . Splendid small hotel in fishing lodge in idyllic lakeside spot. Open Mar-Dec. B&B double €140.
- 11 Abbeyglen Castle Hotel, 2 Sky Rd, ☏ , email@example.com. Lovely welcoming upscale place in an early Victorian mock-castle, excellent dining. Open Feb-Dec. B&B double from €180.
- Connemara Rentals, Church Hill, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. They rent out three self-catering properties in Clifden: Sunnybank House (11 bedrooms €4500/week), The Lodge (4 bedrooms €1500/week), and Townhouse (2 bedrooms €850/week).
As of July 2020, Clifden has a mobile and 4G signal from all Irish carriers (though Three is scratchy), but 5G has not yet reached this area.
- Continue north around the coast to Letterfrack to access Connemara National Park and the "Twelve Bens".
- Or head east: Rossaveel has ferries to the Aran Islands.
- Galway is the lively colourful city further east.