Whether you choose to journey from the historic Ashford Castle Estate through the delights of the Irish-speaking ‘Joyce Country’, with its exhilarating views of Lough Mask and Mount Gable; or decide to have a shopping excursion to the charming town of Westport and the sight of the St. Patrick pilgrimages, Ashford Chauffeur Service is there to meet all of your travelling needs.

You may be in the mood for dramatic landscapes that include the Tourmakeady Forest Trail and spellbinding Waterfall; or the more reflective enjoyment to be found in the village of Ballintubber and its famous Abbey. Perhaps you feel instead the wish to take a drive along Connemara’s wonderful coastline.

Whatever tour you require, our drivers will ensure it will be safe, comfortable, informative and relaxing.

For tours listed below we would recommend allowing 5 hours per tour. However all tours can be tailor made to guests requirements.

Tour 1 – Gaeltacht and Joyce Country

Predominantly a native Irish speaking region, known as Gaeltacht, the epithet ‘Joyce Country’ comes from the high population of families with that surname who originate here.

Taking Ashford Castle as your starting point, the tour will see you drive through the charming, historic villages of Cong and Clonbur.

From there you will find the entrancing Mount Gable commands some of the most splendid views in the region; and, as you are transported further back into the mountains, you will notice the roads becoming smaller and steeper, a sign you are becoming well and truly embedded in the dramatic Gaeltacht country.

You will see Lough Mask, nature’s guide through the undulating mountains and on to the picturesque Tourmakeady, set on the banks of the lough and showcasing the best views back over Mount Gable. Here you might choose to stop in Paddy’s Pub and enjoy refreshments whilst looking out over the gardens and down to the lough.

This is also home to the Tourmakeady Waterfall. Although it can only be reached by foot it is overwhelmingly worth the effort, nestled as it is at the end of the Forest Trail and appearing in all of its beauty as if in a scene emerging from myth.

Planted on one of Ireland’s oldest pilgrimage routes, we make a stop in the village of Ballintubber, home to longstanding Ballintubber Abbey, dating back to 1216, just twelve years before the initial building of Ashford Castle. It is believed to be the only church in Ireland founded by an Irish king – King Cathal ‘Crovdearg’ (‘Redhand’) O’Conor – that is still in regular use. Indeed, despite being suppressed and damaged during the Protestant Reformation – and even without a roof! – it has remained in continual use; and, now fully restored, this royal abbey celebrated its 800th year in 2016.

The abbey now presents the traveller with several modern outdoor attractions, including an abstract Way of the Cross, an underground crib and a Rosary Way. There is a small museum detailing some of the stories and legends attributed to it, as well as the history of the building and its contribution to the surrounding area and Ireland as a whole. In recent years Ballintubber Abbey has found itself the centre of much media attention and has become a desired location for celebrity weddings.

Arriving back at Ashford Castle you will have the evening at your leisure to muse over and relive your day of rambles and insights into the Irish speaking countryside, and the wonderful history that it is steeped in.

Tour 2 – Mountain Drive to Westport

As with Tour One we leave from Ashford Castle Estate, passing Mount Gable and Lough Mask.

Driving towards the town of Westport you can enjoy a luminous view of the dominating Croagh Patrick, known as ‘The Reek’ by the locals. An important site of pilgrimage in County Mayo and associated with Saint Patrick, who reputedly fasted at the summit for forty days, the mountain is now climbed by thousands on the last Sunday of July, which is known as ‘Reek Sunday’.

Arriving in Westport itself there is the opportunity to stretch your legs and take time to ramble around the tree-lined Mall and the stately Georgian buildings along the Carrowbeg River; or you can browse in the cheerful miscellany of traditional shops and pub fronts. Famed as the home of the pirate Queen Grace O’Malley in the mid to late 16th century, Westport is a true heritage town with a captivating mix of traditional and modern.

Westport frequently takes Ireland’s Tidiest Town award and in 2012 it was named the Best Place to Live in Ireland – so it is worth finding out what all the fuss is about.

Before departing from Westport, why not stop at the famous Matt Molloy’s Pub for a pre-lunch pint? It is an intimate bar whose publican enjoyed an illustrious career as part of traditional Irish group The Chieftains, a precursor to much acclaimed solo success…

And if you’re lucky, you might just get to meet the man himself!

Tour 3 – Coastal Tour

We will start this coastal tour by travelling through the mountains known as ‘Joyce’s Country’. This Irish speaking region takes its epithet from the high population of families with the surname of Joyce who originate here. Heading to the coast from Ashford Castle, we will be driving through the charming, historic villages of Cong and Clonbur.

Further on you will see Lough Mask, nature’s guide through the undulating Finny Mountains. This range plays host to Lough Nafooey, a glacial lake that is set in a steep-sided valley and surrounded by the rugged mountains of Galway to the south and Mayo’s Partry Mountains to the north. And there will be plenty of time for photo opportunities, or a breath of brisk sea air, whilst surrounded by this striking scenery that is so representative of the ‘Wild Atlantic Way.’

Leenane – ‘the Gateway to Connemara’ — is famous for its vital fishing industry; and perhaps as much so for being the backdrop to a film that hit like a bolt of lightning in 1990, courtesy of a brace of talented Irish men: film director Jim Sheridan and playwright John B. Kean. The film was The Field and starred Limerick’s own Richard Harris and an international cast that included Tom Berenger, Sean Bean and John Hurt.

Harris received a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination for his depiction of Bull McCabe and visitors can see many of the locations used in the film.

It is also the setting for acclaimed Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s Tony Award-winning masterpiece The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

The only fjord in Western Ireland can be viewed as we stop at Killary Harbour. This glacial fjord is situated in the heart of Connemara and it forms a natural border between counties Galway and Mayo. Nearby lies the so-called Green Road, a rough road running along the side of the fjord back east towards Leenane at the head. This was part of the famine relief program during the 19th century.

Aquaculture is particularly important locally with salmon farms and mussel rafts being a common sight. As we drive toward Kylemore Abbey keep your eyes on the fjord as you might just spy a dolphin in the bay.

‘The View that launched a thousand postcards’, it has been said – and we challenge you to differ as you approach the Connemara jewel that is Kylemore Abbey. This unparalleled building steals focus from its wooded surrounding and will have you chomping at the bit to go exploring.

Founded in 1920, Kylemore Abbey is a Benedictine monastery on the grounds of Kylemore Castle, which was originally built as a private home for the family of Mitchell Henry, a wealthy doctor from London. The construction of the castle first began in 1867, and took one hundred men four years to complete. There were 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, a ballroom, billiard room, library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room and various offices. Other buildings erected on the site include a Gothic cathedral, walled garden and family mausoleum containing the bodies of Margaret Henry, Mitchell Henry and a great grand-nephew.

In 1920 the Irish Benedictine Nuns purchased the Abbey and up until 2012 they offered education to Catholic girls. The abbey boasts a number of lunch opportunities including a restaurant and tea rooms.

Tour 4 – Ireland’s Nature Trail

Heading out towards the Western coast we will drive through Joyce’s Country before arriving at the area surrounding Connemara National Park, which covers some 2,957 hectares of scenic mountains, expanses of bogs, grasslands and woodlands. The park is of outstanding scenic and ecological value. It also plays host to all manner of birdlife as well as deer, rabbits, foxes, stoats, shrews, wild goat, bats and the famous Connemara Pony, a sturdy little animal whose origins go back to the Spanish Armada.

Continuing through Connemara we reach Clifden. This means ‘stepping stones’ in Irish and it is Connemara’s largest town. Generally regarded as the ‘Capital of Connemara,’ the village is perched above an inlet of Ardbear Bay, nestling on the edge of the Atlantic in an almost Alpine setting with a magnificent background of mountains.

British aviators Alcock & Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight from Newfoundland in June 1919 and landed here in Clifden.

Letterfrack, 5 km beyond Kylemore, is an enchanting village on Barnaderg Bay, which was founded by the Society of Friends (the Quakers) in the 19th century as one of a series of mission settlements along the north Connemara coast. A small and vibrant village, it lies on a crossroads beside the sea, with a large village green surrounded by trees. Watching over it are the majestic Diamond Mountain and Connemara National Park. This thriving little village is home to the internationally renowned Letterfrack Furniture College.

Whilst returning through the corkscrew countryside of Connemara you will be able to enjoy awe-inspiring views of the 12 Pins. Intriguingly, this range of mountain peaks can be walked all in one day for dedicated hill climbers! The 12 peaks each have the pre-name Binn or Ben in English, so are often referred to as the 12 Bens, all of which make up a majestic backdrop to the park.

On our return we will pass through the quaint and wooded village of Maam, these ancient woods giving the place a truly magical feel; and it is presided over by the Maamturk Mountains, with their numerous pre-historic sites. Here in Maam we would advise a stop at Keane’s pub for a refreshment break whilst overlooking this magnificent, mountainous backdrop.