The picturesque village of Leenane, snugly situated at the head of Killary Harbour, is often described as the "Gateway to Connemara". The roads from Galway, Clifden and Westport meet at this point. The village was originally Líonán Cinn Mhara, meaning "the little (tide) filling (place) at the head of the sea".
The breathtaking scenery equals or surpasses anything else that Ireland has to offer. The only true fjord in Ireland, Killary lies placidly between two rows of guarding mountains, combining mountain ruggedness and the calmness of the sheltered waters.
Leenane is surrounded by mountains, of particular interest to geologists because of their mixture of sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks. Climbers can also take advantage breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and the wild Atlantic Ocean.
"To climb the trackless mountain all unseen, with the wild flock that never need a fold, Alone oer steeps and foaming falls to lean, this is not solitude; tis but to hold converse with natures charms and view her stones unrolled."
The more sporting person is well catered for with a dive school and two adventure centres - specialising in mountain climbing, orienteering, bungee-jumping, archery, canoeing, sailing and various other activities. The less energetic walker can enjoy the paths on the lower foothills, strolling through a forest, or studying the flora and fauna.
Leenane has always been renowned for its fishing, with many excellent choices at hand. The Erriff and Delphi fisheries offer salmon and trout, while the same choice is also offered a few miles away in Lough Fee, Lough Muck and Kylemore Lake (pictured below). Further afield, Lough Na Fooey is well known for its pike fishing.
Doolough, part of the Delphi fisheries, is a superb expanse of water, and also the scene of one of the greatest tragedies of the famine in Ireland. On a rumour 600 men, women and children walked to Doolough from Louisburg in search of food. On arrival they were told that none was available and an estimated 400 people died from hunger and exposure on the way home.
There is evidence everywhere of greater population density in the past. There are numerous ruins of old houses and the potato or lazybeds are still to be seen on the mountain slopes - belonging to the pre-famine period.
The north Connemara hills are steeped in sheep and wool tradition. The leisurely pace of life and peaceful local atmosphere are best depicted by sheep lying on the main road heedless of traffic. Well trained dogs gathering sheep on the mountain are a joy to behold. There was a thriving wool hand craft industry in Leenane 100 years ago and here in the Sheep & Wool Centre the special arts of carding, spinning and weaving are demonstrated live.
1989 saw Leenane chosen as the location for The Field. Filming took place in the village and at Aasleagh Church. The field itself is twelve kilometres from the village.
A visit to Leenane is the beginning of a lifelong love affair with not just the village, but with wild Connemara: we hope you enjoy your visit and that you will come again.
How To Find Us
Leenane lies on the N59, Connemara’s coastal scenic route. The village is roughly half-way between Clifden, County Galway, and Westport, County Mayo. Drive carefully and watch out for sheep along the roads!
From Westport, Mayo
Follow signs via Quay Road to the N59 T junction
Drive directly to Leenane 32 km / 35 minutes
From Clifden, Galway
At the end of Main Street, turn left onto the N59
Continue along the N59 for 34 km (45 minutes).
Beware of a few sharp bends, and sheep along the road over 8 km just before Leenane.
From Galway City
Follow "All Other Routes" signage through the Galway bypasses until the Browne Roundabout, then
Follow signs for "The West" and then "Clifden" onto the N59.
Continue northwest along N59 for about 40 km/ 40minutes.
At Maam Cross, turn right onto the R336. Continue along R336 via Maam for 25 km/25 minutes.
The Sheep and Wool Centre is in the heart of Leenane, directly across the road from the main carpark.