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Glassilaun Beach in Connemara
Glassilaun Beach is definitely one of the most striking of all the beaches in Connemara. This soft white sand beach is situated in an extremely picturesque location, nestled in a horseshoe shaped bay with superb mountain views and it is a great stop along the Wild Atlantic Way.
The Glassilaun Beach weather can dramatically change the colors of the beach. Fine sunny days when the sky is blue and there is little wind, the crystal clear waters are a turquoise color and the sand appears white.
On duller days, the contrasts might not be quite so strong, but the remarkable wildness of this place with its background colors of green vegetation, rocky browns and gray cloudy skies so typical of the west is still impressive.
Glassilaun Beach Connemara Fun Fact
This superb location caught the eye of film scouts for the 2006 movie, Tristan and Isolde (directed by Kevin Reynolds). Some of the beach coastal scenes for the film, which starred James Franco and Sophia Myles, were shot on this beach.
What to do on Glassilaun Beach?
Located in north west County Galway, close to Killary Fjord, this 600 m (0.3 mile) long beach is great for a stroll all year round. The long white strand stretches from one side of the horseshoe bay to the other, with rocky outcrops found on either end.
When the Glassilaun Beach tides are suitably low, it is possible to explore some of the little rock pools and (carefully) search for marine life.
Many people take to the water and brave the cold of the Atlantic Ocean for a refreshing dip or some water sports. (Find out more about water sports and swimming in Glassilaun Beach, as well as possible scuba diving options below).
Glassilaun Beach FAQs
Where is Glassilaun Beach?
Glassilaun Beach is one of the most northerly beaches in Connemara, County Galway. It is located near the southern entrance to Killary Fjord. The fjord is the boundary between the counties of Galway and Mayo. The Mweelrea Mountains, which you can see from the Glassilaun Beach, are in County Mayo.
Glassilaun Beach Directions – How do I get there?
If you are traveling from south to north via Clifden, follow the Connemara Loop Road past Tully Cross, onwards through Gowlaun Townland (where Lettergesh School is located) for about 2.5 km (ca. 1.5 miles) where at a bend in the road you will find a small turnoff with signs for Glassilaun Beach and Scubadive West.
From Leenane (or Leenaun), follow the Connemara Loop drive for about 15 km (9 miles), where the signed turnoff will be on your right side (before the bend in the road). The turn off is a bit more difficult to see coming from this direction.
Handy Tip: Download the directions on Google Maps before you visit in case the internet coverage is poor.
What is Glassilaun Beach parking like?
There is only a small car park at Glassilaun Beach. For most of the year, the car park can usually take the number of visitor cars, but as soon as the weather improves and people head to the beach, be warned that it does fill up very quickly. Then people park on the sides of the very narrow road.
This little side road is not very wide so be prepared for some reversing along the way if you meet some oncoming vehicles.
(Please Note: No cars are allowed on the beach.)
How long does it take to travel from Glassilaun Beach to Clifden?
The drive from Glassilaun Beach to Clifden takes roughly 35 minutes by car.
How long does it take to travel from Galway to Glassilaun Beach?
It takes about 1.5 hours to drive from Galway City to Glassilaun Beach, via Leenane and Oughterard.
Can you swim at Glassilaun Beach?
It is difficult to find official information about the suitability of Glassilaun Beach for swimming.
There is an information sign at the beach that says swimming and other water sports are permitted at the sandy beach. However, there is no lifeguard on duty at this location and the water and weather conditions mean that it may not always be safe to be in the water. Please use your best judgment and check locally for updated information.
More useful information about swimming in Ireland can be found on the Water Safety Ireland website.
What is the water quality of Glassilaun Beach?
Generally, the water quality of Glassilaun beach is sampled once a month during the bathing season and is very often assessed as “Excellent” by Galway County Council. For the latest water quality results you can check here.
Are dogs allowed on Glassilaun Beach?
There is no official information about dog restrictions on Glassilaun Beach. An information sign at the beach states that dogs must be on a leash at all times. Please check for more details at the beach or in the locality.
Obviously, all dog waste must be removed from the beach as it is very detrimental to the water quality and unpleasant for other beach users.
What facilities are there at Glassilaun Beach?
The facilities at this beach are minimal, it is nature at its best. In summer, there are (often) portable toilets (Portaloos) and bins, but there are no lifeguards on duty. Off season, do not expect any facilities at this beach. Please make sure to bring all your waste with you and not spoil this amazing location.
Where can I find Glassilaun Beach accommodation?
There are not so many places to stay in the direct vicinity of Glassilaun Beach.
Glassilaun Beach camping might sound tempting, but the information sign at the beach indicates that Glassilaun Beach wild camping is not allowed.
However, there are two campsites with stunning views located nearby, one of which is located at Lettergesh Beach and the other at Renvyle Beach that are definitely worth checking out.
Delphi Resort in Mayo is about 40 minutes drive and offers a wellness retreat, as well as many outdoor activities and tours in Killary Bay and other scenic Mayo locations in the area. Other accommodation options are in Leenane for example.
Things to Do near Glassilaun Beach
Located just beside Glassilaun Beach is the Scubadive West. Everyone from beginners to experienced divers are catered for here. The sheltered bays in the area are an excellent place to learn to dive or explore the amazing underwater world of Connemara including the wreck of the Julia T off the coast.
Several different activities and courses are available, for more information about their content and availability, please see their website.
Lettergesh Beach is another great sandy beach located just a short distance away from Glassilaun (ca. 5 minutes). This beach is larger than Glassilaun Beach, but also has white sands and was also used as a film location for the movie “The Quiet Man”.
Tip: It might be useful to know that there is a bigger car park here than at Glassilaun Beach.
Connemara Caravan and Camping Park is located here if you are planning an overnight stay.
Renvyle Beach (or White Strand Beach)
Further along the Renvyle Peninsula, you will find Renvyle Beach (ca. 20 minutes from Glassilaun Beach). The views from this beach of the islands off the coast and mountains are truly superb.
Tip: The car park for this beach is very small and fills up quickly when the weather is good.
For anyone interested in camping near here, this is also where you will find the Renvyle Beach Caravan and Camping Park.
Renvyle Castle Ruin
By traveling a little further along the Renvyle Peninsula, you will find the ruins of Renvyle Castle dating back to about the 13-14th century. This castle once belonged to Donal O’Flaherty and his famous wife, Grace O’Malley (or Gráinne Ní Mháille), the famous Irish Pirate Queen.
It is not possible to access the site, but due to the damage to one side to the castle, it is possible to get a good look into the ruins and the remains of its internal structures from the road.
Kylemore Abbey and Walled Gardens
This picturesque setting is often seen on calendars and postcards of Ireland. Kylemore Abbey was once the private residence of Mitchell Henry and his wife Margaret Henry in the 19th century. It was later taken over by Belgian Benedictine nuns who ran a boarding school there until it closed in 2010.
As well as the Abbey itself, there is also a neo-Gothic Church and a famous Victorian Walled Garden on site.
It takes about 30 minutes to reach Kylemore Abbey from Glassilaun Beach.
Connemara National Park
The nearby Connemara National Park is one of Ireland’s best national parks, simply because of its superb mountains and epic scenery. There are lots of different walking and hiking routes around the national park.
Diamond Hill near Letterfrack is a nice option (with three difficulty levels), which gives you a wonderful overview of the Connemara landscape.
For more information about the route and things to do in Connemara National Park, please check the Connemara National Park Information Centre in Letterfrack.