When visiting Connemara we have often stopped off at Leenane (or Leenaun) to take in the stunning views of the Killary Harbour. The harbour is a 16km long fjord stretching out to the Atlantic Ocean and it forms a natural border between the counties of Galway and Mayo. At it’s deepest, Killary Fjord is about 45 metres deep and it’s sheltered waters make it an important habitat for marine mammals and other wildlife.
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The beauty of this area can easily be enjoyed from shore but I love how getting out on the water offers a totally different perspective. So last time we visited, we decided to finally do just that and take a boat tour along the fjord. As we discovered, it’s a fantastic way to really take in the magnificent landscape surrounding Killary Fjord.
As you can see we didn’t have the best of weather but it just made the scenery even more dramatic and spectacular. Whatever the weather or time of year you visit, Killary Fjord is sure to take your breath away.
Ireland’s only fjord…or is it?!
Killary Fjord is often said to be Ireland’s only true fjord. Then there are people who claim it is one of three glacial fjords in Ireland, the others being Lough Swilly and Carlingford Lough. Elsewhere it’s claimed the latter are fjards, not fjords and it all starts to get very sciency and technical from there. So I can’t solve that one for you but I can tell you that you won’t regret visiting this part of the country and checking it out for yourself…whatever it is!
If you’re lucky enough to be spending a day or two in the area, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy. Check out my post with 10 things to do in Connemara for some ideas. Or if you’re heading north, you might want to spend some time exploring Mayo.
Killary Fjord Boat Tours
Killary Fjord Boat Tours leave from Nancy’s Point on the south side of the fjord. It’s only a few minutes drive from the village of Leenane. You can pick up tickets on arrival but it might be safest to book tickets online in advance if you are visiting during peak summer months. Tickets are also a little cheaper online too.
Relax in comfort
Once everyone was onboard, we quickly set sail! If, like me, you’re prone to sea sickness, don’t worry as the boat is a catamaran. Its design ensures you won’t be sea sick and there’s even a money back guarantee. You can’t get better than that!
Food and drink is available on board with plenty of options including soups, sandwiches and desserts. Of course there’s plenty of fresh seafood available too! The bar is fully stocked with Guinness, wine and beer, including locally brewed Killary Fjord Blonde Ale.
It was a pretty chilly day so we just went for some toasted sandwiches. I also had a cheeky little Irish Coffee to warm up…delish! After you’ve placed your order, simply sit back, relax and watch the beautiful Connemara scenery go by.
The fjord is surrounded on both sides by majestic peaks, including that of Mweelrea to the north. Mweelrea is the highest peak in County Mayo and one I will hopefully reach the summit of one day! To the south are Connemara’s Twelve Bens and the Maumturk Mountains. When we did the boat tour, some of the peaks were still dusted with just a little sprinkling of snow.
The boat tour lasts around 90 minutes, sailing out to the mouth of the harbour before returning to Nancy’s Point. Along the way there is a commentary running with lots of information about the history and geology of the area.
Unfortunately if you go outside to take in the views, you miss out on this. It was also sometimes hard to catch what was being said inside too if the chatting got particularly loud! It would be great to have an individual headset that you could listen to, as what I did hear was very interesting. Having said that the staff were all very friendly and are on hand to answer any questions you might have along the way.
At the mouth of the harbour, dolphins will often come play by the boat if they are in the area. I went out on deck hoping to see them but unfortunately they didn’t show up on our trip. Though that didn’t stop a few of the kids onboard trying to convince us otherwise!
According to the staff dolphins are spotted one in every three or four trips though, so there’s a good chance that you’ll get lucky. They generally swim alongside the boat if they appear, so you’ll get a great views and photos of them.
Other Wildlife in the Killary Fjord
In the sheltered waterway of the Killary Fjord you can also find seals and sharks. Otters, which are a protected species, breed here. The area is also an important bird sanctuary with heron, ducks, swans and plover just some of the species to be discovered.
For anyone travelling with kids, Killary Fjord Boat Tours is a great option for a family day out. Children up to the age of 10 are free and a family ticket includes up to 6 children. The kids can even help the captain to drive the boat and get a certificate for their efforts.
Finish with a wander around Leenane Village
After the cruise we took a stroll around the picturesque village of Leenane, situated at the mouth of Killary Harbour. The surrounding mountains provide a really dramatic backdrop to the quaint shops and pubs in the village. It’s easy to see why it was chosen as a location in Jim Sheridan’s film, The Field. If you’re a fan of the film, you might want to stop for a pint or bite to eat in Gaynor’s Bar, which featured extensively in the movie.