Clifden (Irish: An Clochán, meaning "stepping stones"[2]:14) is a coastal town in County Galway, Ireland, in the region of Connemara, located on the Owenglin River where it flows into Clifden Bay. As the largest town in the region, it is often referred to as "the Capital of Connemara". Frequented by tourists, Clifden is linked to Galway city by the N59.


An Clochán
View from John D'Arcy Monument on the Sky Road
View from John D'Arcy Monument on the Sky Road
Clifden is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 53°29′20″N 10°01′16″W / 53.489°N 10.021°WCoordinates: 53°29′20″N 10°01′16″W / 53.489°N 10.021°W
CountyCounty Galway
50 m (160 ft)
Irish Grid ReferenceL655510


Clifden town centre
Clifden town centre

19th century

The town was founded at the start of the 19th century by John D'Arcy (1785–1839)[3] who lived in Clifden Castle (built around 1818, now a ruin) west of Clifden. He had inherited the estate in 1804, when it was mostly inhabited by fishermen and farmers. The idea of establishing a town on the coast was first voiced by him in 1812. Bad communications and a lack of private capital prevented fast progress until the 1820s, when the potato crop failed in 1821–22 and D'Arcy petitioned the government in Dublin for assistance. The engineer Alexander Nimmo was sent to the area in 1822. He constructed a quay at Clifden (finished in 1831), and started a road to Galway.[2]:14,46 With these improvements to its infrastructure, the town began to grow.[4]:11

The Monster Meeting at Clifden in 1843
The Monster Meeting at Clifden in 1843 by Joseph Patrick Haverty. Daniel O'Connell is depicted in the center addressing the gathered masses.

It prospered until, in 1839, John D'Arcy died. By that time, Clifden had grown from virtually nothing to a town of 185 dwellings, most of them three-floored, two churches, two hotels, three schools, a police barracks, courthouse, a gaol, a distillery and 23 pubs.[2]:14 The population had grown to 1,100 and the town already sported the (as yet unpaved) triangle of streets still visible today.[2]:14 Products that were shipped out from Clifden Harbour included marble, corn, fish and kelp. However, John's son and heir, Hyacinth, lacked his father's abilities and confrontations with his tenants became commonplace.[4]:14–15 In 1843, Daniel O'Connell held a 'Monster Meeting' at Clifden, attended by a crowd reportedly numbering 100,000, at which he spoke on repeal of the Act of Union.[2]:14

The town's surging growth and prosperity came to an end when the famine started in 1845. Large numbers of people died, as government help proved insufficient to deal with starvation, scurvy and other diseases. By 1848 90% of the population were on relief (receiving government money). Landlords went bankrupt as rents dried up. Many people emigrated to America. On 18 November 1850, Hyacinth D'Arcy put up his estates for sale and most of them were purchased by Charles and Thomas Eyre of Somerset. Hyacinth pursued a church career and became Rector of Omey and Clifden. Charles Eyre sold his share to his brother, who gave the estates to his nephew (Charles' son) John Joseph in 1864.[4]:14–15

In 1855, Sisters of Mercy from Galway came to Clifden and established St. Joseph's Convent, followed by an orphanage and St. Joseph's Industrial School in 1858.[2]:45

Beginning 1 July 1895, Clifden railway station was the western terminus of the Midland Great Western Railway.[5]

Early 20th century

Clifden gained prominence after 1905 when Guglielmo Marconi decided to build his first high power transatlantic long wave wireless telegraphy station four miles (6 km) south of the town to minimize the distance to its sister station in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. The first point-to-point fixed wireless service connecting Europe with North America opened for public service with the transmission of 10,000 words on 17 October 1907. At peak times, up to 200 people were employed by the Clifden wireless station, among them Jack Phillips, who later perished as Chief Radio Operator on the Titanic.

On 15 June 1919 the first non-stop transatlantic flight by Alcock and Brown crashlanded in Derrygimlagh bog, close to Marconi's transatlantic wireless station. When Captain Alcock spotted the green bog he thought it was a meadow where he could safely land his Vickers Vimy biplane. The plane's landing gear sank into the soft bog and was destroyed. Alcock and Brown had to walk into town with minor injuries. When they returned using the Marconi Railway, the locals had helped themselves to parts of the plane as souvenirs.[6]

War of Independence (1920–1921)

Events that would lead up to the "Burning of Clifden" began on 21 November 1920, Bloody Sunday. On that day, IRA members in Dublin attacked British officers and civilians believed to work for intelligence, killing eleven and wounding four.[4]:201–202 Later that day, British paramilitary auxiliary forces opened fire at Croke Park, killing twelve and injuring sixty.[4]:201–202 Thomas Whelan, born in 1899 in Clifden, was arrested and charged with the 21 November murder of Captain G.T. Bagelly. Although he maintained his innocence, Whelan was found guilty and executed on 14 March 1921.[4]:202–208 Following its Two for one policy that required the killing of two members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) for every Republican executed, members of the IRA shot and killed Constable Charles Reynolds and Constable Thomas Sweeney at Eddie King's Corner in Clifden on 16 March 1921. In response to the RIC's request for assistance, a trainload of Black and Tans arrived from Galway in the early hours of St Patrick's Day, 17 March 1921, and proceeded to "burn, plunder and murder".[4]:177 They killed one civilian, seriously injured another, burned 14 houses, and damaged several others.[4]:209–213

Civil war (1922)

When the Civil War started in June 1922, Connemara was controlled by the Republicans. In Clifden, the population tolerated the Republicans but did not support them. The Republicans occupied several buildings. In addition, all petrol was confiscated, roads barricaded and made impassable, railway bridges were blown up and telegraph lines cut. Newspapers were forbidden.[4]:222

The Republicans burned the buildings they evacuated. In Clifden, the workhouse was burned in July.[4]:222 In addition, on 25 July, the Republicans set fire to the Marconi Station and fired shots at it because they considered the station "a British concern",[4]:177 and because the RIC had used the station to marshall reinforcements in March 1921. Transatlantic wireless service[7] was transferred from Clifden to the more modern Marconi wireless station near Waunfawr, Wales. By one reckoning, the station's closure caused an estimated 1,000 people to lose their livelihood.[4]:177

The National Army sent 150 men, and in the night of 14/15 August the National Army marched to town. However, the Republicans retreated and there was only minimal fighting. The National troops were warmly welcomed by the people of Clifden.[4]:223–227 The Republicans still controlled the mountains and waged a guerrilla war against the National Army. The Irregulars attacked Army posts and patrols, mainly by sniping, and attacked motor cars. On 13 October, Republicans burned down the Recess Hotel and nearby Glendalough House to prevent the National troops from using them as billets.[4]:227–230

On 29 October, the Republicans recaptured Clifden from the around 100 National troops stationed there. The attacking force consisted of around 350 men. They also had with them an "armoured car", called The Queen of the West.[2]:44 This was used to advance towards a defended barracks building. Eventually, the National troops surrendered. However, the Republicans did not occupy the town, which had sustained some damage during the fighting. Communications were once again severed, and the Irregulars took up positions around the town.[4]:230–233

Finally, on 16 December, the National Army returned to Clifden and the Republicans once again slipped away before its arrival. The townspeople again welcomed the Army and soon repairs started on bridges and the railway line. Soon the first train in seven months arrived in Clifden.[4]:234–236


Clifden 02
Clifden Catholic Church.


The N59 road from Galway (77 km away) to Westport, County Mayo (64 km) passes through the town.

Regular coach services are provided by Bus Éireann and Citylink, connecting Clifden with Galway city. Some bus services operate through Oughterard, to the south of Lough Corrib, while others operate via Clonbur / Headford to the north of Lough Corrib.


CIE no. 589 (44704220350)
A train at Clifden railway station

The Galway to Clifden Railway opened in 1895 and closed in 1935.[5]


In 1989, a group of Clifden businessmen issued shares for a company and applied for planning permission for a 1,200 metre runway and associated buildings at Ardagh. A group of locals began to campaign against this proposal, later calling themselves "Save Roundstone Bog". Galway County Council refused planning permission for the airport due to feared damage to the natural beauty of the area, and because it was designated an 'Area of International Scientific Importance' (ASI). The 'Clifden Airport Co.' appealed and as a consequence of the legal proceedings, which went all the way to the Supreme Court, ASI designations were found to be unconstitutional.[2]:57 The company later proposed to exchange the site at Ardagh for part of the Marconi site at Derrygimlagh. However, this also failed due to local and nationwide opposition. Eventually, a smaller 600 metre runway was suggested at Cloon near Cleggan.[2]:59 This runway was built in 2008 and the airfield was supposed to be used for flights to Inishbofin. It has been assigned the airport code EICD but by 2012 it had not been opened for traffic.[8]


Clifden is the main town in Connemara; therefore it is home to a range of services. The HQ for the Connemara Garda service is in Clifden and the main fire station for Connemara is in Clifden.

Part of the services on offer is a public library. It offers material relating to the history of the area. The library hosts an ongoing programme of exhibitions, readings and other cultural events.


Alcock brown landing site
Alcock and Brown landing site
Remains of the Marconi transatlantic wireless station
Remains of the Marconi transatlantic wireless station

Clifden is a tourist destination for people exploring Connemara. Places of interest in and around Clifden include:


The Connemara Pony Show is organised by the Connemara Pony Breeders' Society and has been held on the third Thursday in August since 1924. Since 1947 the show has been held in Clifden.[2]:46

Community Arts Week in late September offers poetry reading, lectures, recitals and traditional music. The festival was first started by teachers in Clifden Community School in 1979 to bring creative arts into the classroom.

During the Omey Island Races, horse racing occurs on the beach. In honour of Jon Riley, on 12 September the town of Clifden flies the Mexican flag.

20140616-IMG 1729-Clifden IRE
Clifden main street


Clifden lies within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tuam and the Church of Ireland Diocese of Tuam, Killala and Achonry, and its Omey Union Parish. Clifden has two churches: St. Joseph's (Roman Catholic), completed in 1879,[2]:45 and Christ Church (Church of Ireland), built in 1853, replacing an earlier structure dating to 1810.[2]:45


Clifden is home to Naomh Feichin's GAA club. Clifden is also home to the Connemara Blacks, a rugby that draws team members from Connemara.

In literature

James Mylet's debut novel Lex is set in Clifden. In 2011 the British newspaper The Guardian described the novel as being set in "the fictional town of Clifden on Ireland's west coast", leading to at least one letter pointing out the inaccuracy of this statement.[10]

Notable people

Town twinning

See also


  1. ^ "Census 2016 - Sapmap Area - Settlements - Clifden". Census 2016. Central Statistics Office. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Robinson, Tim (2005). Connemara. Part 1: Introduction and gazetteer. Folding Landscapes, Roundstone. ISBN 0-9504002-5-4.
  3. ^ "Landed Estates, Family: D'Arcy (Kiltullagh & Clifden Castle)". Landed Estates Database/NUI Galway. Retrieved 2013-01-29.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Villiers-Tuthill, Kathleen (2006). Beyond the Twelve Bens — a history of Clifden and district 1860-1923. Connemara Girl Publications. ISBN 978-0-9530455-1-8.
  5. ^ a b c "List of Irish railway stations" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-01-29.
  6. ^ Alcock and Brown Museum in Clifden & Nora Thornton O'Donnell eyewitness
  7. ^ The Clifden Station of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph System, Scientific American, 23 November 1907
  8. ^ "Abandoned and little known airfields". Archived from the original on 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2013-01-29.
  9. ^ "Clifden and The Sky Road". My DiscoverIreland Blog. Retrieved 2013-01-29.
  10. ^ "Toibin tries his hand at poetry…". Irish Independent. 18 June 2011. Retrieved 2013-01-29.
  11. ^ Nee, Martina (26 April 2012). "Council agrees to twinning of Clifden with Coyoacan in Mexico". Galway Advertiser. Retrieved 2013-01-29.

External links


Ballyconneely (Irish: Baile Conaola, meaning "Conneelys' village. Archaic name Baile 'ic Conghaile") is a small ribbon development in west Connemara, County Galway, Ireland.

John O'Donovan attests several similar names for the village :


Baile 'ic Conghaile

Ballyconneely By. Surveyors Sketch Map

Ballyconneely C. C. Collector

Ballykineely Co. Map

Ballycunneely Local

Ballyconneely Meresman

Ballyconneely Rental

Balyconneely Rev. Peter Fitzmorris, P.P.The surname, Conneely is Mac Conghaile originally, whereas Ó Conghaola (modern spelling Ó Conaola - Conneally) is an entirely unrelated sept located in southern Cou.nty Galway belonging to the Uí bhFhiachrach Aidne.

Settlements are spread out north on the road to Clifden and south on the road to Roundstone. Every July, the Ballyconneely pony show attracts people from the surrounding county to exhibit livestock and enjoy the travelling funfair.

This peninsula, jutting into the Atlantic Ocean between Clifden to the north and Roundstone to the south, is a quiet rural area. Its name is based on the old civil parish of Ballindoon, which in turn was named from the old fort or cashel on Doon Hill.

The area is surrounded by beaches: the Coral Strand at Derrygimla; west and north to Knock, Mannin, Dunloughan and Truska; and east and south from Keeraunmore, Aillebrack, and Ballyconneely Bay to Calla, Dolan and Murvey. Some of these bathing spots provide bases for shore fishermen.

Ballyconneely has three historic associations: In 1854, the first salmon farming operation in the United Kingdom was carried out on the Dohulla Fishery. In 1919, the first transatlantic flight by Alcock and Brown ended two miles away in Derrygimla Bog, an unsuitable landing place which damaged the aircraft. The crash landing was near the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station built in 1905, which was used to send the first transatlantic wireless message, to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, in 1907.

Ballyconneely breeds Connemara ponies, including some home and overseas champions. Legend has it that the breed originated when Arabian horses come ashore from a Spanish shipwreck near Slyne Head and bred with the small native pony.

Attractions include a 27-hole golf links, and Roundstone Bog three miles to the east, an expanse of moor, lake and stream, containing wildlife and rare plants. The beaches have edible shellfish and molluscs accessible at low tide, including clams, cockles, mussels, razorfish, sea urchins, shrimp and scallops, and with local knowledge, the occasional lobster. Connemara Smokehouse and Visitor Centre is located at the Aillebrack fishing pier, a small harbour used by local fishermen and boat owners.

Two shops, a post office, a community hall, and a local parish hall make up the village centre. Other businesses in the area include a hotel, a golf course with club house, guest-houses, bed-and-breakfast establishments, and holiday homes.

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen has a holiday home in Dunloughan, close to the Connemara Golf Links.

Ballynahinch, County Galway

Ballynahinch or Ballinahinch (Irish: Baile na hInse) is situated close to Recess in County Galway in the west of Ireland, on the road from Recess to Roundstone. It also lies on the route of the former railway line from Galway city to Clifden (the "Capital of Connemara"). The name comes from the Irish Baile na hInse meaning settlement of the island.

Ballynahinch Castle, built in 1684 for the Martyn family, is located there.

Catocala fraxini

Catocala fraxini, the blue underwing, also known as the Clifden nonpareil, is a moth of the family Erebidae.

Clifden, New Zealand

The hamlet of Clifden, New Zealand is a small rural community on the Waiau River, Southland, New Zealand. It is notable for being the site of the Clifden Suspension Bridge (a government Category I historic site) and the Clifden Limestone Caves, well-known since early European settlers made it a "must see" place to visit.

Clifden Castle

Clifden Castle is a ruined manor house west of the town of Clifden in the Connemara region of County Galway, Ireland. It was built c. 1818 for John D'Arcy, the local landowner, in the Gothic Revival style. Uninhabited after 1894 it fell into disrepair. In 1935, ownership passed to a group of tenants, who were to own it jointly, and it quickly became a ruin.

Clifden Eager

Sir Clifden Henry Andrews Eager (14 June 1882 – 11 August 1969) was an Australian politician.

He was born in Sorrento to Irish-born Anglican reader Clifden Henry Eager and Kate Amelia Andrews. He attended state schools and then the University of Melbourne, where he received a Bachelor of Law in 1909 and a Master of Law in 1910. Around 1909 he married Ernestine Isabella May Campton, with whom he had five children. He was a barrister from 1911. In 1930 he was elected to the Victorian Legislative Council as a Nationalist member for East Yarra Province. He took silk in 1935, and during that year was briefly a minister without portfolio. From 1937 to 1943 he was the unofficial leader of the United Australia Party in the Legislative Council. He was elected to the presidency of the Legislative Council in 1943, and was knighted in 1952. He was disendorsed by the Liberal Party in 1952 after refusing to vote against the Greater Melbourne Council Bill, but he retained both his seat and the presidency as an independent. Eager was defeated in 1958 and retired from politics. He died at Corowa in 1969.


Connemara (Irish: Conamara; pronounced [ˈkʊnˠəmˠəɾˠə]) is a cultural region in County Galway, Ireland. The area has a strong association with traditional Irish culture and contains a major part of the Connacht Irish-speaking Gaeltacht, which is a key part of the identity of the region and is the largest Gaeltacht in the country.

Earl of Normanton

Earl of Normanton is a title in the Peerage of Ireland. It was created in 1806 for Charles Agar, 1st Viscount Somerton, Archbishop of Dublin. He had already been created Baron Somerton, of Somerton in the County of Kilkenny, in 1795 and Viscount Somerton, of Somerton in the County of Kilkenny, in 1800, also in the Peerage of Ireland. Lord Normanton sat in the House of Lords from 1800 to 1809 as one of the 28 original Irish Representative Peers.

His grandson, the third Earl, represented Wilton in Parliament from 1841 to 1852. In 1873, he was created Baron Somerton, of Somerley in the County of Southampton, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. This peerage gave the Earls a seat in the House of Lords. As of 2019, the titles are held by the third Earl's great-great-grandson, the seventh Earl, who succeeded his father in in that year.The first Earl of Normanton was the younger brother of James Agar, 1st Viscount Clifden and the nephew of the politician Welbore Ellis. The latter was in 1794 created Baron Mendip, of Mendip in the County of Somerset with remainder to his nephews Lord Clifden, the future Lord Normanton and a younger brother. On Lord Mendip's death in 1802, the barony passed according to the special remainder to his great-nephew the second Viscount Clifden. The titles remained united until 1974, when the Viscountcy of Clifden became extinct. However, the barony of Mendip survived, and was inherited by the sixth Earl of Normanton, who became the ninth Baron Mendip as well.The family seat is Somerley House, near Ringwood, Hampshire.

James Agar, 1st Viscount Clifden

For others named James Agar, see the James Agar navigation pageJames Agar, 1st Viscount Clifden (25 March 1734 – 1 January 1789) was an Irish peer and politician and held the office of one of the joint Postmasters General of Ireland

List of townlands of County Galway

This is a sortable table of the approximately 4,556 townlands in County Galway , Ireland.It does not show townlands in the Civil Parish of Inishbofin that were transferred to Galway from Mayo in 1873 or a few townlands transferred into Galway in 1899 to complete the Ballinsloe Town boundary.It does show townlands transferred to Roscommon, Mayo and Clare in 1899.Duplicate names occur where there is more than one townland with the same name in the county. Names marked in bold typeface are Towns (not Townlands) and villages, and the word Town appears for those entries in the Acres column.

Lord Clifden

Lord Clifden (1860 – 7 February 1875) was a British Thoroughbred racehorse. He was undefeated as a two-year-old, including wins in the Woodcote Stakes and Champagne Stakes. As a three-year-old he was just beaten by a short-head in the Derby, before winning the St. Leger later in the season, despite being 100 yards behind the rest of the field at one point in the race. After an unsuccessful four-year-old campaign he was retired to stud and became champion sire of Great Britain and Ireland in 1876. He sired the St. Leger winners Hawthornden and Wenlock, the dual-Classic winners Petrarch and Jannette, as well as the champion sire Hampton. Lord Clifden was purchased by Carnegie Robert John Jervis, 3rd Viscount St Vincent, after his first race and was sold to Thomas Gee as a stallion. As the two and three-year-old he was trained by Edwin Parr, with William Bevill training him for his four-year-old season.

Midland Great Western Railway

The Midland Great Western Railway (MGWR) was the third largest Irish gauge (1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)) railway company in Ireland. It was incorporated in 1845 and absorbed into the Great Southern Railways in 1924. At its peak the MGWR had a network of 538 miles (866 km), making it Ireland's third largest network after the Great Southern and Western Railway (GS&WR) and the Great Northern Railway of Ireland.

The MGWR served part of Leinster, County Cavan in Ulster and much of Connacht. Its network was entirely within what in 1922 became the Irish Free State.

New Zealand State Highway 99

State Highway 99 is a New Zealand state highway which runs along the southern coastline of the South Island connecting the settlements of Clifden and Lorneville, near Invercargill, via the major town of Riverton in the Southland region. The road is important both as a freight route, especially for logging and agricultural purposes, and as a tourist route; the entire length of the highway is part of the Southern Scenic Route as it provides access to southern parts of Fiordland National Park.

R344 road (Ireland)

The R344 road is a regional road in Ireland, located in west County Galway. It cuts off the loop made by the N59 through Clifden and Letterfrack.


Southland, New Zealand

Southland (Māori: Murihiku) is New Zealand's southernmost region. It consists mainly of the southwestern portion of the South Island and Stewart Island / Rakiura. It includes Southland District, Gore District and the city of Invercargill. The region covers over 3.1 million hectares and spans over 3,400 km of coast.

Thomas Agar-Robartes, 6th Viscount Clifden

Thomas Charles Agar-Robartes, 6th Viscount Clifden (1 January 1844 – 19 July 1930), styled The Honourable Thomas Agar-Robartes between 1869 and 1882 and known as The Lord Robartes from 1882 to 1899, was a British landowner and Liberal politician.


Tuatapere is a small rural town in Southland, New Zealand. It is located eight kilometres from the southern coast. The Waiau River flows through the town before reaching Te Waewae Bay, where it has its outflow into Foveaux Strait. The main local industries are forestry and farming. As of the 2013 New Zealand census, its population is 558.Tuatapere has a logging museum and is located on the Southern Scenic Route from Invercargill to Te Anau making it a well-travelled tourist stop. The Clifden Suspension Bridge and Clifden War Memorial are located near State Highway 96 outside Tuatapere.

Viscount Clifden

Viscount Clifden, of Gowran in the County of Kilkenny, Ireland, was a title in the Peerage of Ireland. It was created on 12 January 1781 for James Agar, 1st Baron Clifden. He had already been created Baron Clifden, of Gowran in the County of Kilkenny, in 1776, also in the Peerage of Ireland. The Viscounts also held the titles of Baron Mendip in the Peerage of Great Britain from 1802 to 1974 (a title which is still extant and now held by the Earl of Normanton) and Baron Dover from 1836 to 1899, when this title became extinct, and Baron Robartes from 1899 to 1974, when this title became extinct, the two latter titles which were in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. The interrelated histories of the peerages follows below.


Worminghall is a village and civil parish in the Aylesbury Vale district of Buckinghamshire, England.

The village is beside a brook that forms most of the eastern boundary of the parish. The brook joins the River Thame, which forms the southernmost part of the eastern boundary. The western boundary of the parish also forms part of the county boundary with Oxfordshire. The village is about 4.5 miles (7 km) west of the Oxfordshire market town of Thame.

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