On the northern edge is Mweelrea, the highest mountain in Connaught, which towers in the skyline above the harbour at 814 metres. The view from Killary Harbour offers the Maumturk Mountains and Galway’s Twelve Bens to the south as well as the small village of Rosroe whose current hostel was once home to renowned philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, who travelled here after World War II to write. President Mary Robinson commemorated his time here with a plaque in 1993.
The small village of Leenane lies at the narrowest part of the harbour and has become well known since the filming of John B Keane’s play ‘The Field’ was shot here, mostly in the country pub, which is still a great spot to stop at and revive a body and soul. Ridley Scott’s ‘Tristan & Isolde’ was also filmed here and Martin McDonagh’s internationally successful play ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane’ drew attention to the area also. Leenane’s Sheep and Wool Centre is a museum and cafe which presents the history of sheep farming and wool production.
Killary Harbour is a haven for all kinds of wildlife and in particular, birds, with many species finding shelter here, including the ringed plover, mute swan, mallard and tufted ducks and barnacle goose. The sea otter is a protected species that breeds here. Salmon is farmed and high quality fresh mussels and other shellfish are cultivated and harvested in the harbour and available to eat in the village.
The beautiful Aasleagh Falls is nearby and the the Green Road on the southern side of the harbour--an historic road which was built by locals in return for food during the Famine era--are lovely places to walk and cycle. The sight of ruined cottages and long-abandoned potato beds serve as reminders of that devastation wrought by the Famine.
A more stable and prosperous place today, the area remains sparsely populated, but for the sheer drama of the landscape alone, rewards a visit. Being a sheltered harbour it is an ideal stretch of water to cruise on, as the stunning views of the dramatic mountains both north and south and the sight of a school of dolphins is common enough. The harbour has become a hub for adventure and watersports, including wakeboarding, sea kayaking, combat games and archery.