The eerie dense fog is draped over the mountains and bog lands as I enter the tiny village of Roundstone, the start of my road trip in Connemara, western Ireland. A “Galway hooker”, a rather unsettling name for a traditional fishing boat, is waiting in vain for clientele in the little harbour. It’s mid-June and Connemara has obviously refused to welcome summer. Instead of sipping cocktails, people warm themselves on a cup of tea and a huge bowl of hearty seafood chowder.
But not all is lost. A few miles up the road, I come across beautiful Gurteen Beach and Dog’s Bay, two of the finest beaches in the area. A campsite situated right in front of it, will be my base camp for the next few days. The fog slowly starts to lift, the sky gets brighter and I’m off for a long beach walk to take in the crisp and salty air.
I spend the evening in O’Dowds, one of the best known pubs in the area, where I wash down the seaweed hummus with a “Sheep Stealer”, one of the local Irish craft beers. The whole Connemara region and especially its lively capital Galway is known for its good food and “craic”! Later that evening I fall asleep with the soothing sound of summer rain…
The weather Gods are in a better mood the next day as I set off to walk the Sky Road, a 16km circular road west of Clifden. Most people drive this scenic road, but that wouldn’t be doing it proper justice! The views over Clifden Bay are truly breath-taking and apart from the occasional car, my only companions on the road are a few confused looking cows and sheep. The slow traveller in me is happy!
To give my tired legs a bit of respite I continue by car along “the bog road”, a rolling narrow road that offers stunning views of the Twelve Bens mountain range! According to a legend the road is haunted, so locals avoid driving it at night. I think it has more likely something to do with the state the road’s in…
After another good night sleep on the campsite, my next day starts off with a drive of the Inagh Valley. On one side the Twelve Bens, on the other side the Maamturk mountains and in the middle the Inagh lake. Thick clouds are once again hindering a clear view, but I’ve learnt by now that this is just a temporary thing. I park the car, make myself a cup of tea and wait… Five minutes later it all starts to clear up again and the majestic view of the Bens and the lake unfolds itself. Perfect timing for a hike up Diamond Hill which, at a height of 445m, provides a fantastic viewpoint over the numerous Atlantic bays and the surrounding Bens!
The landscape of Connemara is very diverse: bog lands battered by the wind, sparkling lakes, threatening mountains and of course glorious beaches! Renvyle Beach is one of them and this will be my base for tonight! The campsite lies on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and overlooks the beach, several islands and the surrounding mountain range. It’s a true paradise to escape and unwind!
The social hub of the area is Paddy Coyne’s in nearby Tully Cross. It is everything you imagine an Irish pub to be: a cosy interior, a roaring fire, delicious food and the ever-present Irish craic!
The good thing about avoiding the main drag is that you hardly see anyone on the road. Lettergesh beach, which according to a local chatty café owner was the setting for “the horse scene in the Quiet Man movie”, is empty and on the road to Glassilaun beach I find myself walking in utter solitude again.
My road trip in Connemara ends with a drive from Killary Harbour to Leenane, passing Killary Fjord. The gorgeous landscapes of the Connemara will stay with me forever!
Have you been to this remote part of Ireland?
What would be your favourite things to do in Connemara?