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marianne Connemara - A travel report by Marianne
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Connemara,  Ireland - flag Ireland -  Galway
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marianne's travel reports

Connemara (west Ireland)

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Connemara is an array of ever changing colours. Hues of blue shift backwards and forewards as the clouds move over the mountains, the bogs, the valleys and the streams.

Connemara travelogue picture
Connemara is the entire area north-west of Galway city, Lough Corrib and Lough Mask. It is a patchwork of bogs dotted with whitewashed cottages. In other parts it is wild and austere, dominated by the Twelve Bens. The highest peak in this a group of mountains is 727m (2385 ft), and Maumturk Mountains whose highest point is 700m (2296 ft).

We saw quite a few Connemara ponies grazing in the fields. It is a small breed and in the old days used as a working pony. When machinery was introduced on the farms the ponies were no longer needed. These days they win prizes in horse shows and are excellent jumpers.

To enjoy this part of Ireland to the full, it is best to have your own four or two wheels. Minor roads are narrow to very narrow and there is a bit of climbing up and freewheeling down when on a bicycle.

Bus Éireann services most parts of Connemara, but it mainly operates from May to September or July and Augst only.

May and June are very good months for a visit. Statistically, these are the months with the lowest rainfall. These are also the months when the rhodondendrons and fuchias are in full bloom and the giant rhubarb enfolds its huge leaves.

These three plants are associated with (the west) of Ireland, but they are not indigenous. They are garden esapees. These foreign decorative plants were imported via England during the last three centuries.

The giant rhubarb originated in South America. Its leaves can be as large as 2m.

Rhodondendron came from Mediterreanean countries. It was introduced 200 years ago and spread to boglands and woods and is now considered a pest. But they look very pittoresque with their purple pink flowers. However, they smother other plants and are poisonous to the sheep.

Fuchsia are by far the most characteritic plants of Ireland's roadside. It is a South American plant and was brought to Ireland in the 18th century. It forms colourful hedges with red bell-shaped flowers.

Favourite spots:
Give way
Give way

The route from Spiddle to Lettermore, Gorumna and Lettermullen islands is along a narrow road and with spectacualr scenery. All three islands are interconnected by bridges and therefore not 'real' islands. Farmers eke out a living from handkerchief-size, rocky field. It is the sea that is important and fish farming is big business.

Pearse Cottage is in Rosmuc, 5 km west of Screeb. Only few traditional cottages are left, Pearse cottage is one of them. Patrick Pearse was a writer and poet but also one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising which brought about the War of Indepence, and eventually the declaration of the Republic of Ireland in 1949. He used the cottage as a summer cottage and wrote most of his works here.
Read some of his poetry:

What's really great:
Roundstone harbour
Roundstone harbour
This is a one-street village with a reputation for its lobsters. Fishing boats bob in the small harbour and lobster pots cluster the quay. The Craft Centre at the entrance of the village sells everything from Connemara marble to Irish linen tea towels. The Roundstone Musical Shop is heavily advertised in the region. They make and sell traditional goatskin drums, harps and flutes. The advertising is a bit overdone and the shop doesn't deserve a detour.

This road crosses the Roundstone conservation area and winds through bogland interspersed with pools and peat drying in the sun and wind. Tawny grasses and bog cotton sparkle in the sun (we had excellent weather!). Wild irises, white lilies and shimmering pools made the bog into a coloured patchwork. Walking on the bog was a strange feeling. The ground is soft and quakes underfoot like a floating mattrass.

It is an unnumbered road from Toombeola to Ballinaboy, south of and parallel to the N59.

View from Skye Road
View from Skye Road
Clifden or An Clochán in Irish is a charming town overlooking the Atlantic, moody when it is overcast and bright when sunny. The main street is lined with colourful shops and pubs many with live music in the evening.

The Beach Road is a peaceful walk down to Clifden harbour. From here a good view of Clifden town and its two church spires. When you get to the boat club head for the Sky Road and walk back to town. (it is signposted)

The Sky Road is an 11-kilomtere drive west of Clifden along the Bay, high up the cliff and the road rises more than 150 m above sea level. This means that the views are spectacular. The Atlantic and nearby islands make quite a picture on a clear day.

There are two ATM's. On is on Beach Road, opposite the Market Square, the otherone is on Market Square. Internet access is in Main Street and the Tourist Information Office is on Galway Road, near the Clifden Station House and Museum. (see the tips section for details about the museum)

Vaughan B&B
Vaughan B&B

Vaughan's is a family-run pub and guesthouse, with its own parking space. (metered parking everywhere until 18.00) and right in the centre of Clifden.

The rooms are on the first floor above the pub overlooking Market Street or in the annex, a separate two-story building at the back. All rooms are ensuite. They are fairly large but beds take up most of the space. Our room had two single beds and one double bed. Unlike most B&B's there was no waterboiler and tea and coffee.

Full Irish breakfast was served in the pub from 9 AM. We also had an evening meal here, no vegetarian meals, or anything that resembled it. There are sometimes music sessions in the evening, but not while we were there. This doesn't really matter because lots of pubs had live (Irish) music.

Connemara Ponies
Connemara Ponies
Letterfrack, Leitir Fraic in Irish, is a tiny village founded by the The Religious Society of Friends or the Quakers in the 19th century. The Quaker movement was founded by George Fox in England in mid 17th century and brought to Ireland by William Edmunson. Letterfrack is one of a series of mission settlements along Connemara's north coast.

There is nothing much in Letterfrack itself as it is a one-street village. There are nice sandy beaches close to the village, but the sea is mostly too cold for swimming. Diamond Hill (445m) offers excellent views of the surrounding countryside.

Close to Letterfrack is Kylemore Abbey. There is a lot to see and a visit takes up at least all morning or afternoon.

Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey is close to Letterfrack and probably one of the most photographed castles in Ireland (when the Benedictine nuns bought the castle, they turned it into an abbey). It is picturesquely situated across a lake with a backdrop of wooded hillside. It is also one of Ireland's most visited tourists attractions judging from the number of coaches in the car park.

Visitors are welcome to see the Abbey's reception rooms, the 19th century neo-Gothic church, the mausoleum and the Victorian walled garden which consists of a kitchen and a flower garden with 21 glasshouses.

At the end of your visit there is the inevitable craft shop but this one is very special as it sells Kylemore Abbey pottery made in The Pottery next to the craft shop. All pottery is decorated with fuchsias, which can be considered Ireland's national flower.

Fuchia bushes along the road and lakeside
Fuchia bushes along the road and lakeside
The Lough Inagh Valley road (R344) runs from Recess to Kylemore Abbey. It passes through the valley in between The Twelve Pins and Maumturk Mountains. It is a very scenic route; rugged, desolate with the mountains looming on both sides. It is one of the roads that should certainly be included in a Connemara tour.

About 7 km up the road (when coming from Recess) is Lough Inagh Lodge, a Victorian up-market hotel. We stopped here for lunch which was served in the garden with splendid views of Lough Inagh and the Twelve Pins behind it.

Other recommendations:
Leenaun, a one-street village
Leenaun, a one-street village
Leenaun, Leenane or in Irish An Líonán is a tiny, one-street village. The roads from Maam, Clifden, and Westport meet in Leenaun. At the crossroad is a white-washed cottage now a craftshop selling Connemara marble, Arran sweaters and everything in between to bus loads of tourists who come mainly at the weekend. The village snuggles at the head Killary Harbour, Ireland's only fjord. Killary harbour extends fifteen kilometres inland with steep mountains on either side. There are several pubs and B&B's and one hotel: Killary View Hotel.

Published on Sunday July 22th, 2007

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Sun, Aug 05 2007 - 04:56 AM rating by keysmama

wonderful report on places I have never heard of! I will put it on the list!

Fri, Aug 03 2007 - 10:14 PM rating by downundergal

Another information filled report - I love the first picture, nicely composed and the lighting also sets it off perfectly. I also like the stocky little Connemara pony.

Mon, Jul 23 2007 - 05:51 AM rating by davidx

Right up yo your own high standard. Great reading.

Sun, Jul 22 2007 - 11:53 AM rating by adampl

Well done! A lot of practical info plus interesting pictures. Your reports are great and give me a lot of inspiration when dreaming of and planning my own trips. Thanks!

Sun, Jul 22 2007 - 09:45 AM rating by eirekay

Marianne, Great info and nicely pulled together! Interesting about the Rhododendrons - we have the same issue with Azaleas in the California wilderness, especially Yosemite. Sounds like a delightful trip!

Sun, Jul 22 2007 - 08:52 AM rating by rangutan

Great [4.6]

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