Sunday, July 13, 2014

Beautiful Connemara

Towards the end of last month we spent a lovely week in Ireland, we drove from our home in the East Midlands to Holyhead to board the Stena Line to Dun Laoghaire. The drive took just over 4 hours and the ferry crossing was about 2 and a half. This was the first holiday for us with our puppy Pina which was the main reason for catching the ferry and not flying.

Farewell Holyhead.
We arrived on a Saturday morning and spent the next couple of days enjoying the time with my parents and Pina. On the Sunday afternoon we took place in the Rainbow Run, Ireland's 'most fun' 5K run. Five thousand participants ran or walked a the course in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. When registering you are given coloured powder which in turn you then throw at anyone you get the chance to hence the title Rainbow Run as by the end of the Run you are quite a colourful sight.

pre-run build up listing to 'Spring Break'
Our main destination for the week as Connemara in the West of Ireland. We left on Monday morning taking the Galway road from Dublin, from Galway you head on to Connemara via Oughterard. As you leave Oughterard you start to get an idea of the spectacular scenary that lies ahead of you. In all it took about 4 hours to get to our destination Cleggan and the lovely Cleggan Farm Holiday Cottages (dog friendly) where we were booked for 4 nights.

Cleggan Farm Holiday Cottages

Cleggan is a small fishing village that lies 10km northwest of Clifden and is situated at the head of Cleggan Bay. It's a sleepy little village that comes alive each day just before the ferry to Inishboffin leaves and the tourist cars and coaches arrive. Apart from Oliver's Bar and the Pier Bar theres not a lot else. That's not a complaint, its just the truth. We can recommend Oliver's Bar for breakfast lunch and dinner, if you are travelling with a dog they are welcome in the bar or decking but not in the restaurant area.

View from the back of Oliver's Bar
We were blessed with good weather and the next morning took the ferry across to Inishboffin, tickets are €20 per person so not cheap but trust me, if the sun is shining and the sea calm this is more than worth it. It only takes 30 minutes to get there and you are in for a treat when you arrive.

Flat calm crossing to Inishboffin

With about 160 inhabitants the island of Inishboffin is a great way to escape. We'd not really done our homework beforehand so we weren't really that clear what to expect when we arrived and to be honest there's not too much in the way of signage to help you. We hung a right and came across the Beach Bar and B&B, what a stroke of luck as we were ready for a drink and a spot of lunch. Try the fish & chips, the sweet potato chips are amazing.

Stomachs full we set off in search of a beach as we knew that there were some beautiful ones on the island. We hung a left out of the bar and walked for about 30 minutes hoping to find what we were looking for, some clues would have helped however there just aren't too many signs on the island. Fortunately we were in luck and our prayers were answered, Pina's too as this was only her second time on a beach, the first being the day before.

After a lovely afternoon on the beach we walked back giving ourselves pleanty of time for a drink in the Beach Bar. Top tip, the ferry leaves at 5pm and on a busy day can be very busy and the queue starts from about 4.30pm onwards. So if you don't want to queue get there early.

Back to the mainland
The following morning we set off for Kylemore Abbey, if you head for Letterfrack its hard to miss it. Formerly known as Kylemore Castle it was built by Mitchell Henry for himself and his beloved wife Margaret, construction started in 1867. The story of of the Henrys is sad with Margaret dying in her forties. Mitchell built a gothic style mini cathedral in her memory and both their remains are housed in a mausoleum  close by.

Kylemore Abbey

In 1920 the Castle became an Abbey when it was purchased by the Irish Benedictine Nuns who were forced to flee Ypres in Belgium during World War 1, it remains an Abbey to this day. If you do visit Connemara be sure and visit Kylemore as you can easily spend a day in this wonderful setting.

Connemara is a wonderful place to explore by car but be warned as some of the roads are very narrow and the potholes are almost as spectacular as the views. We spent the afternoon following our visit to Kylemore and the following day exploring and made it up as far as Westport in County Mayo. 

Westport centre

Choosing the photos to share on this blogpost has been an impossible job as we have so many lovely images from a great few days in Connemara. So time to end here, have a re-read and maybe make some changes. In the meantime thats it for now. 

To read more about our latest visit to Connemara in July 2018 simply click here.