I thought we would never again get away on a holiday break due to Covid restrictions but on Tuesday October 12th we headed west towards the wild and scenic Connemara.
Our first toilet and tea stop was in Tullamore where we strolled around the town to stretch the legs and have a cuppa. We bumped into a first cousin, who works there, and told her we might see her on our return journey on Saturday.
After this refreshing sojourn we re joined the road west, me, my wife and the third member of the threesome Mrs Sat Nav. She was a right genius and a very engaging travel companion with her take the third left at the next roundabout, continue for 11.9 Kms, turn left, turn right, and you have reached your destination. How did we ever manage to get around using the head and the maps? Thank you, technology, and Mrs Google Sat Nav.,
Eventually we arrived at our accommodation in the Connemara Coast Hotel. The view from our balcony was breath taking. We were on the edge of the Atlantic and we were able to see the Burren across the bay in County Clare on this very warm sunny evening. We had booked in for dinner at 6pm which was very welcome after the journey. I opted for the sea bass while Margaret opted for the salmon which were excellent choices. Post dinner we went for a stroll back the road traversing the well-lit footpaths of An Spidéal. The air was good, and the temperatures were kind and the sound of the gentle ebbing of the waves below us was very soothing and relaxing after the stresses of the journey here.
We were up early for an 8 a m breakfast the following morning as we planned a visit to Roundstone and Clifden and all parts west. We had a full tank of petrol for the long haul and so we pointed the CHR in a westerly direction and away we went. Our first port of call was Standún’s, founded in 1946, I mBarr na gCurragh, An Spidéal where we would have a bit of retail therapy and some refreshments as we have done during our many visits here over the years. As we entered the premises, we met a lady from Gorey whose daughter had been teaching with us. We chatted and were heading for the coffee shop only to discover that they were only now serving coffee to go because of some new regulations. We continued to browse but had to move on sans coffee sans scone, bidding farewell to our Gorey friends.
As we drove along on a beautiful sunny autumn day, we had to stop a few times to take a few photos and to absorb some really refreshing invigorating sea air. The first of these stops was in KInvara where a country market was in session. This appeared to be a neighbours union meeting and chat They bought their cheeses, eggs, home-made butter, and jams.
Our next port of call was in Glencoh where we soaked in the fresh seaweed laden air. It was pure magic looking through tree framed views of the mountains in the background and all around the countryside was dotted with lakes and harbours and inlets. It was relaxation supreme, and I wished that we could linger here and make these fleeting moments last for ever, but we had to move on, being on the tourist trail we did not want to dally too long in any one place.
We continued up to Gortmore on the R 340 and followed the road to lovely Kilkieran and on to Carna. Here we stopped for lunch in the very neat, spotlessly clean, well ordered Carna Bay Hotel. They had a very nice menu and excellent customer service. They were really at home implementing their proper Covid policy and we felt safe there.
Now that we were well foddered, we set off in search of Trá na Feadóige, meaning the beach of the plover or Gurteen Bay and Trá a mhada or Dogs Bay.
Two miles from Roundstone, Co Galway, on the road to Clifden, are two of the finest beaches in Ireland. Gurteen Beach and Dog’s Bay lie back-to-back forming a tombolo jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean [Tourism Ireland]
We decided to go to Dogs Bay, I just liked the name, and stroll along its lengthy coral beach. This area is very important internationally as the sand was not formed from rocks but rather from shells of tiny sea creatures known as foraminifera. It is a Special Area of Conservation.
At the end of our walk, we strolled on to Gurteen bay, another beautiful beach with its white sand. This was a rare treat for us and so we lingered and looked back as we were reluctant to leave the peace and tranquillity of these special beach areas behind us.
We wound our way up to Clifden via the neat Ballyconneeley and x after a quick spin around we steered our way back to Na Forbacha via Maam Cross on the N59 for our next food encounter at our hotel base.
It was so nice to dine in The Connemara Coast Hotel sampling their very tasty chowder and baked cod and salmon. We finished off the night by walking the crowded prom on Salthill which was a lovely experience on a rare warm autumnal night in October.
Galway city was our port of call on Thursday where we parked in The Spanish Arch carpark. It must be the tightest car park in Ireland. Avoid it and use The Cathedral car park instead.
We had a nice Butlers coffee and chocolate sitting at the side of the street and observing the very multicultural world, that Galway city is, go by. We really relished it, being our first one in eighteen months.
Now we were ready for some serious retail therapy, and I was lucky to find and purchase my winter jumper and shirts. We had a very tasty lunch sitting street side outside the Skeffington Arms Hotel and we observed the busy Eyre Square for an hour.
It was then walking time, so we made our way out to the cathedral where we observed a big wedding in progress, and had a lovely walk back along the banks of the fast-flowing River Corrib and then back into the city for some more strolls around Eyre Square, down Shop Street along out to the Spanish Arch and back to the car park to start the journey back to Furbo.
On our way back we stopped in Barna for a little stroll down its lanes to the harbour which gladly has retained its traditional charm.
Friday morning saw us rising early as we were heading for Ballyvaughan and The Burren. Here Mrs Sat Nav was in her element guiding us through the myriad of roundabouts we had to navigate around Galway to get to Ballyvaughan.
We visited The Burren Perfumery in Carran-Fahee North at 12.42. This is an oasis of calm in a very remote area of Clare in the middle of The Burren. It is a busy thriving industry with its own herbal and organic plant areas. There is also a very informative, well produced audio-visual presentation. They are the only producers of organic perfume in Ireland with many creams and lotions also manufactured on site and made from Burren wildflowers and herbs. They have a huge online service with orders coming from all over the world.
They also have a very nice restaurant where we had lunch with sheltered outside dining facilities.
After lunch we pressed ahead with our visit to The Burren having experienced some great inner peace in this tranquil remote perfumery area during our all too brief stay.
We wound our way out of here on very narrow country roads. On our way we stopped in the townland of Ballyallahan in the civil parish of Rathborney. This is in a special area of conservation which was a great stop to see the Burren landscape. There is ample room to park your car here and to go on a level man made recognised safe walk.
There are super notice boards dotted around the Burren explaining how the Burren came about and how it is changing and evolving. You can also see and visit some ancient gravestones at this stop. They tell you that The Burren has a unique mixture of Alpine, Arctic, and Mediterranean flowers all growing together and that several herds of feral goats roam across the Burren. We met no goats on our travels, and I am not kidding you.
We headed for the coast road as we were heading for Fanore to walk the beach. The beach notice told us that it is made up of fragments of seashells and that people have dined here on seafoods and seaweeds for over 5000 years. We were disappointed as the sand was very black and we were unwilling to walk along the shoreline and so we headed back to the car and drove up to join the main road in search of a good coffee stop.
We were lucky that we found an Irish Craft shop in Doolin and inside was a very quirky coffee shack. They observed Covid rules totally. We had two nice coffees and then browsed the merchandise in the shop. It was all a bit touristy for me and we bid farewell to Doolin.
We were heading down Corkscrew Hill when we decided that we should visit our 90-year-old relative living here and so we rang and had a lovely visit with herself and her son Shane Connolly, he of Burren walking tours.
When we were finished the visit, we booked into our overnight accommodation in The Wild Atlantic Lodge and headed for an evening meal in Monks of Ballyvaughan.
.When we emerged into the night air of Ballyvaughan there was a lovely feeling with the salt sea air and the smell of Atlantic seaweed. We walked down the pier head and listened to the gentle waves lapping against the pier walls. The whole place was eerily silent. We strolled around the town of the Vaughan’s for a lovely nocturnal walk and headed back to our accommodation in the Wild Atlantic Lodge.
This was a lovely friendly family run, reasonably priced, spotlessly clean, hotel lodge. We had a very tasty freshly cooked breakfast before we packed up and re-joined Mrs Google for the journey home. We were lucky to have had her as a travelling companion because of the number of roundabouts we encountered on the tricky exit from Galway to the midlands.
We stopped off for lunch in Portumna.I was amazed at the number of closed and shuttered premises in this neck of the wood. It was a depressingly bleak town. We found a very nice restaurant with outside dining facilities which suited us fine as we were able to eat and watch the locals go by. Their toasted special was very tasty served up with some nice real loose tea, no tea bags in this territory.
Having used their facilities, we were on the road again. We decided to visit some relations in Laois, and we had a lovely time there with our intended 15-minute visit to Ballybrittas extending to close on two hours. It was a great emotional visit to some of the older members of the extended family. We linked them up with other older relatives via what’s app video link which all eight of us involved found emotionally draining when they just could not believe that they were able to see one another while speaking.
It reminded me a bit of Oliver Goldsmith’s poem “The Village Schoolmaster”
“Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around; And still they gazed and still the wonder grew, That one small phone could carry all it knew.”
Due apologies to Goldsmith for the slight adjustment to the third line of the excerpt.
Finally, it was a mad dash to get to a gift shop in Portlaoise to purchase two gifts for the grandchildren. Luckily our favourite gift shop, “Nook and Cranny” was open, and we purchased two age-appropriate gifts and we were now ready for the final lap on the road to Gorey and home sweet home.
We were tired but refreshed, full of memories and our minds and hearts were renewed after our break in wild and beautiful Connemara and the Unique Geo Park, that the Burren is.
We were now ready for our very own home cooked scrambled egg and toast. It was the only food in the house, so having dined a la Mick ,we had to do a quick hop to the supermarket to restock the fridge and food cupboards.
How quickly life returns to normal. 20/10/2021