Tomorrow is my last day in Connemara and I long to stay longer. Why on earth, I remind myself, did I only come here for five days?
In all the years I’ve been visiting this magical corner of the country, it’s always the same – I come for two nights and end up staying for three; I book for a week then wish it was 2 of me staying.
Yes, Connemara is a very difficult place to leave.
As luck would have it, it’s high season in August this time, the weather is lovely and although I’m trying to get a room somewhere for a few extra nights, I’m unlucky. There are simply no rooms in the local inns. Especially with a dog in tow.
Having previously stayed at the wonderful, dog-friendly, three star Kylemore Pass Hotel (what a find), I’m not surprised that it’s booked up for the next few days. And it soon becomes clear that this is the case everywhere. So I’m content to finish as I started and drive to Renvyle Beach on my last morning – just like my immediate arrival a few days earlier.
It’s early and still very quiet here when I turn off the road just past Tullycross, park the car and walk the short distance. My dog Dudley, who is now well accustomed to this Renvyle routine, charges in front of me and happily bounces down the slope that leads to the sand.
We are alone here at this time of the morning, the golden beach stretching out before us, the rock pools which later will screech with childish delight lie undisturbed and not a ripple in sight.
We stroll along up to what I always call “The Big Rock” that bisects this beach, climb the sandy/grassy path to the back and then climb back down onto the other part of this stretch of beach. The sun is shining, the Atlantic waters lap gently along the shore, the views of the mountains are spectacular and across the water some small islands look enticingly close.
It’s an idyllic spot, and a place that’s never bustling with people even later in the day in the height of summer – a few strollers, a few kids playing on the shore and a few swimmers keep it as busy as it gets.
I love Connemara and I know it well. From the towering beauty of the Twelve Bens and the Maumturks to the hustle and bustle of Clifden town and the tranquility of Dog’s Bay’s stunning, sweeping sand arch, which is not far from trendy Roundstone (full of abandoned Dublin 4 residents in summer), this is a part of Galway that has it all.
I usually can’t help myself when I’m in this patch of woods as I spend my days rushing from one gem of one place to another trying to squeeze out every drop of my recent Connemara sojourn.
It’s different this time. Aside from a trip to Clifden for a delicious seafood lunch and a potter at the bookshop and fabulous clothing store Love Vintage, I’m staying local. So that effectively means the area that includes Kylemore Abbey, Letterfrack, Renvyle and Cleggan.
The picture-postcard beauty of Kylemore Abbey is breathtaking – and that’s only if you catch a glimpse as you drive by on the way to Letterfrack or onward to Clifden. Beyond the abbey itself (which you can visit for a fee) the walk around the grounds here is delightful, ending at a spot equipped with a cafe and views of the dramatic landscape.
However, if hiking is really your thing, then Connemara National Park, just on the outskirts of Letterfrack, is for you. I’ve been here before but could only venture on the shortest route due to time pressure. Now, on a warm if overcast morning, I’m seriously ready for it, and Dudley and I are ready for one of the longer routes.
As we make our way down the slope from the free car park and past the café, we meet the start of the hiking trails. Past the cows that fascinated Dudley and continue up the hill before opting for the medium-length trail. As we climb higher, I stop and look back. The view is stunning. So stunning I’m texting my niece in Yorkshire. ‘There you are,’ I say, ‘surrounded by your stunning views of the Yorkshire Moors. So just look at that.”
Your Answer? “Wow!”
The higher you climb Diamond Hill, the more breathtaking it is. I am not alone here. Rather, I’m following in the footsteps of a French couple (yes, I’m listening) and later a group of young German men. I’m not at all surprised – at breakfast at the Kylemore Pass Hotel that morning I was chatting with a German family, a French woman and a Swiss couple from Zurich.
The other delight of my summer stay is Cleggan. cleggan? Yes, I know there is not much in it. Except, of course, for the atmosphere and authenticity. Gateway to Inishbofin Island, it is my first trip to Cleggan this week in August which prompts me to extend my stay. Sure I could stay an extra night in Cleggan itself, catch the Inishbofin ferry the next morning and then stay another night on the way back. Sorry, no room at the inn, they tell me. Some inn, that is.
However, having fallen in love with Cleggan’s understated appeal, I decide to come back here for lunch before heading home. So I come back, determined to grab a crab sandwich from something special. And distinction is certainly the right word. I’m sitting on the back patio of Oliver’s Seafood Bar and looking over at Inishbofin. I decide to spread my Connemara wings even further next time.
Next time, Inishbofin, here I come…
Do not miss
Books At One is a fantastic bookshop based in a former Quaker workshop in Letterfrack. The staff is brilliant and it has a lovely outdoor cafe courtyard. booksatone.ie
My dog Dudley and I stayed at the Kylemore Pass Hotel, an 11 room three star hotel. Dog friendly, good value and with great customer service it offers a brilliant breakfast with all hot dishes (ordered the night before) cooked to order. kylemore-pass-hotel-connemara.com
Cloverfox in Letterfrack is a great seafood restaurant with a casual, pub-style atmosphere. They also allowed me to bring Dudley in to lie under the table. cloverfox.com
Visit connemara.ie for more information about the region and its islands.
https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/ireland/the-lasting-lure-of-connemara-i-book-for-a-week-and-then-wish-i-was-staying-for-two-42024131.html The enduring allure of Connemara: ‘I book for a week then wish I’d stay for two’