Connemara is majestic, desolate, devastatingly beautiful.
It surprised me, skeptical as I was about the allure of the Irish countryside (I take it all back).
There’s something about a whitewashed cottage with a fire burning in the grate in winter. This one (below), at splendidly isolated Killary Harbour, had no TV, no WiFi, no central heating – just a crackly radio – and it was the most relaxing experience I’ve had in many years.
Spend the day strolling windswept, primeval beaches such as Glassilaun, below, marveling at the glassy, turquoise waters (the shades of sea and sky stunned me).
Come back in the evening to your peat-burning stove for the most magnificent snooze you’ll ever have. Lamplight, crackling flames, a glass of something….. It felt far-removed from the 21st century.
This is Connemara Coastal Cottages no.186, a self-catering cabin surrounded by sheep. The owner will meet you there, show you how to work the stove then leave you to it.
There was something almost Caribbean about the still, azure waters of Connemara. Trá an Dóilín, or Coral Strand (below), near Carraroe, is incredible. The water as still as a mirror, in shades of emerald and sapphire, with golden sands.
Other vistas in Connemara seemed strangely non-Irish to me. Derryclare Lough (below), with its umbrella trees and golden plains behind, made me think of the African Savanna. It’s on the N59 Galway Road and is an essential segment of this road trip.
The residents of Connemara are mostly robins
The Inagh Valley (below, and large image at top of page) is one of the most spectacular drives in Ireland, or anywhere. It was my favourite piece of Connemara.
The perfect Irish road trip
The R344, part of the “Connemara Loop”, which passes Lough Inagh (below). Stop the car!
Another great road, with a sad and bleak beauty (and history to match) is the R335, one of the most awe-inspiring routes in Ireland. It runs through the Doolough Valley (below) to Mayo.
This was the site of a tragedy in 1849 when starving villagers seeking assistance during the Great Famine walked ten miles to acquire the papers they needed, only to be sent away empty-handed due to some bureaucratic bungle. Many died on this road.
Another epic, sweeping beach in Connemara is the one below at Dog’s Bay, near Roundstone towards the south of the region. The sand is composed entirely of crushed seashells, giving it a pure white colour.
Dog’s Bay is one of the most romantic beaches I’ve ever walked along. Most of the beaches in Connemara have pale, powdery sand and crystalline waters.
You can also rent a thatched cottage in Tully Cross (below), a tiny village on the Connemara Loop with a shop, a café, a hotel and two pubs – this would be a handy, less isolated base for a road trip.
You can see Kylemore Abbey, below, from the N59 and I’ve heard it’s worth a look inside, but we were too busy marvelling at the scenery to pay a visit. I like castles and stately homes best from the outside, anyway, since you can’t see them when you’re in them, obvs.
The Twelve Bens, or Twelve Pins of Connemara, seen from the road near Derryinver, below:
Driving along the Loop on the Renvyle Peninsula in north Connemara, below:
Connemara beaches, evening:
The incredible Inagh Valley road:
Winter sunsets, Connemara:
Connemara has some of the best beaches I’ve ever seen.
Who doesn’t love a robin:
The Connemara Loop is part of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. The Loop begins and ends at the tiny hamlet of Maam Cross, which is basically just an ancient crossroads and trading post.
The Loop is a well-signposted fifty miles and makes for a perfect two to three day road trip, with diversions down to the area around Roundstone (for Dog’s Bay), and up to Wesport and Achill Island, included.
A self-catering cottage is the best option, as restaurants and pubs are thin on the ground. It’s also the best way to really immerse yourself in the atmosphere of Connemara, in my experience.
And you’re only 30 miles away from Galway, if you’re missing the big city…
Galway ‘The Claddagh’