When we planned a Easter weekend trip to Connemara in Ireland, the first thing I wanted to find out was what was the connection between this area in Ireland and the famous hotel in my home town, Chennai. According to Wikipedia, the connection is through Robert Bourke, who was the Governor or Madras and also happened to be the baron of Connemara back then. So, I already had an expectation from the area that it should be magnificent and grand! All that was left to see if it really lived up to it!
An impressive eight fellow travellers from Cork wanted to join on this trip. A couple had their own car in which they were willing to accommodate three others. So, we needed to hire a car for the remaining four of us. Now, Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Norway had thought I was perfectly capable of driving safe, but I was really frustrated that I couldn’t rent a car in Ireland since I was under 25. Anyhow, I just consoled myself by saying that I can finally go on a road trip and just sit back and relax!
We began driving on a cloudy Saturday morning, hoping that things would clear up soon! And yes, they did! Just as we crossed County Cork into County Limerick, the sun came out at us smiling happily! Our first destination were the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs provided a lovely lovely walk, and the weather cooperated with us very well! I would have loved to put this place as my most favourite nature walk in Ireland, but I shan’t do that for two reasons: one, this place is full of tourists, and two, I haven’t seen much of Ireland as yet! Before leaving, be sure to check out the gift shop, they have some really good stuff!
Having spent a good five to six hours on the cliffs, we decided to head to our hostel for the night. We tried to squeeze in taking the longer ‘scenic’ coastal route. But probably because we were too tired or because we were saturated by the scenes of blue sea, we didn’t enjoy this stretch as much as we expected. But the final stretch through the Inagh valley on R344 had breathtaking views! Too bad it was already dark, but we sure had something to look forward to, early next morning!
We woke up all excited next morning and went down to the dining room for breakfast. We hadn’t noticed this at night, but our hostel was situated right next to Killary Harbour and it has spectacular views! I would give an awesome rating to our hostel, The Connemara Hostel, great accommodation at budget price! We quickly had breakfast and dashed to Inagh Valley. R344 is a calm and peaceful road where you get to see a car probably only once every five minutes, which greatly pleased our friend Satish as he decided to take pictures like the on the right. I will always remember the friendly Irish drivers, who passed by us once in a while, waving at us gleefully as we goofed around on the road!
The weather wasn’t great on this day, but that didn’t stop us from having a nice time! Next, we drove past Clifden into the peninsula to reach the place marked on the map below. We were looking to reach Fahy Lough on the island nearby, but little did we know that we had to cross a tidal road! This was the first time I encountered a tidal road and I found it fascinating to see road signs sticking out from the sea!
Needless to say, we had to turn around and then we headed to Kylemore Abbey, a beautiful castle/Abbey tucked in between a moutain and a lake, with a long history. The Abbey attracts lots of tourists. One must be quite careful not to be blown away by the wind that whooshes through the valley near the entrance to the Abbey. The Abbey has a good cafeteria, where we had a filling lunch and there it was finally .. rain. We browsed through the shops for the rain to subside a bit. Then we decided to go around the Connemara Loop.
The Connemara Loop is definitely worth a drive given that the views around Lough Fee come close to the beauty of Inagh valley! (Satish wanted to get down and knock someone’s beautiful house and ask them how could he get one here?) But let me be honest, the best part about the loop for me was the ‘Monster Hillock’ (nomenclature credits: myself). It’s a small little mound on one of the beaches. Just out of curiosity, I decided to climb onto it thinking that I could get some good photos, but god, was I wrong! Believe me, I’m not exaggerating, but the wind up there was SO strong that it was quite an effort to just keep up the balance! I ran back to the car and pulled my friends out. I HAD to make them experience this awesomeness that was quite close to skydiving (except for zero-gravity, of course). We headed back to our wonderful hostel, content with our day out, and also looking forward to getting back home the next day, even though none of us admitted to it!
The final day of our trip was mostly just driving back, but it included a short search for a ferry cruise on Lough Corrib which was in vain. Apparently it’s not yet Spring! We also had short stopovers at Aughnanure Castle, a tower house dating back to the 16th century, and the famous Rock of Cashel, parts of it dating back to the 1100s. I didn’t feel very enthusiastic about the site probably thanks to a cloudy day and add to that a restoration scaffolding (and tired travellers, of course). And finally, just before returning our car, we had dinner at Haveli, an Indian restaurant in Douglas. I can say that this was probably the best tasting Indian food I had in a restaurant in the whole of Europe! A perfect way to close a happy long weekend!