,Just got back today and so I'll post a hopefully not too lengthy trip report. My youngest daughter just graduated from Plymouth State U. this spring so one of her graduation presents from me (as it was for her older sister) was this trip to Ireland with myself and her best friend. I wanted to focus on the parts of Ireland I knew best so that she would benefit from my knowledge of those areas as it was her first trip to Ireland. So the trip was to Counties Galway, Mayo, and Clare in that order. Flying in and out of Shannon of course.
The weather was as perfect as it can get. We experienced maybe 5 minutes of rain in the 10 days there. Some of the days were overcast but with the clouds high enough to not spoil the views and usually sunny spells at times. Those were the worst days. The best days (and there were a few) were virtually cloudless and 70 degrees. Many of the days were in between with high 60's and partly sunny. Really a jackpot for weather. Best I've experienced in my dozen or so trips to Ireland.
As I mentioned on another thread, I think the move of Aer Lingus from Terminal E to Terminal C in Logan is an improvement. Dealing with Aer Lingus was pretty smooth both ways. No big lines at counter or security.
I rented a vehicle from Europcar and have no complaints. There was no line. Just got the keys outside baggage claim and crossed the street to get the car. Returning it was quick and easy too. I swear Shannon Airport is one of the easiest in the world to deal with ..... except the somewhat intense security heading back to the US. But hey you don't have to go through it once you land in Logan. It's like a domestic flight when you land. I'd rather get it over with before boarding but make sure you allow extra time.
Our first stop was Clifden for 2 nights. The town has really grown on me. While it has plenty going on in terms of pubs, shops, restaurants, places to stay, etc. it was peaceful. I suppose being midweek had something to do with it but still I felt like there was plenty of space to breathe and relax in Clifden. I must be getting older because I tend to appreciate that more these days. It would be the last quiet place we visited. We toured extensively around Connemara on Day 2 with great weather. Started with lunch at O'Dowd's in Roundstone followed by drives first along the coastline to around Ballyconeely, back across along the spectacular bog road, up through the even more spectacular Lough Inagh valley with a stop for a pint at the Lough Inagh lodge. Then back along the northern side of the Twelve Pins and finally onto Sky Road on the way back into Clifden. Connemara is unmatched for natural scenic beauty. Nighttime in Clifden was good food followed by some good craic at the local pubs. We ate at Mannion's one night and Guy's Bar and Snug the other and spent time listening to trad music in Lowry's and also kind of/sort of Trad music in Griffins. Again plenty of fun but laid back at the same time. Then we would take it up a notch and move onto Westport for the next three nights.
Westport on a weekend is usually pretty vibrant but to bring it to another level there was a bank holiday weekend going on in the UK and lots of British tourists descended upon Westport this weekend. Just as Clifden seems to be a favorite of French tourists I've found over the years that many British and Irish tourists are found in Westport whether it be for holiday weekends, stag and hen parties, or weddings you will often find them well represented there. We had a great time. In fact we had too good of a time and had to take it easy on the third night. For the first time in my life I went to bed early in Westport on a Saturday night. I find Westport to be a great trad music town. Not just because of Matt Molloy's but Matt Molloy's had certainly been a very influential factor. In my recent experience you can pretty much forget finding elbow room in Molloy's on a weekend. It's stuffed. The good news though for those willing to try other places is that it sucks in all the tourists seeking a trad session and leaves the lesser know places to the likes of me. So while we did visit Matt's in the early evening for a pint it was to other places like The Brewery and Hoban's where we had our music fix. The Brewery (formerly Bould Biddy's now refurbished) is mostly locals and not crowded and a good session going on Friday night. Hoban's has got great craic and trad sessions all weekend starting on Thursday's. The best characters can be met at Hoban's. I love the folks that run the place. Unfortunately I didn't have the stamina to go there again on Saturday night as that can be the best time where they open up the back room for a session, some set dancing, sing alongs, etc. We had a fantastic early meal on Friday evening at An Port Mor. That was the best meal of the trip. During the two full days we had there we poked around the Westport House and the Quay and did a drive around Achill Island.
Galway City was up next. We did the scenic drive around Lough Nafooey and on into Cong for a walk around and some lunch. Those of you that have been to Cong recently know that Pat Cohan's is now actually a real pub and quite a good one too. Really nice inside with good food and beer selection. Had a pint of the brilliant Connemara Gold from the Independent Brewery in Connemara. While we were sitting outside on a picnic table a church procession come down the main street. It was First Communion day apparently and they do a short ceremony right out in front of Cohan's where the cross is in the middle of the street. That was kind of a nice surprise for us spectators. It seemed like half the village must have been in the procession. I felt no guilt whatsoever sipping my Connemara Gold while this was going on though. Anyhow on to Galway. The Connacht Rugby team had won their championship match the night before. We watched some of it while in Westport. So Galway City was in high spirits and was jumping. There was a parade through Eyre Square and the pubs were all heaving. Still we set out from our hotel (the Park House) and weaved our way through Eyre Square and the Latin Quarter and had a pint or three along the way. We caught sunset down by the river as we had our nightcap at the Salthouse just over the other side of the Wolfe Tone Bridge. The Salthouse is a newish craft beer bar owned by the Galway Bay Brewing Co. It is one of the only pubs in Galway where you cannot get a pint of Guinness. There is much better beer on tap at that place. It was beautiful out. What a place to sit at sunset! The next day the ladies would get their souvenier shopping done while I did a lot of walking around the city mostly on the side west of the river. I had just never really walked extensively around the city before so this was a good chance. I started out crossing the Wolfe Tone Bridge and then along the bay almost all the way to Salthill then weaved my way through side neighborhoods and back along Sea Road and then finally linked up with the young ladies at the Salthouse for a refreshment. That night we had a very enjoyable Italian dinner in the Latin Quarter (I can't remember the name) and then walked over to the Crane Bar for our music fix. The Crane Bar on a monday night was perfect. Not crowded and top notch trad session. Even Matt Molloy himself was there as a spectator having a few pints and laughs with his friends.
Our last stop of the trip was Doolin for two nights. The main reason (maybe only reason) I decided to stay there was to do the Doolin Cliff Walk. I figured by the time we got done with Westport and Galway City we'd be fairly wiped out and that was a fact. We did meet up with friends of mine from Cooraclare for the evening and they took us over to the Roadside in Lisdoonvarna for some Burren Brewery beer. The Roadside has expanded since I had last been there. They built a modern brewpub like extension to the main older pub. So now instead of a parking lot they've got a modern brewpub/beer hall that they use for events. The cliff walk with Pat Sweeney was outstanding. We had a perfectly clear, sunny day and I was just stunned at the beauty of the cliffs coming from that direction. You cannot get those views without doing that walk and Pat is a really interesting guy. He's really proud of his local area, his farm, his family, and maybe that trail most of all. It was nice to be able to get up and walk over to meet up with Pat after a good night sleep. So for that reason I was glad to stay in Doolin but other than that ....... well I'm done with Doolin. I don't know. I've visited the place now in 3 different decades (90's, 2000's, and 2013 and 2016). The place just isn't for me anymore. I don't mind being around other tourists but this place is just simply overrun. There are some good qualities to be sure. Good food to be had, the music is still often top notch, and I find the people there working the hotels and pubs to be very service orientated and very gracious considering some of the nonsense they put up with and the volume of people that overrun the place. And as much as I love Trad music I'm not willing to jockey for standing room position anymore to try and enjoy it. Maybe I'd enjoy the place more in off season on a weeknight but I think in the future I'll just go to Ballyvaughn, Kinvara, Ennis, etc. But I gave it another shot and also to be fair it didn't matter much anyhow on this trip as we were pretty wiped out by the last two nights and went to sleep fairly early anyhow.
That's about it. A lot more to the trip to be sure but this was the general flow and experience.
Sounds like a nearly perfect trip. Thanks for sharing.
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