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Post Info TOPIC: Tripping in Clare, Mayo and Connemara


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Tripping in Clare, Mayo and Connemara

My wife and I recently returned from three weeks in Ireland, Our seventh trip. We rented our car from Hertz through RentACarIreland . I thought I got a very good rate on a Ford Fiesta of $210 US for 21 days; the only additional charge was a location fee of 26 Euros. I was very surprised when picking up the car that I wasnt charged a fee to waive CDW as I had been in the past. Were not allowed to do that any more.

Our first stop was four days self-catering in Killaloe, Co Clare at Sheena, a well-equipped and meticulously clean town house on Main Street. Parking was on street. We have grown to like the small town of Killaloe very much - very friendly with good restaurants and pubs and within easy driving distance of Shannon Airport after an overnight flight. I highly recommend Wood Brothers Bistro for food and Reddans Bar for craic (no food). East Clare is an uncrowded and underrated part of Ireland (as I know Tony will say). While in Killaloe we went to the pleasant town of Nenagh where I bought a mobile phone at Tesco. This was the first trip that we had a phone. It did come in handy and was reassuring on some of our more remote excursions.

From Killaloe we took our longest drive of the trip to Killala, north of Ballina in Northern Mayo. Here we did self-catering at The Old Deanery cottages. It would be difficult to beat the location - in the village within a few minutes walk of the shops, restaurants and pubs. The cottages look out over scenic Killala Bay and are also just a few minutes walk to the fishing pier. Liz, the owner is a dynamo and was very helpful and always available for us. A particularly nice touch was the unlimited supply of turf (peat) for burning in the open fireplace. The cottages were built by Lizs parents (?30 years ago)and have been updated. The kitchen equipment (pots & pans etc) in our cottage could use improvement.

We found Killala to be a good center for touring North Mayo. The village itself is compact and hilly; the round tower dominates. While some consider Killala a bit dreary we found it friendly and well kept. Dining options were limited in the off season. We mostly had lunch as our largest meal (available to late afternoon) as dinner was not available through the week. The Village Inn provided a menu of traditional hearty Irish cooking - roast beef or chicken, bacon & cabbage etc. The Fish and Chips were exceptional with fresh local fish and home cut fries. This busy food pub was friendly and full of local people. We also ate at the Arch Restaurant above the Arch Bar. The décor was a bit more upscale and the food was good but we both preferred the Village Inn. There is no shortage of Pubs in Killala. I found that John Lynns suited me. It is a quiet welcoming place with a friendly local clientele.

Touring from Killala was good. The road west through Ballycastle and on to Belmullet is very scenic. The Ceide Fields center is probably the most well known attraction. The archaeological  significance of the site makes it a must see (for me). The center is well designed and, though quite modern seems to fit the scenic desolate landscape. There is not really much to see of the fields themselves but I found the rainy experience quite moving. Nearby Downpatrick  Head with its spectacular sea-stack, Dun Briste, and its blowholes should not be missed. Rosserk and Moyne Abbeys are just the sort of sites I like - preserved but not developed. We had each site to ourselves. The Museum of Country Life in Turlough near Castlebar was a very worthwhile visit (thanks Michele for the Friday Freebie tip) - beautiful grounds as well. Be aware that the Museum is closed Mondays. A visit to the Woollen Mills at Foxford is very popular with shoppers.
Ballina, a few minutes drive from Killala is a fairly substantial town with supermarkets and shops, a bit tricky to navigate at first but too small to be lost for long.

From Killala we drove to Connemara to spend a week self-catering in Roundstone, Co Galway. We stayed at Roundstone Bay House right in the center of the village. The house is owned by Linda and Donal Nee who also own Rush Lake House B&B (recommended by Michele). We found it very clean and well equipped with a nice little sitting area and garden to the rear. Donal met us at the house and was very helpful. He was right on with his recommendations of Vaughans Pub and Restaurant at the Roundstone House Hotel and of Mary Kings Pub. Good food at Vaughans, friendly banter and local gossip at Kings. We enjoyed some great touring from the peaceful village. Nearby Clifden had better shopping facilities; we drove the spectacular Sky Road while there. We also visited Kylemore Abbey and very much enjoyed the gardens - very well presented.

 It has been a number of years since we spent so much time in Connemara and I had almost forgotten how beautiful it is. We took a pleasant, if a bit wet, drive to see the village of Cong - not much there to impress. We didnt bother with Ashford. From Cong we returned via Finny and over the road that runs north of Lough Nafooey. The weather was mixed by this time with spells of brilliant sunshine, some rain, occasional rainbows and gale force winds. I had heard that this was a scenic drive but we were still surprised by the spectacular views, highly recommended. We drove through the great scenery of the  Inagh Valley (rte R 344) a couple of times in our travels. A new drive for us was the Bog Road north of Roundstone. I must give a special thank you to Tony for his recommendation. The Bog road turned out to be a quicker route than the busier coast road between Clifden and Roundstone (at least for me). Peat, rocks and sheep. At one point we stopped the car while a herd (?flock) of sheep with their crazy eyes came running down the road at full speed. It turned out that a couple of bicyclists had spooked them and they were running for their lives - I dont think sheep are the most intelligent animals. We travelled the Bog Road a few times and stopped often for photographs.

In Roundstone I spent quite a bit of time hanging around the quay. Though greatly diminished, there is still some commercial fishing from there. Of course Malachy Kearns Bohdran shop is worth a visit.  Within a couple of miles of Roundstone Dogs Bay and Gorteen Beach are very pleasant places to spend time. The sand is very fine and very white; in October we had both beaches to ourselves.

After our week in Roundstone we drove to Lisdoonvarna and spent the night at the Wild Honey Inn. Along the way I made sure to drive the Black Head route along the coast past Ballyvaughan - a very scenic road. I have always enjoyed the Burren - not as spectacular as Connemara but scenic and interesting. It was raining while we were in Lisdoonvarna and after a pleasant stroll around the village we spent the Evening around the Inn. Food is served in a Pub setting but it hardly fits the Pub Food label. The chef/owner has a well-deserved reputation as one of Irelands best cooks. The Wild Honey is a family run inn with informal friendly service. The rooms are large and comfortable (ours had an outdoor seating area) and the food is exceptional. A very good breakfast was served in an attractive room with large windows to the garden. I would recommend the Wild Honey Inn.

We took a leisurely roundabout route from Lisdoonvarna to Ennis where we spent our last two nights in Ireland. We learned on previous trips that we enjoy winding down before returning home. Ennis is a great spot to do this. It is close to Shannon and there is no shortage of shops, pubs or restaurants. The narrow streets and lanes of the town center are great for walking and exploring - not so great for driving. I parked the car and left it alone until we drove to the airport. We spent our two nights at the Temple Gate Hotel and were pleased to be upgraded at no cost to a bigger room with the white bathrobe treatment etc. This was not our first stay at the Temple Gate. The central location with private parking cannot be beat. The pub has good food including a very popular carvery luncheon. We have not eaten in the restaurant. We had a very good dinner at the local Thai restaurant - sorry I dont remember the name. On Sunday afternoon we were pleased to come upon a very good impromptu music session in Paddy Quinns Pub. Plenty of traditional musicians and some unaccompanied singing.

We took the short drive to Shannon, topped up with petrol, returned the car to Hertz and had a leisurely airport experience. I am hoping Shannon remains available to us but there is definitely a lot of concern. A bonus was finding the excellent Green Spot pot still whiskey available at duty-free; it is not easy to find in Canada or even in Ireland.



Old Deanery

Roundstone Bay House

Wild Honey Inn

Temple Gate Hotel



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Sounds like a good trip. Glad you enjoyed the Museum of Country Life. Was the Cross of Cong there? They tend to move it around from museum to museum.

I know the weather was not great this year. That's what makes self-catering so great. If you don't feel like braving the weather you can sit in front of a fire with a cuppa reading.

When is the next trip?



"Ireland Expert"  Michele Erdvig

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Nice report -- appreciate it.



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Glad you had a great time. I don't know how we missed each other? We have been much the same places last month. Killaloe, Roundstone and Ennis. Yes the Bog road is quickest way from Clifden to Roundstone and avoids the nasty bends round the loop. Trouble is you might just have to cross paths with a local in the dark and its difficult to spot the passing places in the dark.


Two rules for Ireland, Take your time & bring a sense of humour 


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Michele, we did have a very good trip; all things considered the weather was not so bad. The relaxed pace of self-catering has always suited us. You make a very good point, with self-catering sometimes it is very nice to just relax by the fire. Probably Scotland for us next year, Ireland again soon.

Tony, quite a coincidence that we were in the same spots this Autumn. Your neighbourhood of East Clare is under appreciated and has become a favourite for us. There is no danger of me driving the Bog Road (or almost any road) at night. Is it true, as I've heard, that sheep know a tourist car from a local car; they get out of the way for locals but hesitate to move for tourists.

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