Recently I had the opportunity to travel across Ireland with a truly lovely person and spend five days driving around some of the most amazing countryside. It all started with an idea to ask Karine if she wanted to come to Dublin and head to Galway (a mere 2 hours and 35 minutes or so) in a hire car and see the Wild Atlantic Way. she said yes of course. This is in total 2500kms of coastal roads and approx.1000 years of glorious Gaelic history. Karine arrived in Dublin on Saturday and we headed off on Sunday after an incredibly good night with my friends and hosts Lottie and Steve at The Chophouse in Sandymount.
Travelling west on the motorway was particularly cool as we listened to and traded music tracks from three generations of rock, pop, jazz and country music (yeah I know). We just listened to everything we could and talked about what we were into and where we wanted to go on this journey through what I had heard was a rugged and beautiful place. The drive seemed to go very quickly as the company and the music was great. It makes a trip really easy and relaxed too.
Arriving in Salthill, a little out of Galway and right on the coast, we decided to check in to our accommodation and go for a walk. The Salthill Hotel is where we stayed and they took excellent care of us on our first night. Once we had settled in and had a bite to eat at the Blackrock Bar, we headed out onto the promenade and headed right. Staring right at us was one of the most incredible sunsets I have ever seen…….and there has been a few on this journey so far. We just looked at it for ages, watching as the sun slowly sank from view while we walked “into the sunset”. I thought if this is what the start of this trip is going to be like, what the hell is the rest of it going to involve.
After a great nights sleep and an early full breakfast we headed north. There are blue signs with white waves on them telling you where to go to stay on the Wild Atlantic Way. So we just drove and followed the signs. Karine was navigating and picking out spots with names we couldn’t pronounce and we were stopping when something took our fancy. A sign to a castle here, an abbey there and sometimes just a village with a tiny harbour with beautiful little fishing boats floating in the frigid waters of the Atlantic.
I was stoked the weather had turned out for us for our first day in the west and we wandered around in t-shirts for the most and pulling on a jacket when the odd bit of cloud cover took the sun from our backs. We headed for Spiddal as we knew we had to turn right at the traffic lights there to head up to the Connemara. Spiddal harbour was gorgeous by the way. Not taking much notice we missed the lights, we missed the turn and headed on to Rossaveal, Casla and Kinvarra and just stayed on the one lane roads finding hidden gems along the way.
As the day carried on we decided to head back to Salthill and stay the same place again. The food in the bar was great the wine list wonderful and the atmosphere relaxing. We decided to eat dinner at The Prom, the in-house restaurant and shared a beautiful bottle of French red that just complimented everything on the table. A truly wonderful evening in a great location.
After breakfast we were straight in the car and heading for Oughterard; a quaint little town with not much happening. We wandered around for a few minutes and then headed back down the road to check out Aughnanure Castle. It was just stunning, about 600 years old and very closed, so we couldn’t go in so we decided to move on. A few minutes up the road I spotted a park and decided to stop as the autumn leaves were simply beautiful and the stream was running rapidly.
This rugged old Irishman with his trusty hound walked across the little bridge that we had used to get further into the stream and we swapped pleasantries, he said “if ya wanta see dem jumpin’, theres a waterfall up a ways where they’re goin’ crazy.” I said thanks and headed up to the waterfall. Stopping and watching the water we noticed movement against the current and then all of a sudden this sea trout about 40 cms long launched itself out of the water with its little mate working hard beside it. It was migration time and we were right there witnessing it.
I never thought I would see this in the wild and here we were standing watch hundreds of trout trying to jump up the rapids of the falls desperate to reproduce. This was something truly special to see. Karine and I stood there for about forty minutes in amazement watching this spectacle.
We headed to Maamcross where we had lunch at Peacocks Hotel. It was fabulous and we had a beer each and decided to head up to Maum, Leenane and then out to Kylemore Abbey and finish our day at Letterfrack. Kylemore Abbey and the gothic cathedral reminded me of a scene from Downton Abbey (yes I have watched every episode). The scenery in this region is absolutely off the charts. You feel like you’re in a movie. I never thought it would look anywhere near as spectacular as it did.
The Connemara Loop definitely deserves another day. We will be back tomorrow. Heading to Clifden of the night seemed like a great thing to do.