This summer I had the chance to visit Connemara, in scenic and wild western Ireland, for a good friend’s wedding. After flying to Dublin and catching a three hour bus ride to Galway, the small town of Letterfrack in western Ireland (and the site of my friend’s wedding) was still another hour and a half away. By the time we reached our destination it felt as though we had traveled to the end of the earth!
The drive through the inland valleys from Galway to Letterfrack offers stunning scenery of foggy hills and peat bogs, and is an area best explored by car. Warning: This will be terrifying! The roads are extremely narrow and full of hairpin turns and blind spots, and the Irish drive on the left. The scenery of rural Ireland really is a showstopper and around each bend is a completely new view to behold. I highly recommend going to Connemara National Park for a day of hiking and 360 degree vistas of the rolling countryside.
After the wedding I spent a few days in Galway, known as the gateway to western Ireland. Arriving in Galway was a welcome change from the silence of Connemara, beautiful though it may be. Tourists and college students overflowing from the pubs into the cobblestone streets give this medium-sized town its jovial air.
From here there are plenty of day tours available to the Aran Islands, Connemara towns, and the Cliffs of Moher – the latter of which I wanted to visit but was advised that I wouldn’t even see them with the heavy fog present. The town will keep you entertained, though, with crooked alleyways to explore and of course, plenty of pints to be had.
Renvyle House Hotel
Co. Galway, Ireland
+353 (0)95 46100
This charming estate sits on a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic. It feels a lot like a family hotel in the Adirondacks, complete with country walking trails, clay pigeon shooting and golf. But the real draw is the food: We ate like kings for four days and I never had anything that wasn’t utterly delicious.
Make like a local and order your Guinness with black currant syrup – it sweetens this traditionally bitter drink.
Not To Be Missed
Be sure to eat at The Pie Maker in Galway. From rhubarb ginger pie to sausage and veal gravy pie or spinach and feta pie, The Pie Maker has you covered, all from the cozy confines of a hole-in-the-wall that looks like it came out of Harry Potter.
Just when you thought the locavore organic movement could not have survived in this land of fried chips and meat of questionable origin, think again. Ard Bia at Nimmos Restaurant serves the gourmet organic food made from local ingredients in the requisite rustic atmosphere that you’ve come to know and love from your favorite Brooklyn haunts. Artsy locals crowded the place when we visited its charming location behind the Spanish Arch and overlooking the water.
Stop by Cupan Tae for a fun and tasty experience. It’s hard not to feel loud and American when dining in this traditional Irish tea house, especially when trying to decipher the long list of teas, from the traditional to the exotic, all served by the pot. They offer freshly baked pies, cakes and scones and I highly recommend a slice of the zucchini cake with lime frosting. If the mismatched floral tea sets and lace doilies are off-putting for your male companion, the handwritten sign on the door insists that they will love it, too.
IJfke Ridgley is a freelance travel and fashion photographer based out of NYC. Originally from the island of Oahu in Hawaii, she has also called Spain, Bali, Curacao, Oman, and The Netherlands home.