18 years past and I find myself here once again. Connemara is a place of legends and wild rugged landscape. It is an environment of delicate peat bogs, lakes, stone walls, craggy peaks, sheep, and a sense of peace. There are few places more uniquely Irish than Connemara. In a country that has gone through (and continues to do so) profound social and economic upheavel one can still come here and get a sense of something above the rush of the cities and modern life. Connemara is not just a place it is a feeling. Situated in west County Galway the people there make a clear distinction between this place, themselves and the rest of Galway if not the rest of Ireland. You couldn't fault them for doing so. It is wild, peaceful, magic and mysterious. But it can also be loud with the sound of wind blowing across it mountain tops, it's people laughing and traditional music escaping from bars and halls. It is home to Connemara National Park and the Twelve Ben peaks in the Maumturk mountain range where you can hike for days with sheep watching your every move. The Glencoaghan Horseshoe is one of the best hikes I've done anywhere and is an Irish classic. Not to mention the Diamond Hill hike which is a great way to get your day started.
It has forever been a hub for artists and writers for it's easy to be inspired here. The main town of the area is Clifden and if you're lucky enough to be in Connemara this week of October you'll catchClifden Arts Weekwhere Irish Poet Laureate and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney will be in attendance. Whilst in Clifden I had the pleasure and good 'craic' of strolling into the Lavelle Art Gallery where I met owner and himself a talented artist Gavin Lavelle. Gavin is a graduate of the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. We mused over the state of the art world in Ireland and I left laughing with promises to return to continue the conversation. If you're one for acommodations that strike at the heart of you and ooze with character I'd highly recommend the Old Monastery Hostel in Letterfrack. Situated 35 paces from the National Park entrance. If you need to write a book, make decisions, or just be in a hospitable relaxed atmosphere you'd stay here.
This is a special place and a unique one. You won't find the likes of it anywhere else. And that's fact. The people who live there know it and when they say goodbye they do so with a cheeky smile because they know chances are you'll be back. They wave with one hand and with the other they have a tight hold that lasts forever.