Fringed by the Wild Atlantic Way to the west, passing through desolate Doo Lough and Delphi Valleys towards the village of Leenane in County Galway is a dramatic journey. This is Ireland unplugged, and Oscar Wilde was certainly onto something when he dubbed it "A Savage Beauty."
“It is magical,” writes US visitor Janice Bitis on the Tourism Ireland Facebook page. And she's not wrong.
Connemara is that wild hinterland on the west coast of Ireland, bounded on the north by Clew Bay, on the south by Galway Bay and on the east by Lough Corrib and Lough Mask.
“Irish language, song, dance and literature are all to be found here,” says Paula Lydon from the Connemara Heritage and History Centre In particular, much of Connemara's magic comes from its hold on its linguistic traditions. As one of the island’s largest Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) regions, locals use Irish on a daily basis – don't worry, English is also spoken everywhere – and you can always try your hand at a cupla focal as Gaeilge (a few words in Irish) when you visit, too. In a restored 17th-century hill village lies the cultural retreat that is Cnoc Suain. Here, you can learn the language, bake Irish soda bread or even dive into Irish dancing.
And then there's the food... At the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way, seafaring is in the DNA. Bowls of seafood chowder flecked with meaty mussels are served up on pub tables every night, and the sweet local crab is legendary. To take your fish odyssey up a notch, visit The Connemara Smokehouse and taste the mouthwatering results of traditional smoked wild Atlantic salmon, mackerel and tuna, which are landed daily at Bunowen Pier in Ballyconneely.
Skip inland from the ocean, and there’s Connemara hill lamb. it’s succulent, sweet and special enough to be recognised as a unique European food product with a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) certification. Order a joint, a leg, a chop or a rack from any waiter here and you'll taste hints of wild herbs and notes of Connemara hill flower.
In Connemara, food for the soul is important, too. That comes in the sounds of traditional music...
Connemara's interior is a kaleidoscope of rusty bogs, lonely valleys and shimmering black lakes.
The Streets of Clifden, "The Capital of Connemara"
Food-wise, keep your eye out too for Connemara hill lamb, fed on wild herbs and hill flowers. It’s succulent, sweet and special enough to be recognised with special European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.
Landscapes, music, culture and good – no wonder Connemara holds a special place. It doesn’t get much better than this.