Ireland’s wild west region of Connemara is a magnet for travellers who revel in rugged, pristine wilderness and the whiff of adventure.
Stretching northwest of Galway, this enchanting district is a patchwork of legendary Irish bogs, sprawling valleys, shimmering lakes, moody mountains and chocolate-box villages. Ragged beauty, rustic personality and bucket loads of charm.
Located on the shores of Bertraghboy Bay, the utterly escapist fishing village of Roundstone is a little treasure. The narrow main street slides past quaint double-storey row houses, tempting pubs and restaurants and an ever-increasing number of B&Bs. It is the most idyllic of hamlets, and the locals are rightfully proud of it.
In the peak of summer, Roundstone is absolutely swamped with holiday-makers, so planning a trip here in the shoulder months will pay dividends. This is the perfect place to relax, gaze dreamily across the bay to the Twelve Bens mountain range, watch the lobster boats bring in the day’s catch, swim, explore the walking tracks and to simply soak up nature.
From Roundstone, the circular coastal road connects you with Galway to the south east and Clifden to the north west. This is bogland, and the bumpy driving experience on the old road adds a sense of adventure to the drive. ( Locals believe the bog is haunted and are loathe to drive on the road at night.)
Take the main road north to Kylemore Abbey, flush with magnificent scenery of verdant valleys, fertile pastoral land, classic stone fences, tranquil lakes and soaring mountain ranges. Sheltered by the slopes of the Twelve Bens, Kylemore Abbey was built in Gothic Revival fantasy style, as a present from Mitchell Henry to his wife, in the 19th century.
The Manchester business tycoon honeymooned in Connemara, and the newly-weds weren’t just head over heels for each other, but fell in love with the region. After the sudden deaths of his wife and his daughter, Henry left the lakeside castle and it was put on the market. During World War I, Benedictine nuns fled from Ypres in Belgium and sought refuge in Connemara. Henry’s castle became an abbey, and the nuns have been in charge ever since.
Nowadays, Kylemore Abbey is a highly-exclusive girls’ boarding school. Visitors can gain partial access to the interior of the abbey, along with the beautifully-tended gardens and grounds. The adjacent restaurant and craft shop sells the nuns’ earthware pottery , which is made on site at the abbey.
Most of Connemara is a designated national park. Sprawling across 2000 hectares, there are numerous nature tracks to explore, whether it be on foot or on rental bikes. The national park visitors’ centre is located in Letterfrack, just minutes from Kylemore Abbey.
With a dazzling history stretching back to the 5th Century, Dromoland Castle was originally the ancestral home of one of the few families of Gaelic Royalty; direct descendants of Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland.
Situated in Ireland’s west, treat yourself to a night of refined indulgence at this celebrated property, which features its own Championship Golf Course and glistening lake.
Old-world elegance meets contemporary luxury at Dromoland. Each room enjoys its own unique personality, is loaded with amenities and offers tranquil views of the flowering herb garden, 16th century stone courtyard or shimmering Dromoland Lough. Whether you’re staying in-house or not, the award-winning Earl of Thomond Dining Room sets the standard for culinary excellence, with an emphasis on creativity and quality.
Set on 410 acres of parkland, the sprawling Dromoland Estate is an absolute delight to explore.
The gardens, which are based on designs by Andre Le Notre, who also planned the gardens at Versailles, include a formal rose garden and a lily pond dating from 1812. The River Rine flows through the estate and the castle lake is great for trout fishing. Deer, pheasant and other wildlife roam the grounds adding to the wilderness ambience.
Within the estate, you can also enjoy golf, archery, boating, fishing, clay pigeon shooting, tennis, walking, and mountain biking. The castle also boasts a fabulous indoor swimming pool, gym and top-line spa. This is a heavenly place to relax and unwind, even if it means curling up in front of a crackling castle fire, with a good book.
Seamlessly blending Old-World elegance with contemporary luxuries, Dromoland’s tradition of delivering impeccable, unobtrusive service is never compromised. Guests can relax under the careful attention of our staff and enjoy an exquisite selection of gourmet fine dining and delicious wines; unwind slowly in the Castle’s 5 Star luxury Health Spa or indoor heated pool; or enjoy a good book beside a crackling evening fire. Situated just 8 miles from Shannon International Airport, and regarded as one of the top luxury hotels Ireland has to offer, Dromoland Castle Hotel Ireland is the ideal base from which to explore the vibrant cities of Limerick and Galway; the magical Shannon region and Ireland’s rugged West Coast.
Dromoland Castle is only 10km from the Gateway to the West, Shannon Airport, with direct connections to the UK, Europe and beyond. Check out the exceptional castle packages on offer and book on-line at www.dromoland.ie