Insider’s guide to Clifden
By Democrat reporter
We all know that those big grey clouds are all too fond of us here in Galway, and we’ve made our peace with that. It’s places like Clifden that keep our spirits high, where regardless of whether it’s lashing rain or sweltering hot, it’s always a little ray of sunshine. The capital of Connemara offers idyllic views, authentic culture and all the amenities you could possibly need right at your fingertips.
When you’re heading out that direction, keep these spots in mind…
ENJOY THE JOURNEY
Nestled between the Twelve Bens mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, this coastal town is known for its vibrant views and breathtaking landscapes. Everyone can agree that Clifden is a stunning visual experience, from Sky Road to Roundstone Loop and as far as Connemara National Park, you’ll have plenty to take in on the spin.
SOAK UP THE SCENES
There’s absolutely nothing better than getting out in the fresh air, putting your muscles to good use and taking in the scenery the old fashioned way. Since Clifden is just so picturesque, you’ve got the choice of renting your wheels from either All Things Connemara Bike Hire or John Mannion Bike Hire. At the former, you can get yourself a Kalkhoff Electric Bike that’ll equip you for any uphill climb and cycling challenge you may encounter. The latter, having been in business since the ‘40s, are a well-respected establishment within the community.
SKIP AROUND THE SHOPS
If you’re not a Clifden native, you’re definitely going to want to bring a little bit of the magic home with you and luckily, there’s plenty of places offering up the goods. Steeped in tradition, Millar’s Connemara marries contemporary styles with traditionally charm, creating an ideal destination to find that perfect gift. For the most unique, complex pieces of art inspired by the one and only Connemara, Connemara Blue offer workshop-based experiences where visitors can learn to create your very own fused glass masterpiece. For all things ornate and beautiful, O’Dalaigh Jewellers specialise in unique, Celtic pieces ranging from vintage to contemporary styles.
STUFF YOUR FACE
Having worked up quite a healthy appetite, you’ll need a hearty feed. EJ Kings Bar & Restaurant are known for their fresh fishy fare, great customer service and lively trad sessions. If you’re in the market for a three course meal that won’t break the bank, you know where to head. For a more fancy affair, D’arcy Twelve serve up the finest local produce to the highest possible standard and if it’s homely seafood you’re after, Mitchell’s Seafood Restaurant have got a menu that will suit everyone’s tastes. For some sweet treats, it’s gotta be Walsh’s Bakery, where you’ll be greeted by the tastiest pastries, cakes and shakes in town.
DOWN SOME DRINK
After all that spinning, you’re going to need a few beverages to nurse your weary bones. Whether you want to unwind with a pint in a cosy corner at Guy’s Bar & Snug, delight in the antics of Lowry’s Bar with a gin and tonic in hand or embrace the live music scene at Mullarkey’s Bar, there’s plenty of places to choose from. Our solution? Pub crawl! Make sure to sample some of the local brews while you’re at it. A Bridewell Blond always quenches the thirst.
It’s all happening in Clifden this autumn. Pictures by Bill Heaney
HIT THE SNOOZE BUTTON
After a busy day of getting used to the place, you’ll need a comfortable place to lay your head before hopping up and doing it all again tomorrow. For comfort, space and convenience, Clifden Station House Apartments have it all with the added benefit of all the hotel’s facilities, while Island View Townhouses and Apartments offers panoramic views of Galway’s most dramatic scenery, accommodating groups of up to 17 people. For a romantic getaway or a family get together, both Foyle’s Hotel and the Ardagh Hotel offer the height of luxury.
BEFORE YOU GO
Before you head off, there are some final places you’re going to want to check out. Way back in 1919, the very first transatlantic flight set off from Newfoundland and landed 16 hours and 28 minutes later in Derrigimlagh, Clifden. To this day, the landing point and commemoration to the two on-board airmen Alcock and Brown attracts many people to the small town of Clifden. A visit to Kylemore Abbey’s Victorian Walled Gardens is also essential before you hit the road, where you’ll find an oasis of ordered splendor right in the middle of a rugged Connemara. If you’re feeling up to it, the magical Omey Island Walk is worth a wander.
The causeway linking Claddaghduff with Omey Island. Picture by Bill Heaney