I found myself on the Galway motorway twice in one week, the first trip was for a story I had pitched to a newspaper. I had come across a Facebook post advertising a free rest retreat for single parents in Connemara. I was intrigued and sent my application in while also investigating the possibility of going to this unique setting and finding out more about the owner, NY Times best-selling author Betsy Cornwell.
Betsy kindly accepted my request to stay for two nights, with my children. We went through the bustling Galway city to get across to the other side, heading to Connemara. The Old Knitting Factory is in Carraroe and situated on a lake. Carraroe has everything you need close by and in walking distance from where I was staying. The tranquillity of this area is enough to make you want to do absolutely nothing and rest which is the whole concept behind Betsy’s retreat.
A short drive and we find ourselves at Coral beach, a lovely spot to hang out for the day or go for an evening swim when its less busy. The water is so clear, you can’t help but get in for a dip. We arrived back to our lake house accommodation and watched the sunset in the distance, it was spectacular. We all slept like logs that first night.
The next day, we were up and on our way to Roundstone on route to find Dog’s Bay beach. I had seen so many photos of this beach on social media, I had to see it for myself. The village of Roundstone is a gorgeous fishing village with plenty of cafes and quirky shops to browse. We had breakfast at O’Dowd’s Seafood and it was superb. Ten minutes later we pulled into Gurteen carpark as suggested by the local waitress for parking and the snow-white patches of sand in the distance was mesmerising. I soon found out that this was Gurteen beach and we had a to trek over a field to get to the other side for Dog’s Bay. When we got there, (it’s not far, but when you are carrying chairs, food and extra clothes, it seems like a trek) I was lost for words, as were the children. We set up our spot for the day and ran into the sea and then ran back out 😊 It was freezing but refreshing. I have seen many beaches in Ireland but this is a definite favourite. It was like being away in the Caribbean, the water was aquamarine and the sand warm and soft and there was plenty of sand dunes and rocks for the children to climb.
It was hard to leave it behind and head back to Carraroe but we went for an evening swim when we got back, down again to Coral beach, the best of both worlds really. On our way back to Dublin, we stopped at Spiddal pier, a gorgeous swim spot also and I had to jump in the sea at Salthill, another first for me. All the inlet beaches along the boardwalk are fantastic, just get there early for the parking. We also called into the infamous Charlie Byrne’s bookshop where I left some copies of my book – Talk Learn Connect.
We had only settled back at home when another post on Facebook caught my attention. A lady I have got to know through writing connections and similar interests, shared that her cottage was available to friends who would like to get away from it all to Inishbofin. I have never been and it was also on my travel radar.
I quickly said I was interested and the car was getting packed up again on route to Galway and then to Cleggan Pier for the ferry crossing to Inishbofin. When we passed through the busy Galway section, I found the signs for Clifden and was soon on the most gorgeous drive through the Connemara mountains and through the towns of Moycullen, Oughterard, passing the bridge from the movie The Quiet Man, there are signs for Brigit’s Garden, Aughnanure Castle, boat trips across to Lough Corrib, Ashford Castle, Glengowla Lead and Silver mines and then there is Maam Cross. Anyone who has done this drive, knows the beauty of this scenic drive and it is hard to drive and look at the mountains. It is an artist’s nirvana and I’m sure very inspiring. There are many picnic places to pull in and just take it all in.
Driving on towards Clifden and then Cleggan Pier for our ferry. We park our car at Cleggan, there are lots of spots and its all supervised well and the daily rate is €4. The ferry is packed with locals and tourists all heading to Inishbofin, it’s a thirty-minute crossing. I had booked the local taxi for when we get off, only because of the bags. You could easily hire a bike if you had only a back pack. Its easy to find your way from the West side of the island to the East side. We were staying on the West and in close proximity to Murray’s Doonmore Hotel which has food, drinks and traditional music in the evening and did I mention the views sitting outside the hotel while sipping a nice cold beer – super setting for passing time and people watching.
Not many cars drive by (only locals) and there are bikes galore, the odd sheep and hen pass you by as you soak in the whole Inishbofin experience. It’s about going back to basics and reliving your holidays as a child when you ran wild and didn’t care about what you wore, your hair and you were happy living on chips, crisp sambos and TK lemonade.
We walked up a mountain to watch a spectacular sunset and while the children slept, I woke for sunrise and caught a moonrise as well, right outside my front door. We ate, we found stunning postcard beaches and mingled with the locals. Two days was not enough but we knew we would be back for sure.
I also met with a virtual friend, who all of a sudden was there in real life haha Rachel Gotto lives between Galway and Inishbofin and we spoke about island life, the unusually high deaths of locals on the island and how to get eggs from under a mother goose without her attacking you.
Our ferry back to Cleggan was full with Irish tourists, suitcases, dogs, banjos and shiny red faces from the glorious sunshine we had all weekend. We descended, quickly got our bags and sampled the local fish and chips before we got back in the car. There was one last stop for me before we hit the N59 to Galway. Omey Island is somewhere I wanted to see after once again seeing amazing photos on social media. Its less than 10 minutes from Cleggan and if I had more time, I would have spent the afternoon there. Again, the white sand and aqua sea is stunning and there are plenty more beaches along this drive.
We did finally get back to Dublin although much later than planned as we stopped in some of the lovely towns on the way back. We fell into bed counting sheep and dreaming of white silky beaches.