Happy St. Patrick’s Day! While most people are spending the day eating corned beef and cabbage, watching never-ending parades, and drinking Guinness from a can, you’re touring the beautiful Irish countryside.
A days ago you arrived in artsy Galway on Ireland’s western coast. You wandered through the medieval streets, pub hopped in Eyre Square, and prayed for sunshine. It never came. A constant, light drizzle turned into a heavy downpour as you drove out of the city, through Connemara County, and into Recess. The countryside must have been magnificently green, though it was difficult to see through the high-speed windshield wipers. When you arrived at Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, you grabbed your umbrella and darted for the door. But an umbrella didn’t really matter when it was raining sideways.
Despite your soggy appearance, you were welcomed with warm smiles and a quick tour. The gabled manor house was built in the 17th century. It’s classically decorated, but in no way stuffy. You took a hot shower in your neutral-hued room. You found a table by the log fireplace in Fisherman’s Pub. And you ordered a creamy Guinness from the tap. You had planned to spend the day salmon fishing in the Owenmore River, playing golf where the greens have a sea view, hiking through the Twelve Bens mountain range, or biking along the Derroura Mountain Bike Trail. Instead, you watched the bartender—though he seems more like an artist—pour one perfect pint after another. And, eventually, you moved into the Owenmore dining room to eat local oysters, a Ballyconneely lobster and wild salmon fish pie, and warm walnut pie. At least your stomach was happy.
This morning, something is different. You’re awoken not by a buzzing alarm, but a glow around the windows. You slip out of bed and pull apart the curtains. For the first time, you can see your destination. The rushing river is just outside of your room. Two Mallards swim with the current. The forest on the other side climbs into the mountains. And the sun is brightly shining. Finally.
After a quick breakfast, you practically run to the car. You want to drive around the coast before the gray skies return. Start in Roundstone—a picturesque fishing village in between Bertraghboy Bay and Errisbeg Mountain—to browse the pottery and the art galleries. Drive to Clifden, a pretty town where the Owenglin River flows into the bay. Stop at Mitchell’s for seafood chowder before continuing along the Sky Road. This 12-kilometer loop passes the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel and the ruins of Clifden Castle. It climbs higher for views of the dark North Atlantic and nearby islands Inishturk and Turbot. And it ends in Eyrephort near a windswept beach. This is the Ireland about which you’ve always dreamed.
On your way back to Recess, stop at Kylemore Abbey, Ireland’s oldest Benedictine abbey. The current home of Benedictine nuns was built in 1868. It’s a gorgeous waterfront estate with Victorian gardens and a trail around the lake. The warm sunshine has slowed your pace, so it’s late afternoon when you finally leave. By the time you reach Ballynahinch, you’re ready for another Guinness. It is St. Patrick’s Day, after all.