Connemara: My Experience of Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way
Kirsten Fedorowicz studied abroad in Ireland from January- May 2017. She stayed in a small town in the beautiful region of Connemara. She now works as a Content Intern at Biddy Murphy, writing about Ireland as much as she can.
When I decided to study abroad in Ireland, I wasn’t expecting the mountains. In January of 2017, as the bus rounded corner after corner of rocky Irish roads, my eyes were fixed on the skyline. Everywhere I looked there were mountains rising into the sky, their rocky bodies consuming every inch of ground. I had grown up in rural Michigan, a land of trees and rivers, and had never seen a mountain before. I was absolutely captivated by this unexpected, stark landscape. Connemara and I were in love at first sight.
For four months of my sophomore year of college, I lived in a small village on the Renvyle Peninsula called Tullycross, which consisted of the line of traditional thatched cottages the twenty American students lived in, two pubs, a hotel, a diner, and a church. Tullycross is an average rural town in western Ireland, with your friendly neighborhood bartenders teasing you about your accent by the time you’ve had your second Guinness. The Connemara region, and western Ireland as a whole, is part of the Gaeltacht. The Gaeltacht is considered regions where the Irish language is spoken. When visiting one of the pubs, you could overhear older patrons conversing in Irish.
From Tullycross, I was able to explore the breathtaking beauty of Connemara in any direction. I went for a walk almost everyday, and managed to find something new every time that I went. Connemara is well-known for it’s stunning views. I was soon able to climb the mountains that had so captured my attention. In Connemara, there is a mountain range called the twelve bends. Diamond Hill is accessible through Connemara National Park in the nearby village of Letterfrack. I climbed Diamond Hill several times, and was always astounded by the view of the nearby bay and my other favorite mountain; in the right of this frame, you can see Letter Hill, also known as Tully Mountain. It looks a lot bigger when you’re climbing it! While Diamond Hill is outfitted with a walking path, Tully Mountain was not, so you had to be careful what day you climbed its boggy surface so you wouldn’t fall in!
I was captured by the beaches of Connemara as well. You can’t go anywhere in Connemara without running into the Atlantic Ocean, and each beach looks different if the ocean is at high tide or low tide! This picture is of White Strand Beach at low tide. I would often stand in the ocean with my waterproof hiking boots on, curled up in my Irish sweater and wish I could put my toes through the soft, fine sand without freezing! Fragrances of Ireland was inspired by the scent of the Connemara beaches to create their trademark fragrance, Inis Energy of the Sea! Inis captures the feeling of gazing out over the ocean, boots rooted in fine white sand so you can have have that feeling wherever you are.
Much to my surprise, coming from snowy Michigan in January, Ireland still had plants growing. My favorite was the gorse bush, a bush armed with thistles that had small yellow blossoms. They stayed in bloom all four months I was there, and the plant’s cheerful yellow blossoms on the side of the road added a touch of color to the often gray landscape. Once Spring came, Connemara came alive will the bloom of plants! When I would walk back to Tullycross my nose would be filled with the scent of flowers and greenery. I visited Kylemore Abbey, a old castle estate that has since turned into a convent and attraction, during the spring to see their beautiful Victorian gardens! Fragrances of Ireland is also inspired by springtime in Connemara to create an Eau de Toilette of the same name, which captures the beautiful scent of growth in the Connemara region.
At the end of our study abroad trip, one of my closest friends bought a Connemara marble necklace. “Now I’ll always have a piece of this place,” she told me. We both knew that Connemara had weasled it’s way to our hearts, and we would never forget the place or its people.
Connemara Marble is a rare stone found only in western Ireland, and captures the unique beauty of that place. Always green but varying in shade, Connemara Marble is quintessentially Irish. Even if you’ve never been to Connemara, you can carry a piece of its wild, wonderful beauty with you with a piece of Connemara Marble.