Ward’s Trip Report from Galway to Lough Inagh: A first experience of Connemara
Ward Gahan, Biddy Murphy’s CEO (or Chief Experience Officer, as he likes to say!) just returned from a trip back to his native Ireland to scout some new products for Biddy Murphy and enjoy the beautiful scenery. His first stop was the rocky and stunning Connemara region. Read on to hear about his travels (and maybe take some of his advice)!
The traffic in Galway is not quite like being on the Dan Ryan in Chicago. At least in Chicago you might be moving! To get to Connemara there really are not options to avoid even going by the outskirts of Galway City. The roundabouts are great and if you are not sure which exit on the GPS then keep going around! Avoid traveling after 2pm if you can, as the traffic around Galway is notorious - not like the MMA dude….
There are two fine colleges in Galway, NUI Galway and The Galway Mayo Institute of Technology. These colleges serve massive Foreign Direct Investment Companies in Ireland, mostly American companies such as Boston Scientific, Medtronic and Hewlett Packard, who employ about 6,000 people between them. The tourism industry is hopping all year round in Galway, with Airbnb having loads of options there.
That’s why I headed out to Lough Inagh to base myself for exploring the Connemara region. I visited small crafters and gift shops to see what is new or explore possibilities around unique products they can make for Biddy Murphy. Many of the shops in Connemara carry items crafted from Connemara marble, a green marble that is found only in that region of Ireland. Each piece of Connemara marble is naturally occurring, harvested in the local area, and each piece varies in color from dark to light green, grey, or white. Check out some of the fine Connemara pieces Biddy Murphy already stocks, like this trinket jar or oval bead bracelet.
I took the N59 or Clifden Road through Oughterard (Oook-ter-aaard). There’s a great breakfast place at the top of the main street on the right. The Oughterard golf club on a Wednesday has competition day for a very reasonable green fees of about 15 Euro (about $18) and is a lovely well maintained course. And the best part of all is that you will be paired up with the locals! They will make you feel at home and know everything about you by about the 4th hole; as the locals like to say, “sure 'tis grand!”
You also have to stop at the petrol station in Oughterard for a 99. A 99 is a soft serve Ice Cream Cone with a chocolate flake in it. The trip to Ireland is worth it for this alone - forget about the Guinness.
As you drive out from the City the roads will become narrower and if you have travelled up from Shannon or even Dublin using the Motorways; this will be your first experience of “meeting a bus” on the narrow stone wall lined roads. The fact they twist and turn and undulate will add to the excitement. You’d pay big $$ for this at Disney.
When driving in Ireland I often hear people say “you drive on the wrong side!” Ah, No. No matter where you are you should never drive “on the wrong side”. That’s a bad idea regardless. The trick I use to remember which side to drive on is that the driver is always in the middle of the road. If you find yourself as the driver towards the ditch, even if it “feels safer,” you need to change lanes quickly.
The trick is to watch the ditch. Slow down slightly, but not so slow you will be rear ended. Focus on the ditch but keep the bus in your peripheral and stay as close as you can to the ditch without rearranging the mirrors and let the bus driver worry about you. Your inclination is to watch the bus - don’t! After twenty or thirty minutes of driving you’ll be hoping to come across a bus soon just for the excitement!
Don’t pull over at every two miles to take pictures. Again, it’s not safe with the buses around. By the end of Day two you will have one hundred photos of mountains and sheep and you won’t be able to tell which is what. You will have loads of time to stop and shoot in comfort and safety.
After Maam Cross you will pass through the small village of Recess. There’s a very nice bar/restaurant/shop/petrol-station/undertaker there. Turn right at the next cross road and head into the Inagh Valley towards Lough Inagh. This is a great spot for your first spot to stop and take in the natural beauty.
Have you ever visited this region? Do you have any travel advice to share?
More next week.