Connemara, the wild heart of Ireland

There is in Ireland one of the wildest places in Europe, where the advance of human civilization has surrendered to the constraints imposed by nature. I’m talking about Connemara, an Irish region disputed between the Atlantic Ocean, wind and rock. Forget about Dublin and Guinness: this is where you have to come to savor the true essence of Ireland. Connemara is located in the province of Connacht, the westernmost and least inhabited as it is more rugged and greedy for resources, so much so that even trees are scarce. The lack of trees prompted the monks to build stone monasteries. The use of rock as a building material has allowed these examples of sacred architecture to reach the present day. The Connemara is a place out of time, lashed by the salty wind of the Ocean that has softened its profile, made by hills of a blinding green and rocky lands that paint incredible lunar landscapes: a perfect trip to do by car, which will require a minimum of 4 days. Dublin is a couple of hours away. The largest center in the region is Galway: this picturesque town stands on the Atlantic coast and is a must-see for anyone visiting Ireland. A very youthful university city but with a long history behind it, made up of Celtic clans at war. It is not cosmopolitan like Dublin and still preserves the charm of rural Ireland, made up of ancient pubs and countryside populated by flocks of sheep and endless pastures. Its surroundings are fantastic: not even two hours by car are the majestic Cliffs of Moher, the symbolic cliffs of the country, or the Burren, a lunar landscape characterized by a moor of rocks that is lost in sight of eyes, while off the city you can visit the wild Aran Islands, reachable by boat or airplane. Once you have rented the car, get ready to tackle the narrow streets of Connemara. I recommend a prudent guide, given the presence of numerous hairpin bends and narrow streets, which often see the crossing of animals such as sheep or horses. Roundstone and Ballyconneely are two unmissable towns lost in the countryside. A few kilometers away is Ballyconneely, famous for its beaches and its cobalt blue sea. As evening approaches, head to Clifden, a village where you can experience Irish hospitality. The small town offers many accommodations in addition to the historic pubs that prepare typical dishes of the local tradition. Above all I suggest you try the Lowry’s pub, where you can listen to great live music and try craft beers, and the Guys Bar, a restaurant that uses only raw materials produced in the surroundings of the village. Typical of this village are the shops that sell the prestigious (and expensive) “Connemara wool”. Almost everywhere you can find handmade sweaters and scarves, perfect as souvenirs and travel gifts. One of Ireland’s oldest bookshops is also located in Clifden. The third day of travel is dedicated to the famous Wild Atlantic Way, the picturesque coastal road that starts from the County of Donegal, in Northern Ireland, and reaches Cork, in the south of the country. You will meet many small villages, made up of a few houses and chalets with thatched roofs, and the Connemara National Park, one of Ireland’s most famous and beautiful protected areas. Another natural wonder is Killary Harbor, the only Irish fjord: it stretches for sixteen kilometers in the Irish hinterland and is perfect for taking pictures or simply enjoying nature. The best times to visit this region are between May – June and between September and early October. To avoid instead March and spring in general, when rain and wind are constant daily. Connemara is the wild heart of Ireland, able to show today how Europe was centuries ago.

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