Gettin’ Outta Town – Clifden, Ireland

Granted, Clifden is a small place, but if you’re there, you aren’t really there for the town. You’re there, first and foremost, for Connemara, for the Twelve Pins, for the islands such as Inishbofin. After a night of music and drink, you want a day of riding and biking and hillwalking and climbing and turf-cutting and island-hopping. No problem.

If you’re staying at the Brookside – I will never be able to stress this enough – talk to Richard about what to do. I’ll tell you a few things, but I’m only being redundant. Richard seems to know just about everything there is to do in Connemara. Whatever your interests, he will be able to show you where to go and will even draw you a map (as one traveler wrote in the Visitors’ Book, “Don’t buy a map, the boss will draw you a better one!”).

Outside of Richard’s own expertise, though, there are plenty of other sources of info roundabout town, and plenty of places for you to check out, some so increasingly far out that the main road is the unbeaten track:

Michael Gibbons’ Walking Ireland
095 213 79 or 095 214 92.
Sponsors day trips and walking holidays, from mountains to bogs to island-hops, generally for about IR£15-20 per person. A monthly list of scheduled walks is available.

For those who really want to splurge, there is also the Connemara Highlands Holiday, a week-long trek through un-trailed mountains, covering about 6-8 miles per day (luggage, however, is transported separately). Cost is probably a bit steep for the budget traveler – IR£430 in the high season – but it also covers everything, including all accommodation (B&B) and almost all meals. Steep, but from people I talked to, also worthwhile.

Island Booking Office, 095 229 68.
Sells tickets for Inishbofin ferry and for the Aran Islands (however, you have to find your own transportation to the Aran ferry site, but this should be explained at time of purchase), and also provides information for other islands.

They also organize a day trip, through Michael Nee Coaches (who have offices in both Clifden and on Forster Street in Galway) and Sea Cruise Connemara (operates April-October), which will take you to Kylemore Abbey for the morning, then the 2:30 sailing through Killary, Ireland’s only fiord (but somehow I doubt the Norwegians are jealous), and will have you back in Clifden around 5:30. If you organize this individually it can be annoying and expensive; however, the Island Booking staff set it all up for you and sell the package for about IR£20-30, depending on how many people are going (the more in a group, the better, basically).

Inishbofin Island is one of Ireland’s westernmost islands, and a must-see. There’s lots of wildlife – Inishbofin is reputed to be good for whale- and dolphin-watching – Cromwell’s Barracks (built in the 1600s by Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers), a 7th-century monastery, Iron Age forts, etc., etc. There’s also plenty of good walking and hill climbing, and one brochure (for Kings Ferries, 095 446 42, who provide daily sailings to Inishbofin) even claims that there is “swimming, snorkling, and diving,” so if your idea of fun is jumping into the north Atlantic, you know where to go. There is accommodation on the island, so if you don’t want to go back to the mainland, you certainly don’t have to. The ocean may still be beckoning, after all.

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