No visit to the West of Ireland would be complete without a visit to Ballyconneely Clifden Connemara. Ballyconneely is a small village, 10km South of Clifden the capital of Connemara. The entry point to the Errismore Peninsula is an ideal place from which to explore the most tranquil, unspoiled and interesting countryside to be found anywhere in the country.
Its name translates from the Irish as Conneely’s Village and is based on the old civil parish of Ballindoon which in turn was named from the old fort or Cashel on Doonhill built by the McGeogegan family to celebrate the restoration of free trade in the 18th century.
Ballyconneely is renowned for its breeding of the world famous Connemara Pony, with numerous home and overseas champions being produced here. Legend has it that the breed originated as a result of a number of Arab Horses coming ashore from the Spanish Armada shipwreck, near Slyne Head and breeding with the small native pony. An Annual Ballyconneely show and sale is held in the village on the 3rd Sunday every July.
Tra heel beach at Connemara Smokehouse
The low lying area of Ballyconneely lies exposed to the Atlantic waves. The peninsula is ringed by beautiful white sandy beaches. Extensive sand-dunes flank the lovely beaches with numerous shell middens. The most unusual of these being the Coral Strand at Derrygimbla, a rich golden beach which skirts the main road between Clifden and Ballyconneely village. More popular beaches are Mannin beach at Mannin, Dunloughan beach, Trá Eel beach (harbor beach), Dolan beach, Trá Mhor (below golf club) in Aillebrack. Some of theses beaches provide excellent bases for shore fishermen., Pollock, mackerel and occassional Bass.
Recently, evidence of early coastal settlement stretching back 5,000 years. Shell middens of burnt stone, charcoal, shells, as well as the stone blades have been found along the shorelines deposited by the shore-dwelling communities who lived along those beaches going back to 2000 B.C. Dunloughan and Truska beaches contain separate deposits of Dog Whelk shells which were not used as food, but to produce a purple dye much sought after by the Romans. Pottery fragments from those sites indicate their habitation at some stage by the Beaker Folk, a migrant continental people also skilled in metallurgy and who are recorded in Ireland and England around 2500 to 2000 B.C. It all adds to the excitements of exploration. As well as providing excellent bathing they have an abundance of edible shellfish and mollusces accessible at low tides. These include Mussels, Shrimps, Clams, Cockles, Scallops, Sea Urchin and with local knowledge, the occasional lobster.
Doonhill / Slyne Head
The large mass of Doonhill, the basalt plug of an ancient volcano, the outer cone of which has now eroded away. Traces of the foundation of a Celtic ringfort, or Dun (from which the hill and the area are named) can be seen on the summit.
In sharp contrast the rocks and craggy islands off the western tip of Ballyconneely have threatened many passing boats and fishermen in the area. The location of a lighthouse at Slyne Head in 1863 has given a safe passage to many and been a friendly light in the night sky to the surrounding areas.
Today the area is home to a vibrant, thriving community and boasts many attractions for our visitors. If you want to experience something special while visiting Connemara head to Bunowen Pier near Ballyconnelly and visit the award winning Connemara Smokehouse. Every Wednesday at 3pm during June, July and August they have a guided tour of the Smokehouse where you can see Graham Roberts hand fillet and prepare the salmon for smoking, slice the finished product and then pack it. Learn about the various methods of smoking and sample some Smoked Salmon. Delicious combined with soda bread. Apart from Salmon some of the other products at the Smokehouse include Smoked Tuna which is delicious, Smoked Mackerel and many more. The Smokehouse is open Mon to Friday 9am to 5pm and closed for lunch. The Smokehouse is a family business using traditional methods and high quality products. Pre-booking is advisable as it very popular.
For more information on the history of Ballyconneely, click here.