Connemara and Ballina

A leisurely drive west through the district of Connemara reveals a world of windswept dunes, whitewashed cottages and wilderness where mountains, loughs and drama develop at every turn

by Antonia Windsor
The weather in the west of Ireland changes as frequently as the landscape: first there is a grey drizzle over the bogs, then white clouds bearding the mountains, before arriving at a startling blue sea, where the sun makes the sand look whiter than anything you’d find in the Maldives.
This is Connemara, and I can suddenly see why the Irish talk so lovingly of home; to hell with the inclement weather, this place makes you romanticise rain and worship the wind. And anyway, who cares when you’re in a car? This is good driving; as you cross between the Maamturk mountains and the Twelve Pins, the road stretches into a wilderness that shows no other sign of civilisation, whereas down on the coast little whitewashed cottages are scattered in low dunes facing the sea.
“Connemara Smokehouse
Past the signs for the ponytrekking back towards the main road you will see the smokehouse signposted on your right, overlooking the castle of Grace O’Malley. Owner Graham Roberts is one of chef Rick Stein’s food heroes and the smoked tuna appears on the menu in Stein’s restaurant. Graham fillets the fish himself before it is salted to take out the excess water and then smoked with beechwood. Here you can talk to the man himself and buy wild smoked salmon, gravadlax or honey roast smoked tuna for your Christmas table.”
Tel: +353 95 23739 Email: [email protected]