August 28, 2018

Unmissable attractions along Wild Atlantic Way

Unmissable attractions along the Wild Atlantic Way

Anne Geaghan recounts her trip recent trip to Galway enjoying the hospitality of Ireland’s idyllic west coast

The recent August Bank holiday weekend in Ireland is one I will remember as the date of a short visit to Galway for a little taste of the Wild Atlantic Way.

A smooth Aer Lingus flight to Shannon Airport heightened the expectation of a fun filled weekend. My colleague and I hired a car from Enterprise and headed north on N17 for Galway City.

En route we felt peckish and stopped at O’Gradys in the market town of Gort.

The restaurant has reputation for serving a good lunch with hearty portions. We were not disappointed and enjoyed home-cooked Irish staples. Fortified by this rest stop, we continued to Galway and headed for our hotel – The Galmont on Lough Atalia Road.

The Galmont is a friendly place and the helpful staff showed us to our lovely spacious room. We were due at Pearse Stadium in Salthill for All-Ireland Senior Football quarter-final and after a few wet days, the sun reappeared.

Galway and Monaghan battled for a place in All-Ireland semi final and though Monaghan emerged winners of this game, Galway also qualified, such being the permutations of the route to All- Ireland Glory. The Galway GAA scene is friendly, Niamh from Croke Park invited us for tea where we met some London based Galwegians.

Unmissable attractions along Wild Atlantic Way

The Dela Restaurant

Leafy Salthill has a lovely promenade leading to the heart of the city. We had a reservation at The Dela restaurant in Lower Dominic Street – Galway City’s West end.

What a treat – this bijou restaurant is a jewel – no wonder Galway was designated a European Region of Gastronomy in January 2018. The word Dela mean to share in Swedish and this idea influences all aspects of the restaurant which is owned by Joe and Margaret Bohan from Moycullen Both were raised on the land and have a solid background in the hotel and catering industry.

The interior is pretty with trees decorated by electric lights – a Scandinavian twist in an Irish Restaurant which is a successful fusion. Freshness abounds – no mass-produced plastic food here – all vegetables, salad leaves and herbs are grown and harvested on the family farm. Such is their dedication to the “seed to feed” ethos, they have built a Polytunnel on their farm which they maintain themselves.

This ensures fresh organic vegetables are available all year round. The Dela also offers a selection of craft beers and a good wine list.

I had the Kale soup which was nourishing and I opted for a lighter main course – the sea bass was cooked to perfection. Susan had belly of pork starter and a delicious steak.

Bread is baked on the premises – mouth watering. Manager Darren and the staff were attentive – the waiting time was appropriate for first and main courses – both were freshly cooked and tasted delicious. There are long queus for Dela’s brunch every morning.

Unmissable attractions along Wild Atlantic Way

The Galmont Hotel

Suitably sated, back to the Galmont for a great night’s sleep – the beds are so comfortable. We were pleased to see Dean and Kelly on reception again next morning.

Breakfast was self service with a good selection – continental, full Irish and freshly baked breads.

The underground car park is very convenient and we headed off early to Clifden in South Connemara along the N59. The fifty mile drive though Spideal and Oughterard took us through the finest Connemara countryside. The beauty is definitely rugged and unique to this part of Ireland, on the edge of the Atlantic. Our destination was Kylemore Abbey.

Unmissable attractions along Wild Atlantic Way

Kylemore Abbey

This was our first visit to one of Ireland’s top Tourist attractions. Immediately, one was struck by the peacefulness of the surroundings – this is surely “Heaven on Earth” the most exquisite place for restorative relaxation from the pressures of modern life.

The natural beauty of the region, the mountains, lakes, vegetation, even the sheep grazing quietly, lend the vista experience an indescribable beauty. Staff at the visitor’s centre were very welcoming.

Kylemore was built by Mitchell Henry who represented Galway in the British House of Commons for 14 years and was a strong advocate of Home rule. He ands wife Margaret honeymooned in Ireland in 1850 Henry bought the estate as a wedding gift for his bride.

Tragedy struck in 1874 when Margaret contracted dysentery while the family was on holiday in Egypt and died soon afterwards. Henry had a remarkable vision for Connemara which resulted in a model farm on the estate with the largest Victorian Walled garden in Ireland. In 1893 electricity was introduced by harnessing the water on Lough Touther. This hydro plant is currently being renovated in keeping with the current green Energy and sustainability trend.

The castle was bought by the Duke of Manchester in1903 and later a London banker who never took residence. It was eventually purchased by The Benedictine nuns in 1920 who had fled from Ypres in Flanders during WW1 The Benedictine Nuns have a long tradition in education and transformed the Abbey into an international boarding school. Emigration in the 1950s, decline in religious vocations in Europe impacted on the life at Kylemore and in 2010 the boarding school was closed.

Today the nuns remain in residence and remain committed to the stewardship of Kylemore estate and the service of the people who work and visit there.) We visited the restored rooms and watched a video on this history of Kylemore. The outer and inner hall have the original oak parquet flooring.

Visitors from all over the world were admiring the oak staircase and fine plasterwork in the ceilings. This was once a family home in keeping with the lifestyle of the original owners.

A spacious Drawing room, and music room showcases beautiful displays of china, elegant furniture and portraits. Anne Geaghan and Susan Conlon were guests of the Irish Tourist Board Failte Ireland who provided air travel, car hire and hotel accommodation.

Kylemore Abbey’s ‘must see’ sights

Victorian walled Garden

One can board a shuttle bus to this fine example of a garden constructed in the early 1900s or take a 20-minute woodland walk.

Sacred Heart Statue

This was erected in 1932 high on the mountain overlooking Kylemore. There are guided hikes lasting about 1 hour.

Gothic Church and Benedictine Church

A Miniature cathedral in neogothic style. Choirs and musicians from all over the world perform here. The Benedictine Church is near the visitors centre and Mass is celebrated every day.

Kylemore Craft & Design Shop

Buy special gifts – pottery from the studio onsite, also jams, chocolates and skincare products made by the Benedictine nuns.

Dining facilities

The self-service café Mitchells is open all year round. There is also a Tea House by the Victorian Walled Garden

A Wild Atlantic Way Passport is a great way to record historical and cultural experiences during your trip and there is a special reward for collecting your first 20 stamps. A passport can also be purchased online.

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