A travel moment in Connemara

‘That cow’s looking at me,’ grumbles Laurie suspiciously.

‘No it isn’t,’ I say firmly, and we drive on.

There’s no shortage of cows – shifty-looking or otherwise – on the coastal road between Clifden and Roundstone, along which we are driving as part of a mini tour of Western Ireland’s villages and towns. The emerald hills are peppered with sheep, horses and cows aplenty, and we smile at the sight of a donkey trotting over the rocks with a stumbling, tufty-headed foal in tow.

On several occasions we pull over to stare in astonishment at the landscape, which looks as though a giant has picked up an armful of miscellaneous items and scattered them at random. In every direction there are lichen-licked boulders, derelict barns, untamed bracken, looming peaks and small coves with the palest of sand, strewn with sea-worn rowing boats. It’s nature gone mad, and it takes the breath away.

A farmer waves when we stop to let him guide his enormous herd of sheep across the road – he’s been rather over-zealous in his marking of their wool, and they’re almost entirely red and blue. He tips his hat, and on we go.

At Roundstone, one of the oldest fishing villages in Connemara, it’s time for a lunch of freshly-caught fish before some shopping in the small and quirky shops – Laurie and his dad wait patiently outside a
tiny vintage store as his mum and I drape ourselves with bits of glittery fabric, loading wrists and fingers with rhinestone jewellery and tilting trilbies jauntily at our reflections in an antique mirror.

Next stop: Galway, Ireland’s fifth largest city. We stop for a drink in The Latin Quarter, its bustling, narrow streets filled with packed restaurants and cafés. Galway’s a creative place: a young man’s guitar notes drift down the street, clashing curiously with the trills of a robust woman singing in a hearty soprano a little further up. Meanwhile, a man uses a paintbrush to tenderly sculpt a sleeping Labrador out of a pile of sand.

Quirkily, a sign is pinned to the wall, reading: ‘Looking for love - left shoe seeking right partner’. Beneath a picture of a trainer that has seen better days, it continues: ‘Last seen in Salthill. If you can
help this poor abandoned footglove find its soulmate, please ring Pedro on…’ I wish I had written down Pedro’s number. I’d love to know how the story ended, and, for that matter, how he lost said shoe in the first place.

Where next? A young man spots us looking in our guidebook in the street, and flashes a dimple-cheeked grin. ‘You’re in Ireland,’ he calls in lilting tones, throwing his hands up in the air. ‘See everything.’

A Preston

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