Tuesday 20 February 2018

Connemara: 2fm's Eoghan McDermott reveals his wow moments out west

Short breaks in Ireland

Composite Image - Eoghan McDermott (inset). Connemara landscape: Deposit Photos
Composite Image - Eoghan McDermott (inset). Connemara landscape: Deposit Photos
Knockout: Connemara is a mixture of wild and serene.
Back to nature: There's great fishing beside Ballynahinch Castle.
Letterfack Lodge
Eoghan McDermott
Cyrill Biggins

Eoghan McDermott

Connemara is a knockout corner of the Wild Atlantic Way, says the 2fm presenter. Here are his tips.

Why Connemara?

It is the most outrageous mixture of serene, wild and beautiful.

I'm not into religion or anything of the sort, but there truly is something spiritual or ethereal about the place. It really connects you to a sense of belonging to somewhere.

If you should be so lucky as to catch it on a sunny day, it can literally take your breath away. I've been down there every summer since I was 12 years old.

It never fails to reveal something new and stunning.

What should I pack?

Swimming gear! There are so many beautiful beaches that are easily accessible, but feel remote in the most calming way. There's something fantastical about being in the water and knowing that the next bit of land out to sea is America.

What's the first thing I should do when I arrive?

Drive the coast road further than you think you need to! Through Bearna, past Spiddal, TG4, An Cearra Rua... keep going as far as you can. Leitir Meallain is about half an hour past RnaG and has the most beautiful beach where you can watch the tide come in and out and catch the occasional currach passing. I've been lucky enough to see seals giving an almost circus-like performance of water acrobatics on occasion too.

Knockout: Connemara is a mixture of wild and serene.
Knockout: Connemara is a mixture of wild and serene.

Best place to stay?

There are loads of luxury cottages dotted along the coast road and beyond that you can Google for private rentals. They are authentic, relatively inexpensive, cosy and magic. Thatched stone cottage with a big open fireplace? Yes please!

If you want something a little more mainstream, the Connemara Coast Hotel (connemaracoasthotel.ie) is nice with great, fresh seafood.

Any food and drink tips?

It's a little closer to civilisation, but Mulberrys in Bearna village (mulberrys.ie) is really great. Super fish, steak, salads - everything is top notch and the service is lovely. A great way to set yourself up for a day of exploring the wilderness. There's also a little pub beside TG4... it's where the Samurai ran in for a pint in the iconic Murphy's ad!

What should I avoid?

Nowhere! Spiddal isn't my favourite spot, but there's a lovely natural crafts village in the middle of it which is worth checking out - particularly an Spailpín Fánach (spailpin.com), which does novelty Irish language T-shirts, keyrings etc.

What should I bring home?

It's probably frowned upon, but perhaps a tiny bit of coral from the shore of the coral beach in Carraroe. It's beautiful there.

Eoghan McDermott is on RTÉ 2fm 4-7pm (Mon-Fri). See also wildatlanticway.com

Pól's pick

Letterfack Lodge

Letterfrack Lodge (lodge.ie) is the perfect reward for a hike up Diamond Hill. The Connemara lamb or poached pear salad with smoked bacon (pictured) are winners, and the guacamole is homemade, too (use it as a dip for the sweet potato fries) - Pól Ó Conghaile

On the fly: Ballynahinch

Cyrill Biggins

"You can't beat the take," says Cyril Biggins (pictured), fishing manager at Ballynahinch Castle (ballynahinch-castle.com). Mid-March to September is prime season here, with idyllic beats jutting into the river a short walk from the hotel.

Casting off from private banks, nibbling at a picnic or just watching someone else do the work is a gorgeous way to spend a morning or afternoon in Connemara (with all the usual riders regarding the weather, of course). Plucking a salmon or sea trout is a bonus... bring your catch to be weighed at the pub afterwards.

Half-day tutorials from €150; B&B with dinner from €150pp.

- Pól Ó Conghaile

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