Cleggan ("an cloigeann", i.e. promontory) is a lively little town, and also the primary center of fishing in northwest Connemara. The ferries to Inishbofin (the island of the white cow) and Inishark depart daily all year around. The crossings are held three times a day in summer, twice in winter. The island is about 9 km. from the mainland, a useful info for those suffering from seasickness.... The nearby suburb of Rossadilisk has a beautiful beach for relaxing walks. The area comprised between Cleggan and Ballynakill Lake (two miles east the village) offers many shreds of evidence of prehistoric life, such as tombs and standing stones; a good example is "the Giant's seat", an astonishing tomb, located beside Sellerna beach.
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Regarded as the capital of Connemara, the town was founded by John D'Arcy in the early years of 1800. The Gaelic name, "an clochain" means "small cell of the monk", but in spite of the friars who lived in poverty and spiritual retreat, Clifden is today a cheerful and lively center, with a cosmopolitan look. Apart from two churches, some petrol stations, the post office, two pharmacies and two banks, tourists also can find countless souvenirs-shops, pubs, and restaurants. For those renting a cottage, it's important to underline the presence in Market Square of a well-stocked supermarket that offers all you need to cook an Irish lunch (but also a dish of maccheroni, if you do miss it!).
For young people and for those who can not live without reading and sending emails there is also an Internet Point at the "Digital Office", at the beginning of Main Street, with very reasonable rates. From the Market Square departs the well-renowned Sky Road (follow the signs), which offers breathtaking views of the sea and the coast nearby. In the nearby surroundings, is's worth visiting the ruins of the D'Arcy Castle, which can be reached only on foot. Along the untarmacked road, you may happen to meet a very charming gentleman who, with exquisitely Irish humour, will tell you that the castle "was" of the D'Arcy family, but today it's "ours" ...!
Clifden celebrated the 200th anniversary of the foundation in 2012.
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The adventure begins in Cleggan, on the pier ... while you're waiting for the departure of the ferry, a nice, local springer spaniel will settle quietly on the lowest step of the pier ladder, emphasizing with playful impatience his hope that some passenger throws an object to fetch back.... If you happen to board during a beautiful summer weekend, you could be surrounded by the guests of a wedding party (the island is very popular for its romantic atmosphere): girls and young men in jeans and sneakers carrying "Italian style" formalwear (yes, this was the tag of a clothes envelope...). Meanwhile, skillful sailors load all kind of goods: from potatoes to cabbages, from soft drinks to Guinness kegs, from toilet paper to fumigators that protect the newlyweds and their guests from unbearable biting midges during the evening hours.
The varied humanity that is all around you is very interesting and will help you to pleasantly spend the half hour crossing time: couples of hikers with friendly big dogs, constantly looking for some extemporary caress, noisy tourists (easily recognizable because almost always absurdly wrapped up in "survival course" style), elderly rickety local grannies going back to the island with the daily shopping (note: after landing they are the most dangerous because, after loading their purchases in the trunk of a battered car, almost run over you with the cheeky nonchalance of an F1 pilot).
At last, you arrive on the island, after having diligently taken photos of the beautiful and picturesque ruins of the Cromwellian Barracks dated 1656 (to your right, immediately before the pylons that mark the entrance of the port). Now you can choose the best way to explore Inishbofin, according to your physical abilities: even if there is a minibus-taxi service, the limited territorial extension will enable you to visit it on foot or -if you prefer- by bikes for hire. Three paths indicated by arrows of different colors will lead to the discovery of the most scenically beautiful points of the island. For birdwatchers in search of the elusive and now rare corncrake the suggestion is to walk to the old wharf and then to follow the yellow route: in the evening or morning (at approximately 8) with a bit of luck, you will hear the croaking call of this bird or even photograph it while hiding among the nettles ...
The small cove in front to Inishbofin House is visually striking; this delightful hotel, managed with competence and extreme courtesy, is perfect for the most romantic couples. The Dolphin Hotel is also noteworthy, it stands right next to the hostel: the kind and friendly owner will provide you with useful information on the best spots for birdwatchers. The "Dolphin" is also at walking distance from the cemetery with the ruins of the St. Colman's Monastery (14th century).
After such a long and demanding day, in the evening you can relax while eating delicious seafood dishes in the restaurants of the hotels or listening to some session of traditional music: the Inishbofin Ceili Band, founded in the '80s and constituted by local artists, during the summer months performs in turn in the various hotels of the island.
For the curious ones: the name of the island - Inis Bó Finne - refers to a local legend, according to which two fishermen who had lost in the fog, managed to land on the shore and lit a fire. The blanket of mist faded, thus revealing an old woman chasing a white cow: when she reached the animal, she was instantly turned into stone after hitting the beast. Since then, a ghostly old woman accompanied by a white cow emerges from the waters of the lake at West Quarter Village every seven years, or -more ominously- whenever it is necessary to warn the population of some impending disaster ... but, with the typical lightness of the twenty-first century, we like to think that the name is justified by the presence of a lot of likeable "girls" that dot the pastures and accompany the hikers with their deafening "mooooo"!
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Cill Chiaráin (anglicized as Kilkieran) is a village whose Irish name means "Ciarán's church”. Thie place is home to Arramara Teoranta seaweed Factory, founded in 1947 to utilise the large resource of seaweeds available on the West Coast of Ireland. Arramara Teo is now owned by a multi national company based in Canada. Arramara is an important source of employement for people living in the area: at present there are 25 persons working in the factory, with another 250 harvesters working in the industry on a part time basis.
The picturesque harbour of Kilkieran is one of the traditional venues for the Galway hookers Regattas taking place in Summer.
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The beautiful valley of Kylemore, whose Gaelic name -Coil Mor- means "large wood", is dominated by a neo-Gothic building, known throughout the world as Kylemore Abbey. The construction was carried out between 1864 and 1871 by Mitchell Henry, a wealthy English merchant, who built it as a token of love for his wife Margaret, who had prematurely died.
In 1920 the building became a Benedictine abbey; at present, it is an international college for girls, even if it seems the nuns are willing to close this activity. It is not possible to visit the Abbey, but the chapel and Victorian walled gardens are open to the public (as well as the inevitable Visitor Centre, the Pottery Studio, the craft shop and a self-service restaurant).
The area is extremely suggestive in June, during the flowering of wild rhododendrons; it is possible to take beautiful snapshots along the road that runs beside the lake, but mind the traffic, as there isn't a lay-by where to stop the car.
It is also possible to enjoy a gorgeous view of the Abbey and the lake from the top of the Diamond Hill, in Connemara National Park.
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