The Lough Inagh

A Scenic Drive For The Ages
John McKinney

Our days in Ireland were beginning to dwindle and we had reached the furthest north we would go. It was time to start driving south. There are a few ways you can drive from Westport to Galway, I would like to make a recommendation for what route to take. The one we took was one of the prettiest and most picturesque drives we’ve ever had. You can find the directions here. This was the route we took.

Our route started in Westport, we then drove south toward Connemara National Park and we took a bit of a detour through Louisburgh on the R335 instead of taking the N59 straight down. We did this so we could drive through the unreal Doolough Valley. From Doolough Valley we drove to Connemara National Park. Then, taking the R344 past Lough Inagh made our way down to Galway.

Bank Robber Extraordinaires

As we drove through Louisburgh, we made a quick stop to mail off postcards. We also figured since we had already stopped we should replenish our banknote supply. The post office worker told us we could exchange bills at the mobile bank right up the street that happened to be in town that day. She had a rather thick accent and people were in line behind us so we figured we should take our chances trying to find the mobile bank on our own.

We drove down the main street like she had told us but didn’t see anything that looked like what we needed. Reaching the end of the small town, we headed back the way we came, still nothing. Driving back through the town again we saw an armored truck parked on the side of the road which assumed was just a transport vehicle. Once again, we reached the end of the small strip of buildings and didn’t see anything resembling what we needed. We figured it had to be close to the armored truck so we decided we’d drive back and ask someone where it was. We made one final pass of the truck looking for parking and finally found a spot 5 or 6 cars away from the truck on the opposite side of the road from us. We made yet another U-turn and finally, pulled into the spot.

We originally thought that there would be a bank building that was only staffed every few days not that the truck itself was the bank which caused us a great deal of confusion. My wife got out and went to ask the security guard standing outside the truck if this was the mobile bank. He, instead of answering her questions, asked her some questions about our intentions. Apparently, we had looked mighty suspicious passing the armored truck numerous times…can’t imagine why that looks suspicious. However, what made us look really odd was the fact that the GoPro was suction cupped to the hood. To the guard, it looked as though we were casing the armored truck.

My wife explained the whole situation. We had never seen a mobile bank before and weren’t quite sure what we were looking for. The guard laughed and opened the door to the back of the truck and there inside was, indeed, a mobile bank. A man was in the back standing as a teller. Now, if you’ve heard of a mobile bank before this is probably not an amazing thing but it certainly was to us.

The Dazzling Doolough Valley

After our brief stint as bank robbers, we made our way to the Doolough Valley. As you make the drive, the road will take a bend and drop into the valley. This is the “woah” moment of the drive. Mountains line a lake on nearly every side at the bottom of the valley, it is truly a beautiful site. There are a few pull-offs where you can stop and take pictures, which we partook in. Afterward, you’ll make your way along the lake and through the other side of the valley. This drive was truly one of the more breathtaking drives on our trip. It is part of the Wild Atlantic Way, something I’m just now mentioning but we followed for much of our trip, so if you plan on following that while in Ireland, make sure you don’t skip this gorgeous area. It is certainly worth the little bit out of the way it takes you.

Kylemore Abbey

Continuing on, we made our way towards Connemara National Park. Before making it to the park, we made a quick stop to check out Kylemore Abbey. Kylemore is a Benedictine monastery founded in 1920 on the grounds of a castle. Kylemore Abbey was founded when Benedictine nuns who fled Belgium during World War I were given this castle as their new lodging, quite the gift. After the war, they just never left…can you blame them? The grounds and the view are incredible. This huge abbey is set directly on a lake with a massive hill running right up against the back of the castle.

Connemara National Park

After the brief stop to admire the lovely Kylemore Abbey, we made our way to Connemara National Park. We headed to the visitor center to get a map of the trails. We were once again surprised that Ireland’s national parks don’t really have a large number of trails. Being no exception, Connemara really only has 1 trail with a few branches allowing you to loop back early. You are required to stick to the path for much of the trail, mostly for your own safety. Connemara is a large a bogland and can be a dangerous place to venture into. This is because bogs have deceptively deep areas. Places that look like small mud puddles can all the sudden envelop you waist deep and not let you go. So, unless you want to meet the Bog Monster, stick to the path.

We made our way up the trail toward the top of Diamond Hill. Diamond Hill provides excellent views of the 12 Bens mountain range. Unfortunately, the bruise on the pad of my foot that I received at the end of the Croagh Patrick hike the day prior made hiking uphill painful. Walking wasn’t too bad as I was able to avoid putting too much pressure on the bruised part of my foot. However, I knew I would need to push off the front part of my foot often if we were hiking uphill which was where the bruise was. So, as the easy path ended and the trail started its incline, I headed back to the visitor center and my wife climbed the rest of the trail. I am still bummed I couldn’t join her at the top as the pictures she took were amazing.

Lough Inagh Valley

Traveling on from Connemara, we made our way to the Lough Inagh Valley along R344. Just like the Doolough Valley, this stunning valley had mountains set along the edge of a lake making the drive along this road one to remember. Three large ridges rising towards the sky caught our attention. We got out and snapped picture after picture. Stopping about a kilometer later, we watched a lamb scurry back and forth, it was hilarious. Then, it happened, we were driving on the R344 past Lough Inagh and two sheep completely blocked the lane. I’m not entirely sure why but I had wanted this to happen at some point during the trip. It took until the last few days but it finally happened. I couldn’t stop laughing at it, I think it was just the idea of how silly it was to me that a sheep was blocking the road.

Delicious Meat Pies

After clearing our sheep roadblock we made our way to Galway. We walked the city streets for awhile taking in the various sights and sounds, Galway was considerably larger than any other city we had visited during our trip. It actually had tall buildings! We couldn’t believe that it actually only had a population of around 80,000. If you find yourself in Galway, go to The Pie Maker, an extremely small restaurant in the heart of Galway. It’s easy to miss as it’s just a small hallway sized restaurant in a high foot traffic area. You’ll likely have to wait as there are only about 5-6 tables and a few more seats at a high top bar style table but trust me, it’s so worth it. The pies were homemade and oh so delicious. You definitely can’t go in there expecting a quick in-and-out but it is well worth the wait.

“We would be staying in…a castle!!!”

Incredible Lodging

Our lodging for the night was about 15-20 minutes east of Galway in Cahercastle. We would be staying in…a castle!!! This small single tower castle is available for rent on Airbnb and completely worthwhile. The host, Peter, explained the history of the castle to us in enthralling detail. He gave us the tour of various rooms of the castle and took us up to the rooftop, which is where the wife and I watched the sunset. If you’re going to be staying anywhere near Galway, stay here. It was a little more expensive than our normal lodging but I mean, c’mon it’s a castle!

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