From Dublin to the Connemara, a road trip through unspoiled nature and small port towns.
Dublin is the perfect start to a road trip through Ireland. The Clarence hotel, where I stayed, belongs to national heros U2 and is located on the river. It offers spacious and comfortable modern rooms with wooden decor, the bathroom being the highlight. Breakfast is ok but failed to impress me. Next door is The Liquor Rooms bar, a subterranean with warm opulent decor and creative cocktails.
For dinner, go the the trendy Dean Dublin hotel with DJ spinning in the lobby, swingers on the restaurant floor, outdoor terraces and the only rooftop in Dublin. The hotel restaurant, Sophie's, is a modern spacious with a huge central bar and offers generous Italian dishes and particularly creative and very tasty starters. The wine list gives center stage to Chateau La Coste (check my post on Arles & Le Luberon) from other Irish hospitality hero Patrick McKillen, whose son owns the hotel.
If you have some day time, visit Trinity College where Oscar Wilde studied in the 1870s, Phoenix Park where Dublin Zoo is located. For weekend brunch or a casual lunch in stimulating surroundings, go to Blas Cafe housing a small designer shop and offering Moroccan influenced comfort dishes.
Galway and Roundstone
From Dublin, head west to Galway, a small port with lovely cobbled streets. There, McDonagh's is the place to be for fresh seafood, split in 2 parts one being dedicated to casual fish & chips dining and the other being a more classic restaurant with a large choice of fish. The highlights were Turbot, and fish & chips while thr monkfish and lemon sole were also good.
Another Galway foodie destination is Goyas for its famous carrot cake and other sweet things.
From Galway drive further West towards the Connemara. Once in the area, the R344 road along the Lough Inagh, Derryclare Lough, Ballynahinch Lake down to Roundstone is a stunning drive with lakes, rough nature, and the twelve pins. Roundstone is a charming village where you should stop for lunch at O'Dowd's. It is a local typical pub serving fresh seafood with a fireplace and dark wood decor. The surprisingly good espresso was a nice ending to our meal.
Wonders of the Connemara
I was lucky enough to experience real local lifestyle as I stayed in a lovely friends' house in Ballynahown South, on a road going straight to the sea with only one pub across the street. One of the highlights, apart from the fireplace and the surrounding greenery, was having fresh lobster, shrimps and other delicacies delivered from the local fisherman.
A good itinerary is to drive from Rossaveel or wherever you are staying to Leenaun, then to Kylemore Abbey, an impressive Benedictine monastery founded for nuns fleeing war in Belgium in 1920 sitting majestically on a lake with its hidden chapel and walled gardens.
From there, drive to the sky road all around the peninsula for fantastic sea views and nature. Then drive south towards Clifden and south on the R341. Take the first right through the many tarns for a bit of wild nature and a sense of adventure. This little road will take you back to the R341. Drive back East on R342and make a stop at the lovely 19th century Cashel House hotel for an indulgent afternoon tea.
South of Galway town, the most talked about places are the cliffs of Moher, beaches of Green Coast and Burren National Park. I didn't have time to visit them but this is a good excuse to return to Ireland.