Clifden is a coastal town nestled in the rugged cliffs of Connemara, Country Galloway on the west coast of Ireland. The town rests along the vast Owenglin River flowing straight into Clifden bay. The misty, sea air blankets Clifden’s lush greenery sprawling across the rural landscape home to approximately 2,000 people. A town so full of wonder, my family’s decades of traveling to this hidden gem speaks to its timeless appeal.
Clifden was originally inhabited primarily by fishermen and farmers. However, in the past few decades the town has become much more cosmopolitan while still sustaining its rich Celtic routes. The village is comprised of a spread of restaurants and pubs reflecting the authenticity of this little rural town. Walking through the village center, buildings pop against the grey Irish sky, each painted a vibrant color creating a unique work of art that compliments the natural awe of Clifden’s green landscape.
While in town, a sense of Irish culture can be discovered. Stepping into one of my favorite spots, the highly regarded Lavelle Art Gallery displays a year round promotion of fine art paintings of the highest quality in West Ireland. The gallery subtly mirrors the same level of allure found outside its walls. While retail stores displays hand crafted original wool woven right in Clifden.
After perusing the shops, I always venture over to my favorite restaurant, Darcy Twelve, for the freshest fish. All of their food is locally sourced and organic providing a small taste of the Irish cuisine. The cozy tavern feel radiates from the stunning dark wood that flows floor to ceiling. Fixed with an elegant bar and mood lighting, Darcy Twelve never fails to entice me to share my meal with a cold pint of Guinness. Fresh dairy, produce and meats allow the taste of the delicious nature the land provides. The farm animals consume a grass fed diet which is clearly reflected in the delectable taste of the food. After a meal, I enjoy walking to the gas station that sits at the end of the main road. There, I indulge myself in a 99, an ice cream cone served right from the station and filled with the creamiest vanilla ice-cream.
After dinner, I often wander up the main cobble stone street to enrich my Irish experience at my favorite pub, Guys Bar and Snug. I am often welcomed by a local band playing Irish drinking songs and old Celtic tunes. The crowd, always lively, sometimes breaks out in modified Irish step dancing while proudly singing along to the music of their homeland.
Even the lodging in Clifden reflects the traditional Irish experience. Some of my friends favorite places to stay is the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel, an authentic but refined 19th century castle sitting at about 1 km from Clifden’s town center equipped with a restaurant and piano bar bringing music, food, laughter and Irish cheer.
The peace and quiet speak to the authenticity and uniqueness of this magical Irish land as the commercial tourism that larger cities bring in is truly absent in this special town.
Right outside the town center begins the weaving dirt roads carved through grassy meadows carrying the serenity of the landscape. Donkeys and horses graze peacefully on either side of the narrowing streets. The aroma of burning peat warms my olfactory senses while I gaze at the ocean glistening from the cliff sides.
A biking or walking adventure on Sky Road enables me to immerse myself in the physical beauty receiving panoramic views of the rugged western Irish coastline and its historical country. Ireland is rich with history and within its rural coast lies hidden gems preserving Ireland’s Celtic character. Although I have traveled to Clifden for years, I still make a stop at Dan O’Hara’s Homestead Farm. Like the rest of the city, his homestead tells the story of Clifden containing an artifacts room displaying Connemara through the ages.
Along Sky Road resides the Clifden Castle ruins. Comprised of Gothic and revival architecture, the castle can be both visited or viewed from a distance on the road’s higher points. Furthering its awe inspiring existence, the road splits into what is known as the low road enabling even closer views of the raw dynamic Atlantic Ocean hugging the cliffs.
Soaking in the strength and beauty of this land truly exposes the reviving power of nature. From the relaxation found in the bountiful animal and plant life to activities like golf and horseback riding, Clifden is a place to feel the deeply rooted Irish history thousands of centuries later while taking in the meditative and mystical preserved Irish coastline surrounded by family and friends.