In less than 3 hours you can drive completely cross-country in Ireland, but you would be foolish not to stop at the Wonderful Barn, Maynooth Town, Clonmacnoise or another historic site along the way.
We reached Galway late evening and headed north up to the Connemara Loop to spend the night in the village of Renvyle. Our GPS had utterly failed, we had gotten the willies from a person who approached us, and we were trying to quickly navigate oceanside cliff territory in the dark while it was storming. Worse, Hurricane Ophelia had crossed the Atlantic and was headed toward Ireland.
This video really sets the mood with the storms / moving through the forest in the dark theme.
It was pitch black and nearly midnight when we arrived in Renvyle. Unsure what to expect, we camped out in the living room, glued to the news. There was no phone or wi-fi and we could not get a cell signal, so we felt very uneasy. After showers and hot tea, we managed to get a little sleep, but I was up early tuned into the news again.
Luckily it was nice early in the morning. I went for a walk about half a mile down the loop.
Renvyle is one of many villages on the Connemara Loop, which runs along the Connemara National Park. The region is tucked into the center of the western coast Ireland, right on the Atlantic. Renvyle is fairly close to Inisbofin Island, and about three hours north of Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher by car.
I skipped back hurriedly after the sky suddenly went dark and the winds were so strong they nearly knocked me over. Once the rain started, I stopped taking photos.
We had tea and watched the sky go from black to blue and back for a couple hours. Irish radio, while awful with music, is hilarious with call-in radio shows. I started in on the book our new friend had gifted me with in Belfast, and we counted our blessings.
Suddenly, everything seemed fine again so we set out for a walk together. There were even double rainbows all across the village!
Our cottage was on a hill overlooking two beaches, a sandy one and a rocky one with a trail that went up the mountain.
It was remote and quiet, the only sound was the nearby sheep.
The news said the storm hit Cork and Kerry hard, and was heading north up the coast toward Renvyle in an hour or two. Since we had no food and wanted to check in with our families, we drove around the loop to the nearest village to find wi-fi and something to eat.
As everything went dark again, sheets of rain fell from the sky in rhythmic pulses. Waves from the ocean started heaving onto the beaches, flooding just enough that sand was no longer visible.
Tully, the nearest village, was already a ghost town so we turned to Letterfrack. At this point we were a mere twelve or thirteen minutes from Renvyle. We found a grocery and a hostel/cafe, whose staff let us in to warm up and use their wi-fi.
I realized right away that this place was on the protected side of the mountain and on a hill, versus our place that was facing the storm and had begun to flood. So we rushed back to get our things and relocated to the hostel instead.
We checked into the Letterfrack Hostel with our carload of snacks and waited for the storm to blow through.
My friend kept me in stitches dancing/lip-synching Michael Jackson songs. It was a peaceful evening and we slept like boulders. Though it stormed heavily and thunder boomed all night, Ophelia seemed to have gone right around us.
Early the following morning, she woke up and noticed an enormous deer outside our window. His shoulders were taller than the top of a parked SUV several feet away, estimating him to be around eight feet tall or more.
We were mesmerized by how graceful he was, his ears perking up with every sound and movement around him. Each time I tried to snap his photo, he would freeze and stare at me.
After breakfast we set out to explore the Connemara National Park, which I have written a separate entry about [link will be updated].