Once Hurricane Ophelia had blown over, we packed up and left our refuge in Letterfrack for a visit to the Connemara National Park. I have never seen a landscape so surreal, in person, in all of my life.
Here, it looks like you are inside a virtual reality game. Every few miles the scene would change; from black volcanic mountains with great billows of fog and steam puffing out of the tops to broad desert sand dunes with pyramid-like peaks in the distance; from lush green meadowland brimmed with sheep to iridescent pavement veering off seemingly straight into the ocean.
We just kept stopping to look around as if to say, “this can’t be real.” I kick myself for not taking more photos but what little attention I could pull away was used to film a time lapse video on my friend’s super fancy camera.
Suffice to say we were in awe. One of my favourite songs (my personal theme song) kept playing through my head and I think it suits the scenery perfectly.
Connemara is not just a park (or a brand of whiskey!), it refers to the cultural region known as a Gaeltacht, where people mostly speak Irish. Clifden is the main town in the area, and you can find many large excavation sites of the famous green Connemara marble. The Connemara Kitchen brand of candies is huge here, everything whiskey-flavoured from toffee to fudge to licorice and more.
There are dozens of villages along the Connemara loop, and numerous monolith structures, abbey ruins, bogs, tombs, and other mystical places of intrigue.
One of the nights we stayed in Dublin, we rented a room from a strange old woman at a house that was definitely haunted. She stumbled in, three sheets to the wind, long after we had already gone to bed and insisted we get up and chat with her. I was not able to understand much of what she said except “the people of Connemara, they’re weird.”
She went on to explain that the Connemara region is the most traditional, back country part of Ireland and the people remain set apart from the rest of the Western-moving society. She claims they just look different, and she can spot them a mile away.
It seemed romantic and precious at the time, but I did not fully understand what she meant until we stayed with another host, who explained that some Connemarans were comparable to the Amish or furthermore, the Yiddish-speaking Hasidim in America.
We did not cross many other people on our trip through the Connemara National Park, and those we saw did not strike me as different than any other sort of fellow traveler or local going about their business, but I’ll take their word.
The best part was being able to casually hang my arm out the window of the car and graze the backs of cute little sheep standing in the road.
Bonus Song: Here’s a whacky cover of a traditional Irish drinking song called “Hills of Connemara.” I have to admit I chose this one because of the accordion and the weird video. Enjoy.