In three hours you can drive cross-country in Ireland but you would be foolish not to stop at the Wonderful Barn, Maynooth Town, or another historic site along the way.
We left Dublin and began our journey to explore the west coast of Ireland. Our trip had been going so well until the very last stop at the Clonmacnoise ruins.
My pick for this entry is Royksopp/Fever Ray’s collaboration “What Else Is There” because it really sets the tumultuous tone for our night.
Shortly after reaching the isolated Clonmacnoise ruins, the sun all but fell out of the sky without notice and left us in stuck in a field and unable to see.
In the dark, a man approached us quite malignantly out of nowhere. His car was obscured behind a cluster of trees just beyond the point where we had stopped.
After a brief altercation, he returned to his vehicle but then approached us again more aggressively. He insisted we answer his questions about where we were staying and if anyone knew where we were.
We got in our car and fled as fast as we could, but he raced up behind us for several miles before we lost him.
Just as we started to gather our wits and get back on a main road, a blinding rainstorm blew in. There was no place to seek shelter and our GPS had long given up on drawing a signal.
We arrived at our Renvyle cottage near midnight, rattled from an hour’s drive in the pitch black storm. Unsure what to expect, we camped out in the living room of our AirBnb glued to the radio. Hurricane Ophelia had crossed the Atlantic and was headed right toward us.
There was no phone or wi-fi and we could not get a cell signal, so we felt very uneasy. By 5 am Ophelia had hit Cork pretty hard and it was moving closer to us.
We managed to doze in and out some. When the sun started to rise, I could finally see the landscape around us for the first time and I was stunned.
Renvyle is a peninsula of land in the northwestern region of Ireland that contains many villages, loughs, and peat bogs. The nearest town is 12 miles away and main route through each village around Tully Mountain (above on the right) is part of the Connemara Loop.
Renvyle is also close to Inisbofin Island, and about three hours’ drive from Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher.
Not wanting to miss my chance, I went for a walk down the Connemara loop. It was peaceful for a while.
Tully Mountain was especially captivating.
Once again the sky went dark, and rain pelted against me in a stinging wind. It was so strong it nearly knocked me over a few times, so I put the camera away and ran to safety.
We made tea and watched the sky go from blue to black to grey again, which continued for a couple hours. It was a total roller coaster, not knowing from one moment to the next what was coming.
Irish public radio is an abomination, by the way, but it was the only media we had.
Between moments of static they played samples of music that sounded like bubble gum ads in the 1970s, bits of news where even the reporters admitted they were not sure if the source was trustworthy, and long segments of awkward call-in radio shows.
I started in on the book our new friend had gifted me with in Belfast, and we counted our blessings.
Thinking the hurricane had passed, we went for a walk together and were so excited about these double rainbows shooting across the entire village.
The whole area was surrounded by luscious green hills, giant stones, and the smell of fresh peat being unearthed in the bogs of nearby farms.
No one was around and it was so satisfying to see the various stages of cutting and laying out the bricks.
Our cottage was on a hill overlooking two beaches, a sandy one and a rocky one, with a trail that led up to the summit of Tully Mountain.
It was as remote and quiet here as it was beautiful. The only sound was from the water lapping and of sheep.
We finally saw another human who told us the hurricane was gathering strength and would be crossing over shortly. It was not safe to drive but the water level was rising up against the tires of our rental car.
Hurricane Ophelia Advances
Renvyle, as promised in the Airbnb listing, is absolutely remote. We still had no food, no phone service, no way of checking in with our families, or calling for help.
Once again, we got in our car and fled.
Waves started heaving onto the beaches, flooding just enough so that sand was no longer visible.
We drove through a couple villages that were already boarded up. EVERYTHING was boarded up.
After switching directions we found a small grocery in Tullycross that was still open, so we bought food and gas and drove on into Letterfrack.
I realized right away that this place was on the protected side of the mountain and all the water had ran down away from the streets, whereas our Renvyle cottage was between two beaches and was already flooded.
We could have missed the sign for the Letterfrack Lodge if we had not been driving so slowly through the storm. A very kind employee at the lodge let us inside, made us coffee, allowed us to use the wi-fi to contact family, and even pulled some strings to get us a room there.
We had not eaten since the previous day but had now spread out our hurricane feast and were in better sorts.
Eventually we dozed off. Thunder echoed and shook the whole place throughout the night, but Hurricane Ophelia once again seemed to have gone right around us. The previous night had taken its toll, and we slept HARD.
Early the following morning, we woke up to 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, with his ears perking up at every sound and movement around him.
The weather report said the storm had passed completely and we were in the clear. After breakfast, with a huge sigh of relief, we set out to explore the Connemara National Park.
Follow me to Surreal Connemara.
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