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Early morning on Shop Street in Galway

Glorious Galway the jewel in Ireland's crown

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Early morning on Shop Street in Galway

As for the apartments in Salthill overlooking the prom….If they’re good enough for Martin Sheen (who lived there while attending NUI, Galway) they’re good enough for anyone!  The restaurants in Galway are the best – McDonagh’s fish and chips are world famous and rightly so. The trendy G Hotel’s steak is a winner, but nothing beats The Pullman Inn. A restaurant in a train. Yes, a restaurant in a train.

The train is the old Orient Express. Gold and mahogany are two words that spring to mind, but do it no justice. The restaurant is located at the breathtaking Glenlo Abbey Hotel, a five star castle hotel, located on sprawling immaculate golf course. The food is as unique and perfect as the location.

This is an experience I will remember forever, and is not to be missed by anyone who visits Ireland. We said goodbye to Galway City and headed out for the Wild West – the rugged, barren, bleak but beautiful landscape Yeats once referred to as a ‘terrible beauty’.

After about an hour’s drive outside of Galway City, and after passing through adorable little villages where Gaelic is spoken in an everyday manner, the intimidating grey mountains and the lonely roads start to invoke shivers down the spine. It is spooky, but in a really attractive way. The rain adds to the atmosphere, and Max really enjoyed driving on the winding roads around the mountains and past sheep.

Every so often, small houses are sparsely spotted, with smoke coming out of the chimneys. It would be easy to imagine an old farmer living in them, making his dinner every evening (meat, potatoes, cabbage and carrots), and listening to the news on the radio with a glass of Whiskey by the fire.

This is another aspect of Ireland that is unchanged, although harder to find. We finally reached our destination, Renvyle in Connemara, on the Western edge of Ireland, overlooking the Atlantic. It is just like scenes from “The Quiet Man” – in fact, we passed the Quiet Man Bridge, where the movie was filmed. Our hotel is a little past its prime, but quaint and charming nonetheless, just like Connemara itself. The staff were warm and welcoming, and the views breathtaking. On one side of the hotel was the Atlantic Ocean – raw and unpredictable. On the other were mountains, valleys, flowers, and lakes, all calm and peaceful.

We had an amazing time, eating, drinking, and relaxing for a few days. We visited Kylemore Abbey, which is eerie and stunning all at once. Little gems like these are never well known, but never fail to impress.

We visited Clifton, where we had succulent garlic buttered crab claws in Mitchell’s Restaurant, probably one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. I wondered if Mitchell’s were in New York or Sydney would it get more recognition than it does… But that’s why it is what it is. The same goes for many other hidden Irish gems, be they restaurants, historical sites or views that should be on postcards. They are tucked away, and discovered only by word of mouth or passers-by. They are completely modest and seek only the approval and rating of those that matter.

Max was ultimately impressed by the parts of Ireland he got to see, and he looks forward to our next trip, when I plan to show him around Kerry and Cork. Having been away from Ireland for so long, I had forgotten how beautiful it is, and the funny thing is that the more I travel the more I believe this. Ireland never fails to impress or surprise, but it’s best done if you ditch the travel book and discover it yourself.

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