Connemara National Park, Ireland
In Irish, Connemara (Conamara) means ‘Inlets of the Sea’, which is borne out by the region’s filigreed coastline.The coastal road west of Spiddal (R336) winds around small bays and coves reminiscent of eastern Canada’s remote reaches of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland (minus the moose). It strings together a succession of seaside hamlets, including the jewel-like fishing harbour at Roundstone, and sleepy Lennane on Killary Harbour, the country’s only fjord. Clifden, Connemara’s largest town, is spectacularly sited on a hill, while offshore lies the idyllic island of Inishbofin.
Connemara’s interior is a kaleidoscope of rusty bogs, lonely valleys and shimmering black lakes. At its heart are the Maumturk Mountains and the pewter-tinged quartzite peaks of the Twelve Bens mountain range, with a network of scenic hiking and biking trails. It’s dazzling at any time of day but especially as the sun starts its descent, when the landscape glows as if filtered through a topaz-coloured lens. One of the most important Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) areas in the country begins around Spiddal and stretches along the coast as far as Cashel