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On the Wild Atlantic Way at Brigid's Garden
On the Wild Atlantic Way at Brigid's Garden

Wild Atlantic Tour

The Twelve Hotel is a perennial favourite of ours to stay for a few nights, not least because it’s completely dog friendly so Daisy can come with us to enjoy the holiday.

Of course with all the lockdowns over the last year, it’s been some time since our last visit so we were delighted to get a booking just after they reopened to residents in early June. There are a limited number of dog-friendly rooms so it’s advisable to reserve in advance.

Movie Night at The Twelve
Movie Night at The Twelve

Daisy, in particular, was greeted like an old friend and when we arrived in our room there was a surprise awaiting us in the form of a bottle of bubbly. It came courtesy of my cousin Martine. She was passing through Galway earlier that week and we advised her to stop at The Twelve. She was so impressed with the food – and the cocktails – that she left the bottle as a little thank you.

We had booked the Atlantic Way Package, which is a new venture for The Twelve and it’s available all summer.

Daisy really fancied the cocktails
Daisy really fancied the cocktails

It consists of two nights bed and breakfast, a movie night with food and drink delivered to your room and a boat trip on Killary Fjord, along with credit to spend on food or drink. Quite a package and very good value.

We decided to take it easy on our first night so chose to start straight away with the movie night. Our room was like a mini-suite, with a separate sitting area and bar so it was an ideal setup for the food when it arrived. And what an array arrived. We had a pizza, chicken wings, potato wedges, two pints of beer and two of The Twelve’s famous brown bag cocktails, mixed and ready to pour from a plastic pouch. In addition, a popcorn maker was provided but there was no way we were going to be able to eat popcorn after that lot.

It was a lovely, relaxing way to start our holiday, sated with food and watching Paddington on the large TV screen. I know the cinemas are open now but it was a brilliant way to watch a movie.

The next day, we were still in chillout mode so it was a quick drive into Galway city for a walkabout. It’s good to see people back in the shops, particularly around the pedestrianised centre. We had coffee and scones overlooking St Nicholas’s Cathedral and even though the weather was windy, it was a pleasant way to pass the morning.

Salthill as seen from Mutton Island
Salthill as seen from Mutton Island

Afterwards, we decided on a walk near Salthill and every time I visit, I’m intrigued by Mutton Island and the causeway out to it. Today was the day we finally made that walk so we set out under a threatening sky. It’s a very gentle walk from Salthill prom and it’s impossible to get lost as you can see the lighthouse in the distance. Once on the causeway, the views of Salthill itself were lovely and I’m told that because of those views, it’s a popular spot for wedding proposals.

By now it was getting late so we headed back to the hotel as we were dining in the hotel’s West Restaurant that evening. The food there is fantastic. Everything from the amuse bouche to the desserts were sublime, although I finished off with a cheese plate, washed down with a trio of ports – sample glasses of three ports selected to match your cheese plate or dessert. The best way to finish a meal.

The following morning, after a fantastic breakfast served in the Pins Bar, we made our way into the heart of Connemara. We were going on the boat today and even though the weather was a bit iffy, we were determined to make the most of the day.

Our first port of call was Clifden, a lovely, small town in the heart of Connemara. It’s heavily associated with Alcock and Brown, the first aviators to fly the Atlantic and who crash-landed in a bog outside the town. The site can still be visited and it’s well worth it. A replica of their aeroplane is housed at the Brooklands Air Museum outside London.

Clifden is always a lovely town to walk around and on our travels we met another couple walking their West Highland Terrier. Inevitably we stopped to chat and discovered they were fellow member of the Westies of Northern Ireland facebook group, so we knew each other, at least virtually.

The rain held off long enough for us to have a nice coffee from one of the cafés now doing outdoor dining on the street.

Enjoying the Killary Harbour Cruise
Enjoying the Killary Harbour Cruise

And so, on to Killary Fjord, the only Fjord in Ireland. Enroute, we passed Kylemore Abbey but we didn’t stop on this occasion. On our last visit, the newly reburbished house had re-opened and it’s well worth a visit. There are some fabulous grounds and gardens too, making this a great place to visit.

Near the slipway for the boat, we passed Killary Adventure Centre, where many years ago I tried water skiing, wind surfing and kayaking. The following day we were going to kayak the Fjord to the Mayo border for a drink at a pub but overnight, the speedboat sunk so instead, we spent the day bailing out the boat and refloating it. Still a great experience though and highly recommended.

The Killary Fjord boat is a catamaran, ensuring a stable and smooth experience, even in the choppiest conditions. By now, the sun was making a brave effort to come out but there were still plenty of clouds shrouding the tops of the hills around the Fjord. We had a lovely cruise up to the mouth of the Fjord, accompanied by an interesting commentary. Food and refreshments are available on board, including a plate of locally caught mussels. You can’t get fresher than that.

Waiting for my treats at The Misunderstood Heron
Waiting for my treats at The Misunderstood Heron

We chose instead though to call into the Misundertood Heron, originally a food truck, but they’ve since moved to a permanent site overlooking the waters of the Fjord. I’d love to have been more hungry when I arrived because the food looked and smelled so appetising. As it was, coffee and cake was all we were able for and it was truly delicious. We’ll be back with our appetite.

It was back to the Pins Bar for dinner that night, with Pizza from a proper wood-fired oven and a meaty, delicious burger.

To celebrate World Gin Day, I chose a nightcap of a special Sharish Blue Magic Gin. It’s blue in the bottle but it turns pink when you add tonic to it – truly magic.

Sadly, the following day, it was time to go home and we bid a fond farewell to Barna until our next visit.

The Queen of Brigid's Garden
The Queen of Brigid’s Garden

The holiday wasn’t over yet though as on the way home we made a detour to another favourite place, Brigit’s Garden, near Moycullen. Established as a not-for-profit venture, this is a magical place, especially for families, with its Celtic Gardens set within 11 acres of native woodland and wildflower meadows. There’s a nature trail, a fairy fort, a thatched roundhouse and even a crannog. There’s a natural playground and discovery trail for kids and the best thing from our point of view is that it’s dog friendly. We had lovely coffee and cake in their Café, which has plenty of outdoor seating before hitting the road back to Clare.

A final dogguccino at Coole Park to finish the holiday
A final dogguccino at Coole Park to finish the holiday

On the way, we made another stop at Coole Park, just outside Gort. Still reluctant for the holiday to end, we had another coffee with one of their delicious savoury scones. In truth, you could spend the day walking around the various trails here but all we wanted that day was a quick break to the journey.

You don’t have to leave the country or even travel far from home to experience the best that a holiday has to offer.

 

About John Galvin

Motoring editor - The Clare Champion Former Chairman and voting member of Irish Motoring Writers' Association

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