Connemara and Lakelands, Ireland

Connemara and Lakelands, Ireland

Conemara is a broad pensisula in the west of Ireland stretching from Killary Harbour to Kilkieran Bay in the west of County Galway. Connemara is bounded on the west, south and north by the Atlantic Ocean. Connemara’s land boundry with the rest of County Galway is marked by the Invermore River (which flows north of Kilkieran Bay, Lough Oorid (which lies a few miles west of Maam Cross), and the western spine of the Maumturks mountains in the north of which the boundary meets the sea at Killary, a few miles west of Leenaun.

The Irish for Connemara is Conamara which derives from Conmhaicne Mara, meaning descendants of Con Mhac, a branch of Conmhaicne, and early tribal grouping that had a number of branches in different parts of Connacht. Since this branch lived by the sea they became known as Conmhaice Mara (sea in Irish is muir, genitive mara hence ”of the sea”).

Irish Language

The population of Connemara is 32,000.  There are between 20,000 and 24,000 Irish speakers in the region making it the largest Gaeltacht (Irish speaking region) in Ireland.

Getting Close to Nature

Discover the awe-inspiring landscapes, flora and fauna, heritage, culture and people in one of Ireland’s most iconic destinations. Connemara has a range of habitats in a small area.  In this small area you can go from islands, the ocean, beautiful beaches, grassland, bog, lake and mountain, you will always be able to find something that interests you. Thanks to the Gulf Stream that passes along the coast there is a range of beautiful and interesting gardens growing a display of sub-tropical plants.  Connemara has attracted artists over the years who have tried to capture the wonderful scenery.

The Lakelands – Lough Ree Mid Shannon includes counties Offaly, Westmeath and Longford

County Offaly

Offaly is situated in the centre of Ireland, nestled between the Shannon River to the west and the Slieve Bloom Mountains to the east.  Offaly is the location of the earliest evidence of human settlement in Ireland. Archeaology on the shoreline of the Boora Lakes dates back to the Mesolithic era over 8,000 years ago.

Clonmacnoise, located on the River Shannon, was one of the most important monastic settlements in Ireland and was the centre of learning for Arts, Crafts and Christianity in Europe during the first millennium. Other significant heritage sites were Durrow, Leamonaghan, Lynally, Rahan, Kinnitty and Seir Keiran. Important artefacts relating to Offaly include Book of Durrow, Durrow High Cross, Kinnitty High Cross, Tihilly High Cross, MacGregol Gospels and Rahan Stone.

The capital town of Offaly is Tullamore which offers choice of shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, cinema, sports facilities and tourist information and gift store. Other major towns in Offaly are Birr, Edenderry, Clara and Ferbane.

County Westmeath

The County of Westmeath is located in the Province of Leinster in the North Central region of Ireland. This county was created from the ancient kingdom of Mide. The word Mide means middle which is where the kingdom was located within Ireland. This County is made up of many towns that include Mullingar, Delvin, Glassan, Kilbeggan, Finnea, and Horseleap.

The main industry in Westmeath is farming and agriculture. Beef and Dairy are a way of life for many in this area. Many people find commuting to Dublin easy to do since the roads and highways offer easy access. Dublin is approximately 125 kilometers away. Buses and rail also make it easy to get where you need to be from Westmeath.

County Longford

County Longford lies in the basin of the River Shannon and the upper catchment area of the River Erne. It is ideally located in the heart of the lakelands and is within easy reach of many stunning and historic tourist attractions.  The true beauty of County Longford lies in it's rural charm and the breathtaking views of it's quiet countryside of farmland, lakes, bogs and the occasional low hill. Tourist routes that criss-cross the county while taking in the glorious landscape and scenery, provides memorable days of discovery for walkers, cyclists and drivers. Unique towns and villages, impressive archaeological sites, renowned angling destinations, and a wealth of literary and musical tradition entice and captivate visitors to this most enchanting area.

Find more info at:

http://www.discoverireland.ie/Places-To-Go/Lakelands

http://www.offalytourism.com

http://www.westmeathtourism.com

http://www.longfordtourism.ie

Places to visit in Connemara and Lakelands – Lough Ree Mid Shannon

Connemara National Park

Connemara National Park covers 2,957 hectares of scenic mountains, expanses of bogs, heaths, grasslands and woodlands.   Some of the Park's mountains, namely Benbaun, Bencullagh, Benbrack and Muckanaght, are part of the famous Twelve Bens or Beanna Beola range. Connemara National Park was established and opened to the public in 1980.

Much of the present Park lands formed part of the Kylemore Abbey Estate and the Letterfrack Industrial School, the remainder having been owned by private individuals. The southern part of the Park was at one time owned by Richard (Humanity Dick) Martin who helped to form the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals during the early 19th century. The Park lands are now wholly owned by the State and managed solely for National Park purposes.

A number of walking trails beginning at the Visitor Centre offer walkers a variety of scenic routes and nature trails through the park. Stunning vistas from the 400-metre high Diamond Hill include the distant islands of Inishbofin, Inishturk and Inishshark, and the turreted Kylemore Abbey. The park is also home to Connemara ponies, red deer and an enormous variety of birdlife, including skylarks, stonechats and peregrine falcons.

Other remnants of times past include ruined houses, a disused lime kiln, old sheep pens, an ice house, ancient walls and Tobar Mweelin, a well which was formerly used to supply water to Kylemore Castle.

The Visitor Centre features include exhibitions, the ‘Man and the landscape’ multi-lingual audio visual show and tea room (seasonal).  A summer programme of guided walks and special events for younger visitors are also available at the Visitor Centre. Connemara is one of six such national parks in Ireland.

http://www.connemaranationalpark.ie

Kylemore abbey and gardens

The dramatic landscape and iconic image of a gothic castle reflected in a Connemara lake has made Kylemore Abbey world-famous and it is now the largest tourist attraction in the west of Ireland.

The Benedictine nuns invite visitors to experience the Victorian atmosphere of the Abbey's restored rooms, miniature gothic church, head gardener’s house and garden boy’s house. Learn of the tales of tragedy and romance, the engineering initiatives, model farms, royal visits and the Abbey's former role as a girls boarding school.

Explore the many nature trails,woodland walks and the magical award-winning walled garden where in keeping with its Victorian heritage, only flower and vegetable varieties from that era are grown.

Mitchell’s café and the tea house offers home-cooked food made from recipes perfected by the Benedictine nuns and using fresh vegetables and herbs from the walled garden.

The craft shop has a wide selection of design-focused Irish giftware including artisan food products, knitwear, pottery, art and handcrafts made by the Benedictine nuns at Kylemore.

Choirs travel from around the world to Kylemore Abbey to sing in the Gothic church with its superb acoustics. All are welcome to attend the choral performances and admittance is included in the Kylemore entry fee.

http://www.kylemoreabbey.com

Connemara food trail

The Connemara region on Ireland’s West Coast holds a feast for the senses. This food trail will help you discover and enjoy some of the best food in Connemara, while experiencing some spectacular scenery along the way. Connemara Hill Lamb, Galway Bay oysters, fresh Connemara salmon, freshly baked scones, and homemade brown bread are just some of the delicious local treats on menus in Connemara. There are signature dishes such as Connemara Lamb Stew and Renvyle House Connemara Mussel Pie to be savoured.  Artisan producers supply top quality locally-produced food to cafes, restaurants, hotels and visitor attractions and there is a range of food festivals on offer which celebrate the area’s food culture. This trail provides just a taste of the range of internationally renowned food producers, skilled chefs, restaurant and festivals that Connemara has to offer.

http://www.discoverireland.ie/Places-To-Go/Connemara

Clonmacnoise

Clonmacnoise is an ancient monastic site near Shannonbridge, County Offaly. It was founded by St Ciaran in the mid-6th century and over the years, it was a great centre of learning. Many manuscripts, including the 11th-century Annals of Tighernach and the 12th-century Book of the Dun Cow, were written here.

Today, visitors can see three high crosses, a cathedral, seven churches and two round towers. They will also pass through the visitor centre, which displays a number of cross-slabs and the 9th-century Cross of the Scriptures.

http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/midlandseastcoast/Clonmacnoise

Ballinahown Craft Village

Based in the tranquil village of Ballinahown Co, Westmeath, Core crafted design is not new, nor is it old. It is merely the next stage in a perpetual evolution of ideas, creativity and spirituality. Situated near the ancient monastic college of Clonmacnoise, it is fitting that Core Crafted Design is itself housed in an old schoolhouse. The original stylings of the building merge easily with the contemporary design of the new outlet to create an apt showcase for the largest selection of craft designers, artists, and creative’s in the midlands.

http://www.corecrafteddesign.com

Fore Abbey

In a tranquil, green valley in the village of Fore, about a 30-minute drive from Mullingar in County Westmeath, visitors can view the site where St Fechin founded a Christian monastery in the 7th century. It’s believed that before his death, 300 monks lived in the community. Later, the monastery was set fire 12 times.

Among the remains, visitors can see St Fechin’s church, built about 900. They will also find one of the 18 Fore Crosses, which are spread out over 10km on roadways and in fields.

Birr Castle Demense

Birr Castle Demesne offers something for everyone to enjoy and is especially interesting and educational for families.  Starting with Ireland’s Historic Science Centre in the old stable block, with its café and shop, 50 hectares of park land, visit the magnificent Formal Gardens and terraces and discover Birr’s world famous engineering and astronomical wonder - the Great Telescope.

Ireland’s Historic Science Centre contains astronomical instruments, cameras, photographs and photographic equipement used by the Third and Fourth Earls and Mary, Countess of Rosse, in the middle and late 1800s.  Also on display is electrical and engineering equipment originally belonging to Charles Parsons and used in his experiements as well as a large area devoted to the botanical work carried out in the Demesne.

http://www.birrcastle.com

Lough Boora Parklands

Lough Boora Parklands is an attractive, tranquil and accessible landscape in the heart of Ireland. It is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts offering a combination of active and passive outdoor leisure opportunities.

The Parklands is a land scale development on approximately 2,000 hectares of cutaway bog lands and incorporates former industrial bogs.

As areas of Lough Boora Parklands came out of commercial peat production a number of still water fishing lakes were developed as both local and tourist amenities.

When the lakes were flooded, aquatic plants were introduced from waterways nearby and the lakes were stocked with a variety of game and coarse fish. Since development, each lake has undergone rapid naturalisation.

Loch an Dochais, meaning ‘Lake of Hope’, is the first lake you meet to the right. The lake is just under a hectare in size, it has a maximum depth of two metres and is specifically a coarse fishing lake. There is no closed season but best results are achieved between April and October. Loch an Dochais has been developed to facilitate anglers with special needs. Complete with fishing stands designed for wheelchairs, a specially designed car park and a connecting concrete pathway with raised sides, it hosts an annual All Ireland Trout Fishing Match for anglers with special needs.

http://www.loughbooraparklands.com

The Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre

The Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre interprets an Iron Age bog road dated to the year 148 BC which crosses the boglands close to the River Shannon. In 1984 the trackway of large oak planks was discovered in the bog at Corlea near the village of Kenagh in County Longford. Most of this track was in a Bord na Mona owned bog and was in an advanced stage of decay. Samples from the track were dated at Queens University in Belfast and this highlighted the importance of the track as the only example from Ireland dateable to the early Iron Age. In 1985 excavation work began which discovered four other trackways in the same bog. These were also investigated as well an additional sixteen tracks which were later found together along the western edge of the bog where they had been exposed by the activities of peat milling machines. The survival of these tracks through thousands of years greatly broadens our knowledge of early civilisations in Ireland.

The unique nature of the area was recognised by the building of an Exhibition Centre in 1994. This centre highlights the importance of the site in archaeological terms and has become a major atttraction in the Midlands. Inside the building, an 18 metre stretch of preserved road is on permanent display in a specially designed hall. Exhibitions in the centre are on Iron Age Trackways, archaeology and bog culture. Bord na Mona and the Heritage Service have carried out conservation work on the surrounding bog to ensure that it remains wet and that the buried road is well preserved.

http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/midlandseastcoast/corleatrackwayvisitorcentre