Posts tagged with: 'Aran'

11 Great West of Ireland Pubs

Great West of Ireland Pubs – A Selection

Naturally, my bias ensures that 5 of these 11 great West of Ireland pubs are located in Mayo, but what else would you expect?

The Irish pub can be such an alien concept to continental Europeans, especially the southern French I know best, that I always have to make it my business to at least get them in the door to experience what it is all about. I’ve seen reactions vary from wide-eyed wonder, delight and glee, to disbelief, shock and discomfort at the crowds and noise. Watching what happens when people don’t find a place to sit down is always a source of amusement. Some don’t know how to react and beat a hasty retreat (needing to be gently, sometimes forcibly, coaxed back in), while others just dive in and enjoy the experience. It takes all sorts, as they say!

Of course, many foreign guests also need to be gently informed that it’s expected of them that they buy a drink … Yes, the clichés are true : (Southern) French groups will sit in a pub and barely buy one drink among them, let alone one each, unless “instructed” to do so.

So here is a selection of 11 of the finest establishments from around the province of Connacht. They’re in no particular order, not even alphabetic!

11 Great West of Ireland Pubs

1. McDonnell’s, Belmullet (Béal an Mhuirthead)

Certainly among the best small town pubs in the province, this is just a legendary place and one where you’ll feel comfortable at all times of the day or night. Sit up at the bar. As they say of The Lobster Pot, “you can get in, but you can’t get out”! Here they are on Facebook.

West of Ireland pubs

Inside McDonnell’s, Belmullet

2. Úna’s, Blacksod (An Fód Dubh)

A few years back, this place was on its last legs. It was always totally down-to-earth (still is), but now it’s buzzing and full of far-end-of-earth life. This quintessential isolated, coastal West of Ireland pub is 25km beyond Belmullet (Béal an Mhuirthead). Visit their Facebook page.

great west of ireland pubs una's

Úna’s, An Fód Dubh

3. JJ Harlow’s, Roscommon Town

A beautiful pub, filled with the ordinary, lovely, decent people of Roscommon. Visit their Facebook page.

west of ireland pub

JJ Harlow’s in Roscommon Town

4. Seán’s, Athlone

Reputedly the oldest pub in Ireland, you’ll get a crick in your neck from looking at all the stuff on the walls and ceiling. When my late father had a boat on the Shannon, he used to record the number of paces from his mooring spot to Seán’s in his “captain’s log”. A really brilliant pub. Here’s Seán’s Facebook page.

West of Ireland pubs

Seán’s, Connacht side of the River Shannon, Athlone

5. Tigh Neachtain, Galway City

Possibly the most beautiful city pub in all of Ireland, this is where the heart of Galway city beats strongest. Its range of Irish craft beers is very impressive indeed.  A truly wonderful pub full of character, they are on Facebook.

Galway pub

Tigh Neachtain, Galway City

6. Matt Molloy’s, Westport

Some might frown at all the tourists, but this is just a fantastic pub, especially when there’s a proper trad music session going on, which is virtually every night. Perhaps the most famous of all West of Ireland pubs. Visit their Facebook Page.

Westport pub

Matt Molloy’s, Westport

7. The Beach Bar, Co. Sligo

A pure legend of a place, down by the sea. I could tell you where it is, but I’d have to sh**t you. Find them on Facebook.

great west of ireland pubs beach bar

The Beach Bar, Co. Sligo (their own pic)

8. Tí Joe Watty, Inis Mór

Located a little outside the main village of Cill Rónáin, Watty’s is well worth the short stroll. While not necessarily the most attractive pub, there’s always a great atmosphere in this place. As well as islanders, you’ll meet revellers from all corners of the globe in this spot. Tí Jo Watty is on Facebook.

great west of ireland pubs wattys

Tí Watty, Inis Mór

9. John McHale, Castlebar

Castlebar’s finest pub is old, unique and very relaxing. Johnny’s is on Facebook.

great west of ireland pubs john mchale

Johnny’s, Castlebar

10. Lynott, Achill Island

In this day and age, with drink-driving a serious no-no (thankfully), it’s a wonder this remarkable tiny middle-of-nowhere pub manages to stay open. The fact that it’s a Mayo institution helps. This ridiculously small pub is located between Cashel and Bunnacurry, on the lhs as you drive west. Blink and you’ll miss it.  I don’t think Lynott’s has any online presence.

great west of ireland pubs lynott

Lynott’s on Achill (pic Matt Smyth on Flickr)

11. Anderson’s Thatch, near Carrick on Shannon

It is remarkable and wonderful that this small rural, north Roscommon pub has survived. It’s beautiful from the outside and beautiful on the inside. As with Lynott’s above, just make sure you have a designated driver. Here’s the pub’s Facebook Page.

great west of ireland pubs andersons

Anderson’s, between Carrick on Shannon and Elphin

Great West of Ireland Pubs

Of course, there are many other great West of Ireland pubs over here in Connacht and I’m not even claiming these 11 are the finest. And lists like these cause arguments in, er, pubs … But great examples these are, for sure. Which other ones would you suggest? If you have pubs to propose, please include photos with your suggestions.

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Spring Gentian – Wildflower of Limestone Landscapes

As we left the stump of the once impressive round tower behind and began our gentle climb towards Teampall Bheanáin above, we came upon several little groups of the gorgeous Spring Gentian.

A flower of the Burren, its Aran Island outposts and a few sites in north Galway and south Mayo, the Spring Gentian truly is one of the most beautiful of Ireland’s native wildflowers. Its particular hue of blue attracts the eye very quickly, as it lies low in the grass among the pinks, purples, whites and yellows of the Orchids, Daisies, Bird’s Foot Trefoils and Sea Thrift.

What I find particularly attractive about this little flower is the slightly off-oval shape of the stunning petals. They come to a slight point at the end, resulting in a quite unusual form and marking them out from other flowers. The white centre (‘throat’) to the otherwise fabulous blue petals is simply beautiful.

Spring Gentian Inis Mór

Spring Gentian, Inis Mór, Aran Islands

Each flower of the Spring Gentian is on its own bulbous stem, standing quite erect, to a height of just 4 – 6 cm. The flower head has a diameter of only around 2 cm and could well be overlooked if it wasn’t for the stunning blue colour.

Spring Gentian

Spring Gentian

For all you need to know about Ireland’s wildflowers, consult Zoe Devlin’s fantastic Wildflowers of Ireland website, or enjoy her beautiful accompanying book of the same title – a great present for the wildflower enthusiast.

Zoe Devlin describes Spring Gentian

Zoe comments that it “is the wildflower for which the Burren is famed. Although there are many startlingly attractive flowers growing in this wonderful limestone area of western Ireland, the Spring Gentian is the plant which has become best known of all by those seeking to see the Burren’s great variety of flowers. Its pure, bright blue flowers are extremely beautiful. As each of the petal tubes unfurl, they spread to reveal a little white throat”. Gorgeous.

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Wildflowers on Walking Holidays

I took the following photos over a 500 m stretch of West of Ireland coastal countryside last weekend, while out on a walk. I love finding wildflowers in their natural habitat, whether that be the expansive blanket bogs, small remnants of old oak woodland, along cliff tops or on the bare limestone landscape of the Burren and less known, secluded parts of Mayo and Connemara.

Ireland, and the West in particular, is short on the variety of wildflowers you might encounter. We’re not in the south of France here !That’s partly because of being an island and, of course, partly because of the West’s wind and rain lashed vast blanket bog landscapes. Nevertheless, there are certain places and times of the summer when there is an abundance of gorgeous wildflowers in this part of the world too.

Indeed, my own small garden, with its wonderful Ash and Whitethorn dominated wild hedge, boasts Field Rose, Wild Strawberry (complete with fruit at the moment), Heath Spotted Orchid, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Herb Robert and more wildflowers.

But it’s out and about that the most interesting wildflowers are to be found. So, on my 500 m stretch last weekend, I found the following :

Sea Radish, Sea Thrift, Sea Bindweed, Bloody Crane’s Bill, Sea Campion, Broomrape, Common Mallow, Knotted Pearlwort, Honeysuckle, Ox Eye Daisy, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, O’Kelly’s Spotted Orchid, Yellow Iris and more. Bliss. I love that moment when you realise that you’re seeing a flower you haven’t come across before, or perhaps a finer specimen than you’ve ever had previously.

I regularly post photos of wildflowers on my Twitter account, so why not follow me here. Indeed, if you are looking for help with wildflower identification in Ireland, then consult Zoe Devlin’s Wildflowers of Ireland site. It’s excellent. So if you’re new to wildflowers, you know the mantra : just get out there !

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