On a cold February evening in 1999 I met my future husband in a pub on Main Street, Clifden. By the end of the year I’d moved to that little market town on the Atlantic, where I spent the next four years before moving back to Australia.
As little towns in Ireland go, Clifden’s not bad. Being a tourist town, there are pubs, boutiques and restaurants a-plenty. It’s a vibrant place full of tourists, and you’re always close to beautiful sandy beaches. But in winter it suffers the full force of the Atlantic weather and the tourists disappear along with a good portion on the locals. It’s just you and the mountains. And the lonely bogs.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Clifden. On a sunny summer’s evening the beauty of the countryside is enough to make you giddy with delight. But its isolation (one hour 15 minutes from Galway, the nearest large town) and windy gales can make the long winter hard to bear.
When we left Clifden in 2003 we rented out our little townhouse and this year it’s finally time to sell up. In May/June we spent about two weeks in Clifden cleaning and painting and preparing it for sale. It felt very strange to be living in it again after about 13 years! Luckily our time out west coincided with some wonderful weather and we took advantage of the long summer evenings to see some of our favourite places and people.
The Sky Road
Nothing compares to watching the sunset over the Atlantic from the Sky Road, a loop road around the peninsula that Clifden sits on.
On a gentle, sheep-strewn slope that leads down to Clifden Bay the ruins of Clifden Castle are monarchs of all they survey. John D’Arcy (1785–1839), the founder of Clifden, had this house constructed for himself and his family even while he was busy building up the town. Dating from around 1818, it served as the main dwelling of the large D’Arcy family for the next few decades until, inevitably, they were ruined by the famine and forced to sell.
For a picture postcard view of Clifden, with a backdrop of the Twelve Bens mountain range, Monument Hill is the place to go. Named after the monument to the town’s founder, it’s only ten minutes walk from the centre of town.
The crystal clear waters and white sandy bays could almost fool you into thinking you were on some tropical beach – until you get in the water.
A wonderful walk over the headland across the bay from Cleggan. There are gates to climb over, a Neolithic wedge tomb to spot, horses and sheep to ‘aah’ at, and at the end of the walk, a piratey, pebbley cove that no-one knows about. Well, that hardly anyone knows about. Heaven.