You know it’s about to be really good when a local tells you it’s his favorite drive in all of Ireland. I was cozied up to the bar at a little pub in Connemara, map spread awkwardly all over the bar top, attempting to plan a route from Galway to Clifden that would take quite a bit of time since getting there was really my only task for the day.
The bartender placed my steaming cup of soup in front of me, turned my map around to face him, and asked me how he could help. Once I described my general “lack of a plan” plan, he quickly grabbed my pencil and traced a route on the map that would take me from the small town of Oughterard to my destination, Clifden, with what he claims is “the most scenic drive in all of Ireland” in between.
That’s a pretty lofty claim all in all, I mean, Ireland is pretty big and, well, gorgeous through and through.
But, I’m not one to ignore such a strong recommendation; I finished up my bowl of soup (partnered with a huge slab of Irish brown bread that makes me tear up with joyous memories, actually), thanked my helpful bartender and set out to drive the R344 through the Lough Inagh Valley and then down to Clifden (this drive is also touted in the Lonely Planet come to find out).
Within minutes of turning off of the N59 I was greeted by craggy hills and a decidedly different landscape then the lush verdant greens of the south. Instead of the bright green hues of Killarney and Dingle, the mountains are a muted green and with brown-rocky hillsides.
The sun was intermittent, so instead of rushing through the drive I pulled the car over and went for a bit of hiking around the lake, waiting for the sun to emerge once again. This is about the point on the trip where it hit me that my RTW travels weren’t going to last forever.
I’m just sitting there on this lightly used road, accompanied by a bunch of sheep alternating between extreme annoyance and purposeful indifference at my presence. And I can’t help but acknowledge that this really is an incredibly pretty area, perhaps you could even go so far as to call it the most picturesque of the trip (although Dingle’s Slea Head Drive fights hard for that title).
But my conclusion was that it’s a bit lonely to sit on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, with only the bleating of sheep for company. I did a good deal of my trip solo, and I really wouldn’t change that at all – I loved having Laura’s company in SEA, and Helen throughout India and Nepal, but traveling with other people brings its own issues and difficulties and sometimes massive headaches.
But so does traveling solo.
Given the choice, I think I’ll stick to solo travel but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get lonely on the road. I love the freedom that I have on my own, the ability to really indulge my every whim, and to easily part ways when “new friends” start to wear on my nerves.
With a bout of loneliness creeping in I oohed and ahhed through the Lough Inagh Valley, passed by the Kylemore Abbey, which I visited four years ago on my last trip to Ireland, and landed at a bustling but remote hostel with new friends and eight days to camp out at one place, get to know some new people, and hike through the adjacent Connemara National Park.
Any great tips for fighting the blues on the road?