Wild Winds, Rough Going, No Blarney: Ireland's Connemara

Behind the Back of Beyond: Getting Down to Earth ont he Magical Edge of Eire

   

On the Connemara calendar, rain is never far away, but during July and August the sun shines often and long, setting after 9 p.m. The catch: While generally warmer, summer months boast a temperature range (45 degrees to 75 degrees) nearly as wide as the rest of the year. In any season, pack waterproof outerwear, fleece, and spare boots. And before you leave, visit your library to copy local tide tables from MacMillan Nautical Almanac 1999. You'll need them, trust me.
Getting There:
During summer, round-trip flights to Shannon International on Aer Lingus (800-223-6537) cost $748 from New York and just $698 from Los Angeles, if you fly between August 15 and 30. Rates drop by nearly 50 percent come November. You can book Avis rentals through Aer Lingus; a midsize car runs $280 per week.

Lodging:
In Clifden, base yourself at the new Dun Ri Guesthouse (doubles, $35; 011-353-95-2162, dunri@anu.ie), a comfortable, centrally located spot that serves up vast breakfasts. The best place to indulge your country-squire fantasies is the Killary Lodge (doubles, $78¡$100; 011-353-95-42276), a restored nineteenth-century fishing retreat on the wooded shores of Killary Harbor, 20 miles north.
Outfitters:
For a trek that will exercise your imagination as much as your quads, contact archaeologist Michael Gibbons, at Walking Ireland (011-353-95-21379; walkwest@indigo.ie; office shown at left). Inside his compound near Clifden, you can buy maps and books, eat, and even bunk (doubles, $28). In Renvyle, Little Killary Adventure Centre (011-353-95-43411) rents mountain bikes ($8 per day) and offers daylong activities ranging from canoeing to orienteering. Affiliated Killary Tours (011-353-95-42276) will arrange longer trips, whether cycling, hiking, sea-kayaking, horseback riding, or diving; eight-day itineraries start at $655. Stanley's on Market Street sells freshwater fishing licenses ($7 per day) and indispensable hand-knit wool socks ($17).
Readings:
Local son Joss Lynam provides essential information about 18 Connemara treks—from where to park to where to catch the best views—in The Mountains of Connemara: A Hill-Walker's Guide (Folding Landscapes, $4). Cartography buffs will also want to invest $20 in Connemara Map and Gazetteer, Tim Robinson's superbly rendered topographical portrait (Folding Landscapes). For a quick but thorough education on Back of Beyond culture, try Hidden Connemara (Connemara West, $7), a compilation of writings on regional archaeology, history, and folklore, edited by Erin Gibbons.

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