Tag: overfiftytravel

Beautiful Mayo along the Wild Atlantic Way

Westport – the town that stole my heart

Mayo stole my heart.  This beautiful county was my home for three years.  I was welcomed by the wonderful warm people and enchanted by the magnificent surroundings.  I return to Mayo as often as I can.

The Wild Atlantic Way conjures up images of crashing surf over jagged rocks, rugged mountains and landscapes with changing hues. But, it’s so much more than that. It’s also about the culture of local music and literary festivals, museums and historical sites. And don’t forget those beautiful white sandy beaches in hidden away coves and the hospitality that comes with a good old fashioned Irish pub. You’ll find all these things anywhere along the Way, but none more so than in the western and north western counties of Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.  I really need to extend my exploring up the coast.

Mayo is often described as being ‘hauntingly beautiful’. Perhaps it’s because you often have the windswept landscape all to yourself. Or maybe it’s that stories of the famine seem to resonate more loudly here. Either way, much like the rest of the west coast, the scenery is breath-taking and dotted with spectacular vistas.

As you travel from Letterfrack in Connemara on your way into Mayo you’ll pass along the southern shore of Ireland’s only true fjord, Killary Harbour. The fjord stretches 16km from the Atlantic to Aasleagh falls where Galway and Mayo meet. Along the way, stop off and take a boat cruise where the spectacular nature of the fjord can be truly appreciated.

Aashleagh Falls on the Wild Atlantic Way

After Aasleagh falls your destination is Mayo’s jewel in the crown, Clew Bay and the Georgian town of Westport. Most would take the N59 straight up to Westport. Instead, take the scenic route and while there’s no coast road to follow for quite some distance, the R335 will take you through the absolutely stunning DooLough pass. This valley is home to a famine memorial that is definitely worth the visit.

A worthwhile detour is to divert from the Louisburgh road and head to Silver Strand and the Lost Valley. The Lost Valley is a sheep farm run by 6 generations of the Bourke family. It also serves as a famine memorial where it’s possible to visit deserted communities not inhabited since the famine. The beach at Silver Strand adjacent to the farm is unspoilt, but, beware of bathing as the waters have been described as treacherous. Overlooking the farm and the beach is the magnificent Mweelrea mountain. It’s Connacht’s tallest peak at 814 metres.

Around Clew Bay

The road gets closer to the coast when you get to Clew Bay where there are rumoured to be 365 islands. One for every day of the year. There really aren’t that many, but why let facts get in the way of a traditional story. Why not stop along the way at the foot of Croagh Patrick. There’s no need to climb right up to the top, but a short walk up it’s base will give you spectacular views of the bay.

The most welcome respite on your road trip is the beautiful Georgian town of Westport, my home for a while, just a short distance from Croagh Patrick. The pubs and cafes provide excellent food and drink and there’s plenty of accommodation to suit all pockets.

Westport is strategically located so that it’s easy to base oneself there while exploring the south and northern coastlines of Mayo over a few days.

A short drive along the north shore of Clew Bay lies the delightful town of Newport. The town is a renowned angling centre and stands at the entrance to the Bangor Trail, which is now part of the Great Western Greenway, a 43.5km cycling and walking route from Westport to Achill Island.

Achill Island and North Mayo

You really should include a visit to Achill Island a place that epitomises the Wild Atlantic Way with its rugged landscape, steep cliffs, rolling mountains, sheltered beaches and deserted villages. There are loads of adventure activities like surfing, horse riding and hiking as the well as the famous hospitality of its pubs and restaurants. It’s no wonder that there are plenty of families who make Achill their annual holiday destination. To the North West of Achill sits the 11,000 hectares of the unspoilt and uninhabited Ballycroy National Park. It’s a massive area of bog and peat dominated by the Nephin Beg mountains and is also part of Mayo’s Dark Sky park, where on a clear night you can see over 4,500 stars in the sky.

A short distance from the park is Mayo’s Gaeltacht of the Mullet Peninsula and the Barony of Erris. Belmullet is an ideal town from which to explore the peninsula’s cliffs and wild landscape. There is a plethora of water and adventure sports available.

As you drive away from the Belmullet along Mayo’s north coast, you can see the coast and beaches of Donegal miles in the distance. Stop in the picturesque seaside village of Killala famous for it’s role in the 1798 rebellion. Killala is packed full of tourist amenities and its skyline is dominated by a 12th Century Round Tower.

Ballina is Mayo’s largest town and is more or less the last stop before you enter County Sligo. Sitting on the River Moy, Ballina is considered an excellent Salmon fishery and its famous Ridge Pool in the heart of the town is a ‘salmon angers paradise’. In July, the population swells as the town hosts the annual Ballina Salmon festival with a week-long feast of free entertainment.

Travelling to Mayo is enchanting.  Pack the car and head out and I promise you might fall in love with the beautiful county and it’s people.  However as I have learned it is best to be prepared.

Before you hit the road make sure you are covered with Liberty Insurance Ireland. All our our car insurance policies come with 24/7 breakdown assistance with Home Start as standard and it won’t affect your no claims bonus. Get your car insurance quote online now.

This is a sponsored post, however as you know I never post about anything I don’t believe in.  It is a pleasure to feature the beauty of Mayo on my blog, and to remind people how important it is to be prepared.

Thanks for reading

 

Kerry xx

Thank you to Connemara Wild Escapes for the wonderful photos.

 

 

 

 

Tenerife – it creeps into your heart until you don’t want to leave

Everyone has different expectations of a holiday and of course different budgets too.

We were so excited to be visiting Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife.  Endless hours had been spent on YouTube looking at travel videos.  I was very curious to experience ‘black’ sand!

The holiday didn’t get off to the finest start.  Despite being excited, the trip was long.  A four and a half hour flight, plus a couple of hours drive and of course airport waiting time all added up.  It meant that we arrived late in the evening a little tired and grumpy if I am completely honest.

Travelling with a budget airline on a short trip is fine, but absolutely no frills on a longer flight is a little more challenging.   The holiday had started and were eager to get going as we had a 90 minute transfer from the airport to our destination at the north of the island.

Something went wrong and we found ourselves waiting for more than an hour.  Eventually a small group was loaded into a mini bus that was not road worthy and we set off.  This was not the way I was expecting to start my holiday.

We travel budget style

We are on a budget and more than happy to compromise on luxuries for the chance of some sun on our bones.  Resorts wouldn’t necessarily be our choice either as we enjoy walking and soaking up the local culture.

Our hotel, Travador, was in the older part of Puerto de la Cruz, and despite the website reporting a big upgrade it was a little tired.  We eventually realised that it was the public rooms that had been upgraded and that the rooms were in progress.  Never mind, it was clean (a biggy for me) and the location was absolutely perfect.

Walking our way around Puerto de la Cruz

Both my partner and I suffer from arthritis, and one of the reasons we travel is to take advantage of the dry heat which makes such a huge difference on our pain and inflammation.  There are days at home where I struggle to walk.  In Tenerife I was walking 10 0000 steps a day (with my trusty stick Stan), but walking nevertheless.

On our first morning we started exploring the town, which in a weird way reminded me of South Africa.  The beautiful gardens which were part of the city scape incorporated Bougainvillea one of my favourite childhood flowers as well as many other trees and flowers.  I took hundreds of photos that first morning.  The heat on my back and the paw paw (papaya) and guavas outside the shops were enticing.

Location is really key – especially if you want to be able to walk everywhere.  After treating ourselves to coffee in an outdoor café we found our way to the beach only a 10 minute walk from our hotel and it was at this point that I started to fall in love.

It is odd looking at black sand, because it’s different to what your head says it should be.  The combination from an artist’s eye however is breath-taking.  The sea reflects an exquisite turquoise shade as it brushes across the sand.  I took loads of photos and can’t wait to get into the studio to try to recapture this amazing colour combination.

A beer and a beer shandy were just what we needed after our long walk and we simply sat back and enjoyed the magnificent view.  These positions at the beachside café became a daily indulgence.  Sometimes we indulged further tasting the local cuisine or a naughty ice cream.

There is something about the sea that calms and relaxes me completely.  I can look at it, walk along the shore line dipping my toes into the waves or simply close my eyes and take in the smell of the salty waves and sun on the sand.  I did a fair bit of the above in Puerto de la Cruz.

Musings from my journal

I journal every day.  It is part of my routine and certainly something that helps me in so many ways.  When we are on holiday, journaling time has to be planned for.  Most days this took place in a little café a stone’s throw from our hotel where I could order a pot of tea and a pastry for the princely sum of 2 Euro.

During the holiday I came up with these seven realisations/lessons that I learnt from my week in Puerto de la Cruz.

  1. It really doesn’t matter what you look like.  On the beach I saw woman (and men) of every shape, size and age all wearing bikinis and other skimpy swimwear.  They were happy and sunning themselves and not beating themselves up about what they looked like.  I made a pact to give up tangling with my sarong and simply relax and enjoy.
  2. I love the coffee culture. People watching is such fun and there is nothing nicer than whiling away an hour over a delicious café con leche and perhaps a sneaky pastry.  Costing less than 2 euro – including the nibble, I can afford to indulge.
  3. My IBS is better on holiday. I realise this is a bit TMI (too much information) but it is really relevant to me.  IBS is part of my life and a side effect of fibromyalgia and other conditions not to mention the many pills that I have to pop.  I think it could be all the walking (see point 4) or simply being truly relaxed and keeping hydrated.  It could be lack of stress.  I just know that somehow I would like to hang onto this advantage when I get home.
  4. Walking! Instead of dancing all night I could walk all day.  I walk fairly slowly and use my trusty stick much of the time, but I really enjoy it.  We walked on the beach, along the paved walkways which stretch across Puerto de la Cruz and wound our way through quirky back streets.  Yes, my feet got sore, and I got tired, but it felt so good to be moving with the sun on my back and a few breaks along the way to enjoy the atmosphere.
  5. My joints – the bane of my life with arthritis are much, much better in a dry heat. It is amazing to rely less and less on pain relief over the week, and of course to be able to move more.  The sad side of this is that within 48 hours of being back in Ireland, these positive effects are gone.  (Never mind I can book another budget holiday).
  6. You can travel on very little money. Both my partner and I are on a very limited budget.  Holidays are only possible if we budget carefully before hand and afterwards.  We invest a lot of time into digging out the best deals possible.  We are fairly flexible with dates which means that we can avail of the best offers possible.  This holiday was booked through Love Holidays and was paid off on an instalment plan.  We don’t mind the lack of luxuries, but do love the warm air and the sense of excitement that travel brings.
  1. Be adventurous! In everything.  We had a giggle every morning when we came down for breakfast because it wasn’t what we are used to.  Peas, carrots, and one morning pizza.  There were some really yummy cakes and pastries too.  Everyone is different and every culture that you visit has different cuisine.  Try things – you might not like them, but then again you might be back for more.

Highlights and low notes

As with any journey there are particular highlights.  One of mine was the night we treated ourselves to dinner at a little restaurant and were in turn treated to a feast of flamenco dancing.  I am very much an off the beaten track person, and would prefer to try smaller eateries.  One of the best meals of the trip was a shared plate of the local Canarian potatoes (wrinkly potatoes) – basically salted boiled new potatoes with two mojo sauces eaten at the beachside café.

On a low note, it took us 27 hours to get home.  A technical fault on a Ryanair flight had us diverted to a different airport and drinking tea at 4am in an airport hours from our car.  It wasn’t easy and it definitely meant that we arrived home tired, rather than relaxed.

Thank you for reading about my travels.

Kerry xx

%d bloggers like this: