The Wild Atlantic Way ~ Day 7

storyThe rugged majesty of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way might only be surpassed by its warm and welcoming people.

If the journey is the destination, then it is best enjoyed in the company of the witty and wise. In that regard, the Irish are wonderful hosts, particularly on the west coast, where residents take Céad Míle Fáilte to heart.

In Galway, guide Conor Riordon showed me the city, sharing the area’s diverse history and heritage with humour and a smile.

Also in Galway, Jessica Murphy and I had a great conversation over tea about Ireland’s food industry. A native New Zealander, she and her husband David opened the doors of their Kai Café for this weary traveler.

Joe Donaghue took me down to The Burren, and later, the Cliffs of Moher. Along the way, we swapped stories of our family histories, the challenges of watching our parents grow older, and the ups and downs of being parents ourselves.

Peter and Birgitta Curtin welcomed me to their Burren Smokehouse with a cold drink, a warm meal, and a wee bit o’ the craic.

Near Spiddle, Charlie and Dearbhail Troy served up tea, homemade scones, and great conversation as they shared details of their daughter’s 2014 wedding (Ed Sheeran was a guest!)

Roger and the staff at the Abbeyglen Hotel in Clifden, Connemara, regaled us with hours of storytelling and song by the fireplace.

Andrew Pelham-Burn of Carrowholly Cheese took the time to explain the intricacies of his craft, teaching me how weather, diet and other factors affect the flavor and consistency of my favourite food.

Bernie Deery and her family laid out the welcome mat on Achill Island with the best Irish breakfast and coffee you’ll find in Ireland.

After a 13 kilometer bike ride by the sea, Neil Walton and his crew at Voya Seaweed Baths in Strandhill got me back on my feet.

Gretta Byrne toured me around a 5, 500 year-old excavation site in north Mayo, keeping things simple and sure for this archaeologically-challenged writer.

In Glencolumbkille, Margaret Cunningham took me by the hand and back in time at the Folk Village, telling tales of days gone by.

Margaret Story, Colin Campbell and Skipper Brian took me out on Donegal Bay, setting my line and cooking up my catch.

Chef Phillip and the staff at the Lough Eske Castle Hotel treated me like royalty, taking care of my every wish and whim through late nights of writing.

And, through it all, there was my trusted driver and friend John Carew (see photo above). A Sligo man, John proudly displayed his vast knowledge of the area, all the while tolerating my incessant questions. He and his lovely wife Martina welcomed me into their home for coffee, toast and conversation. John’s patience, support and good nature were invaluable throughout my week along the Wild Atlantic Way. I look forward to seeing him again sooner than later, and hope to return the favour when he and Martina make it to Canada – John had more than a few questions of his own about my home country.

“Irish people are curious by nature,” says Ellen Redmond, trade marketing executive with Fàilte Ireland, the country’s National Tourism Development Authority.

“Because of that, we are genuinely interested in getting to know the people who visit with us here,” she continues. “So we will take the time to talk, share a spot of tea and a scone, or perhaps raise a pint, and make the connection. A lot of Irish have relations in Canada, America and Australia, so we are like long-lost cousins to a lot of visitors.

“Having that sense of familiarity – of family – makes all the difference in the world along the journey…”

~ Stephen Patrick Clare