Your feet will take you where your heart is WESTERN IRELAND 2016

It had been 19 years since I last set foot in Ireland.

I was 18 then and it was my first time traveling abroad. That trip forever changed my perspective on the world which, in turn, altered the course of my life. I am a different man now; married, settled down, and hoping to start a family.

Rachel and I back in those days.

Rachel has a similar story. Twelve years ago she was a young college student looking for an adventure. She wanted to study abroad and chose to spend a semester at University College Cork. In her free time, she travelled all over Ireland, uncovering its beauty and getting to know its people.

For a week in April of 2016, Rachel and I set out to discover Ireland again. Together.

Did the mythic isle have more life-altering magic and hidden secrets for us?

And we're off!

A nice view of Mt. Rainer and the Cascade Range from the plane.

Before we left, Rachel read a few guidebooks and then used Google Maps to plot out a plethora of possible destinations. We spent a night narrowing down our options into a simple itinerary. We would rent a car and take a road trip exploring the wild western coast of Ireland. It is a less-populated area where few tourists venture. We would travel on winding backroads, passing through small towns and villages tucked into the majestic countryside, and staying in remote B&Bs on the Atlantic Coast.

The Google Map that Rachel used to plot out our trip.


Galway Bay

After landing in Dublin, we hopped in our car hire and headed west. We lunched in Athlone on our way to Galway City, where we spent the first night. Despite some car trouble, we made it safe and sound and managed to have a night out on the town. Galway Bay was aglow as the sun set.

Our night in Galway.

I had a lot of fun taking slow-motion videos of the sports being played in the park next to Galway Bay. We saw kids playing rugby or gaelic football (not sure which), soccer, and cricket.

In addition, the sunset proved a tempting subject for a time-lapse video.

Ashford Castle

The rental company brought us a much nicer car after our initial trouble with the one that got us to Galway. But after hitting a pothole on on our way to Ashford Castle, I noticed a bulge in the tire of the new car. We were just outside the castle so we stopped there anyway.

Ashford Castle

New Tire in Cong

Cong is a tiny enclave outside of the castle. Luckily, there was a shop that could put on a new tire for us--if the workman could be found, that is. I asked at the mini-mart next door to the tire shop and the woman tracked down the guy. He was a witty Irishman with some very colorful language. But he did the job and we got on our way again.

Rachel standing in the spot where I found a diamond engagement ring on the ground.
Getting a new tire for the VW Jetta.

Hiking UP Mount Gable Outside Clonbur

We stopped for lunch at a pub in Clonbur and Rachel asked if there were any good hikes nearby. The proprietor took us to the back room of the pub which had a wall of windows looking out over the countryside. He pointed to the mountain in the distance and said "There's your hike. In an hour or so, you'll be up at the top waving back at us."

The view from the "trail."

We encountered a few sheep on the way up. They mostly got out of our way--except for the dead one.

An incredible 360° view from the top of Mount Gable.

On to Clifden

After getting thoroughly muddy hiking up the Mount Gable, we squished our way back into car and headed for our B&B outside Clifden, a colorful little town practically hanging off the side of Ireland. Here is a taste of the drive.

When we arrived at our B&B, we couldn't have felt more welcome. The host took my muddy boots and socks to their "drying room" and led us to our spacious room. She told us about a trail on their property leading back to the ocean. It sounded like the perfect way to unwind.

The trail behind our B&B led to this floating island sitting area.
On the trail to the water behind the Ardmore House B&B.
The trail ended at a dazzling view of the cliffs of Clifden. We both remarked how similar it felt to San Juan Island.

Connemara National Park

After a wonderful night's sleep, we set off the next day for Connemara National Park. We enjoyed the hike up Mount Gable so much, we were eager to get back on a trail to see the land and smell the sea air.


We stopped and ate a picnic lunch outside Kylemore Abbey. This was our first time encountering hordes of other tourists so after we ate we jumped back in the car and moved on. I've never had that kind of freedom when traveling in a foreign country. It was amazing.

Driving to Achill Island

Rachel filmed a little bit of the drive to Achill Island. We passed by Killary Fjord on the way. It was stunning, but as the driver, I had to pay attention to the road.

Killary Fjord

Achill Island

We enjoyed walking Keel Strand and finding smooth stones and shells. I also found a cell phone.

We arrived at Achill Island and went straight to our B&B, the Bervie, which was an old coastguard station right on the beach named Keel Strand.

The view from our room.

I had to make another time-lapse video at this beach.

It was a beautiful day. The clouds were drifting. The sun was shining. The waves were rolling.

Keem Bay on Achill Island

Deep into Bog CountrY

Leaving Achill Island we drove north, following the coastline. We were getting even further off the beaten path now, heading deep into the boglands along the Wild Atlantic Way of northwestern Ireland. Our next B&B, Creevagh Heights, was literally in the middle of nowhere. We had arranged to have dinner there that evening as the nearest village was 20 minutes away.

Along the way, we stopped at Downpatrick Head, where the wind was blowing and the signs were threatening.

Creevagh Heights B&B

This B&B was our absolute favorite. The hosts were so nice and the accommodations were luxurious. Carol looked after us and cooked the most wonderful meals. Harry shared a drink with us and gave us the sightseeing tips that only a local would know.

The best brown bread in Ireland. I got the recipe and have made it several times already.

Back in Time: Céide Fields

The cliffs across from Céide Fields

Céide Fields is an ancient site with 5,000 year-old stone walls that have been buried by the bog. Modern farmers discovered them and some have been uncovered and studied. They reveal a sophisticated civilization that divvied up the land and shared resources. The ancient people who made these walls might also be responsible for burning the forests which eventually created the bogs.

The bog was up to six feet deep according to the visitor center.

Across the road from the visitor center was a spectacular lookout.

Hiking An Bhinn Bhuí

Carol and Harry told us to hike up a cliffside named An Bhinn Bhuí for some spectacular views. We took them up on it and were not disappointed. Rachel wouldn't get near the edge but that didn't stop her from having a wonderful time.

An art piece at the entrance to An Bhinn Bhuí
Looking inland from atop An Bhinn Bhuí

Descending An Bhinn Bhuí Time-lapse

the Barony of ErRis

The Hidden Strand

Harry, our B&B host, also gave us a great tip for an out-of-the-way strand in the barony of Erris, on a peninsula in the Gaeltacht. His directions were "take a right at the old Catholic church onto a cow path. You will think it isn't the right way, but trust me, it is. Park your car when you get to the end and walk over a dune and you'll be on a beautiful beach all by yourselves."

Driving Around Erris

We stumbled upon this art piece made to look like a neolithic site out of the stones covering the ground.

A Brief Night in Sligo

We only spent a few hours in Sligo. We purposely arrived late and left early.


When researching the trip, I stumbled across a podcast of an elderly couple that had been searching for magical places all over the earth. They described a place they found in Ireland called "The Fairy Glen" that wasn't on any map. I found one other reference to this place on a website called Atlas Obscura. From then on, I knew we had to find it.

The directions were vague. "Travel along Glen Road on Knocknarea Mountain, past the Knocknarea parking lot for hikers, to the southern slope of the mountain. Watch the side of the road for an old well, and shortly thereafter, an overgrown and barely visible iron gate. That is the entrance."

We drove to the area and found the old well on our second pass along the road.

The gate was across the street, hidden by the shrubbery.
The path was extremely muddy. If we didn't step carefully, we would sink in to our ankles.
I could barely convince Rachel to come with me. I would venture ahead and call back to her that it was easier going up further. It wasn't true, of course, but my strategy worked. She followed.

THE Fairy Glen

Finally, the path opened up and we knew we had found it.

Plant Life in the Micro-Valley


With our last remaining hours in Ireland we decided to visit the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin. Rachel and I met at a botanic garden. It seemed fitting to end our trip in a place so near our hearts.

National Botanic Gardens

Goodbye, Ireland

Yes, our trip had to end. Through exploring the wilds of western Ireland together, Rachel and I reconnected with a country we had each visited before. But it was a new adventure that blended our personalities perfectly: just enough planning and the right amount of spontaneity. It was Ireland in a new light. It was Ireland in love.

Until Next Time

Created By
David Allen
Photos by Dave Allen and Rachel Ferm

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