Local knowledge: Connemara
Where should you go? We ask the locals
What is it about Connemara that attracts people to it?I would say the natural surroundings. For me what is special is that we live in the mountains and I find it a lovely, natural way of life. There is no healthier way of life. I have a lot of French visitors here and they talk about the bleakness and the beauty of it.
Do you allow visitors on your farm?I have groups calling every day and I breed and train border collies here. With sheep farming we don’t make a lot so I try and build up the income. I do talks and give visitors an insight into hill farming, and any questions they have on the area I answer. Our website is joycecountrysheepdogs.ie.
Any local spots you think people should visit?When people are looking for food here, I send them to the Larches Bar in Finney. It is one of the best pubs around and always has a good atmosphere.
What local walks would you recommend?There are annual walks down here and a local walking club who walk around the hills. We’re trying to develop it a bit more and as long as people have dogs on a lead and don’t interfere with gates, I think that will happen. There is lovely area here for walking near Lough Na Fooey.
Any old ruins nearby?Across from Lough Na Fooey, on a mountain called Ceann Garbh, there are the remains of what people thought was a Famine village. I think actually it dates from the Cromwellian era, and there are about six old buildings. It would have been a good area for raising sheep. In relation to Famine times, you can see where people went up the mountain and planted potato beds. On a clear day you can see where the ridges were. There is another area where people were hiding out during the Black and Tans era. So on just one mountain you have a huge sweep of Irish history.
What is there to do locally on a rainy day?All you want is a good pair of wellingtons. There’s no point coming with an umbrella, as it’s too windy. The beach at Lough Na Fooey is great and people come and camp there. It is safe for swimming and the sand is reddish in colour.Alice Kennelly, events consultant who lives in Aillebrack
If someone wanted to go on a boat trip, where do you suggest?In my childhood, the lights of the Slyne Head Lighthouse lulled me to sleep every night. One of the things I most like to do now is to take a boat trip from Bunowen Pier (at the end of my road) to Slyne Head. Martin O’Malley, my neighbour, is a man who knows the Connemara Coast like the back of his hand.
Not only do I trust his navigational skills, but I also thoroughly enjoy his company and commentary, which includes stories of the notorious sea pirate Granuaile, who once had a castle at Bunowen. He can be reached through serioussailing.com.