We’ve just left the Famine Memorial at Doolough and we’re driving toward Delphi. As you drive south along the lake, you’ll find a number of places to stop to take pictures. The three looming hills – left, right, and ahead – gorgeously frame the reflective surface of the lake. About two-thirds the way down the drive, you’ll find a pulloff on the lakeside right where customarily there are docked a few boats, just waiting for some salmon fishermen to come along. If you point your camera north from this area, you’ll have tall trees and rhododendron plants framing the right side of your picture, giving balance to the verdant muscular hill on the west side of the lake.
Keep heading south and you’ll pass the Delphi Lodge, the manor house in which the English overseers took refuge during the Doolough tragedy. Turn in the drive to take a good look. It‘s a handsome building covered with ivy and is currently an elegant and world-renowned fishing lodge. They sell their own smoked salmon and it might be worth investing in some of this local delicacy. Make your turn-around and continue south once again.
Next, you’ll come upon the Delphi Adventure Resort, a whimsically designed complex of buildings plopped right down in the middle of the most stunning landscape. Out the back, and right at your feet, you’ll see Ben Lugmore and Mweelrea, two of the highest mountains in the West, climbing 2,635 and 2,671 feet respectively. Both look like dormant volcanos, with a collapsed cup at their summits. Grab a pint from the upstairs pub and sit on the outside deck to admire this brutal beauty. The resort has a gorgeous rustic interior and a reputation locally for excellent food. And, you would find it to be among the region’s great bargains for an overnight B&B. When we stayed there a few years ago, the staff was proud to advise that the Wi-Fi signal would be weak and sporadic. Our room didn’t have a TV and mobile phone connections were random. They really wanted you to enjoy, as you should, the beauty and remoteness of this delightful valley. Time to kick back, enjoy the setting, and untether from all the demands and distractions of everyday life.
Before you return to your car, be sure to walk across the road and appreciate the Bundorragha River, a favorite spot for salmon fishing. The river is often as calm as a mirror, and in the summer it’s bordered by beautiful pink flowering rhododendron. It’s a picture you’re certain to want to capture. By the way, Bundorragha translates to “bottom of the dark valley.” Again, you won’t need much imagination to see the valley covered with fog and mist and understand how this river was given this name.
After you leave the resort, continue heading south and you’ll hit Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only fjord. You’ll go left and circle toward the town of Leenaun. But, before you get back on the main road, you’ll be passing Aasleagh Falls. Not spectacular by any means, just a small drop for the Erris River as it enters Killary and heads toward the Atlantic. Still, a pretty photo spot, so take advantage.
As you hit the main road (N59 or the Westport/Clifden Road), go right for a little bit until you almost reach Leenaun. You’ll find a few overlooks that will have you looking directly west, right down the throat of Killary Harbour as it heads to the Atlantic. Just a stunning view. And remember, the sun sets in the west, so if you’re there around sunset you’ll have a shot you’ll want to take home and frame. If you’re there earlier in the day, don’t miss the fantastic foodtruck – well actually, re-purposed cargo container - the Misunderstood Heron. Take a look at their website (click on the previous link) – look at the setting and look at the food… We had a terrific cappuccino and some sweet treats on our way through last summer and are certain to visit them again this year.
Well, enough excitement for today. Turn back to Westport on the N59. It shouldn’t be but a half-hour’s ride back, with plenty breathtaking scenery on the way. You’ve been on the road most of the day. You’ve earned a pint at Matt Molloy’s or McGing’s, or if you’re in the mood, get the town’s best Irish coffee at The Cobbler’s, part of the Wyatt Hotel – ask for barman Ger McGreal. If you’re still looking for something to do, head to the Clew Bay Hotel down a bit on James Street. They’re likely to be having a gallery opening, a performance by the local jazz society, or a night of trad. You just can’t lose…