Wednesday, July 22, 2015

C is for Connemara and Clifden

Paula loves writing about her favourite part of Ireland.

When I first had the idea for Irish Inheritance, I deliberated where to set the story. It needed to be somewhere I knew well, because I’m not comfortable using locations with which I’m not familiar, and it didn’t take me long to decide on Ireland. More specifically County Galway, and even more specifically the western area of County Galway, known as Connemara.
On my first ever visit to Connemara about eight years ago, I was fortunate that it was a beautiful autumn day, and I fell in love with the wild countryside, the dozens of small loughs (pronounced like the Scottish ‘lochs’), and the Twelve Bens, a range of steep-sided bare mountains.

Although I’ve been to many other areas of Ireland since then, Connemara was the place that captured my heart, and I’ve visited it several times in the last few years. Most times I’ve been very lucky with the weather, except for my visit in May this year, when there was usually more cloud than sun, and a lot of rain too- as you can see here!

Clifden, on the west coast, is the ‘capital’ of Connemara. It’s a small town with a population of about 2,500 which is swelled by tourists, hikers, cyclists, and water sports enthusiasts during the summer months. It has two main streets which are lined with shops, cafes, and of course lots of pubs!

A short drive out of the town takes you along a scenic drive above Clifden Bay and to the end of a narrow peninsula with a  view of the wide expanse of the Atlantic.

Historically, Clifden’s main claim to fame is twofold: in 1907 Marconi set up a radio station near Clifden, transmitting wireless signals to a receiving station in Nova Scotia, and in 1919 John Alcock and Arthur Whitten-Brown landed their biplane near the Marconi station, after completing the first non-stop transatlantic crossing. The ‘green field’ in which they thought they were landing turned out to be an Irish peat bog, and the plane ended up ignominiously nose down in the boggy ground. One of the pubs in Clifden has a fascinating display of photos and copies of newspapers from this time (which I mentioned in 'Irish Inheritance').

When I was writing Irish Inheritance and Irish Intrigue, I had to rely on my memories and my photos (and Google streetview of course!), so it was fantastic to return to Connemara and Clifden this year. Mentally, I was imagining where the veterinary surgery was, as well as Mist na Mara House, and of course I had to revisit the pub that I called 'Murphy's' in my stories.
For those who have asked me where the village of ‘Skelleen’ is (which featured in ‘Irish Intrigue’), you won’t find it on any map, as it’s a figment of my imagination, or rather an amalgam of several small villages. Here is one of them, which some visitors to Connemara might recognise.

And this is 'Connolly's' Bar in the middle of 'Skelleen'.
I’ve loved setting my stories in Connemara because it allows me to re-live my visits there. Another bonus has been that a shop in Clifden actually offered to stock my books!


  1. Beautiful pictures, Paula. I've said it before, but I'll say it again here. One day I'd love to be able to visit Ireland, but for now, thank you for sharing your pictures and using it as a setting for your novels so I can live vicariously!

    And how fun to have your books stocked there!

    I, too, like using places I've actually been for my settings. It makes that part of the writing so much easier.

    1. Glad you're enjoying the photos, Debra (I have hundreds more!) I admire people who can write about places they've never visited, but the only time I've done that was a fairly short scene in Iceland.

  2. Beautiful pictures! I love them and I love how you've gotten the heart of Connemara into your stories.

    1. Thanks, Jen, I'm so pleased you think I've conveyed the beauty of Connemara in my stories :-)

  3. I love how the cottages are painted colors!

  4. Gorgeous photos for great books!