Last Updated on February 5, 2021 by Jim Ferri
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
By Jim Ferri
It was the day before my birthday and I was in Ireland, driving up the west coast on my way to Connemara.
I was used to celebrating birthdays with my family, but today I was alone and kept myself occupied studying the austere but beautiful countryside I was crossing through.
The narrow road slashed through a landscape of fields and bogs, a vast grassland speckled with sheep and little streams and ponds, all laid out before the looming backdrop of the Twelve Bens, the ancient stone mountains which dominate the Connemara landscape. Along the way bricks of peat, all freshly cut from the ground, stood piled like little guideposts along the road.
I passed only a handful of other cars along the way, before coming to a little village outside of which were two large signs exclaiming “Welcome Home Baby Matthew!” It was nice to realize that there are still places where a birth is still a village event.
On To the Connemara Country Lodge
I continued on my way, headed for the little city of Clifton, used by many travelers as a base for exploring Connemara. I’d been here five or so years ago, stopping for lunch with a couple I was with, and it remained the pretty little town I remembered. Today in Clifton, my target was the Connemara Country Lodge.
The center of town, with its multicolored buildings, is bright and cheerful with a solitary traffic light, that at the crosswalk in front of the Catholic Church. Coming up to a line of stopped cars, I realized also it’s still the kind of place where a driver will stop in the street to chat out the window with someone, and no one ever honks to move things along.
I was making a drive around Ireland and had a Bed & Breakfast, the Connemara Country Lodge, reserved that evening. At first I couldn’t find it but after seeing its sign the second time around, I pulled in and met Mary Corbett, the charming innkeeper, who directed me to my room on the second floor.
About an hour later I came back down to ask Mary for suggestions for a restaurant for dinner and she sent me into town to the restaurant in the Alcock & Brown Hotel, which was less than five minutes away. It turned out to be a surprisingly good, even though the sign on the outside said it was only a coffee shop.
A Fantastic Salad and All Wines by the Glass
Its goat cheese salad was fantastic and all of the wines on the small wine list were available by the glass, and an added bonus were the paintings by local artists that were for sale and hung on walls about the restaurant. They were quite good and I couldn’t help but think that if I were a regular customer, I’d probably be dismayed when one of my favorites was sold.
Despite the good dinner I was looking forward to breakfast. That is always a special time at a B&B since breakfasts prepared by the owner are often quite good. Mary’s though, was over the top. She offered not only the usual full Irish breakfast but also hard-boiled hen or duck eggs and pancakes. The pancakes turned out to be crêpe’s, and came not only with syrup but also with her mother’s homemade raspberry preserves. Delicious, delicious, delicious.
Danny Boy at the Connemara Country Lodge
But the real treat came near the end of the meal when she took out her fiddle, and played a bit for us, and also a tune on a tin whistle.
There were about 15 of us in the room that morning, all Americans except for two couples whom I believe were Swiss, and Mary told us that she also wanted to sing Danny Boy since she knew it was a song loved by many Americans.
It was a wonderful moment, a total surprise to me and, I’m certain, several others, as well. Two women picked up their iPads and videoed the performance. I grabbed my camera.
Unfortunately, I had to leave immediately after breakfast since I faced a long drive that day. After I retrieved my bag Mary walked with me to my car and thanked me for staying at the lodge.
“You know,” I said to her, “you gave me a special present this morning.”
“I did?”, she asked.
“Today’s my birthday and your singing was a wonderful gift to start the day,” I said.
“Why didn’t you tell me, since I would have made something special. You must come back inside with us,” she insisted. The invitation was appealing but I explained I had to be on my way.
“You must come back and bring your wife,” she said as she waved goodbye.
I thought about that as I set off from the lodge heading northward, humming Danny Boy the rest of the morning.
My visit to Ireland was partially sponsored by Tourism Ireland. As always, however, all of the views and opinions expressed are strictly my own – J.F.
If you go:
Connemara Country Lodge
345 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10154
Tel. (800) 223-6470