West of Ireland #5: Clifden

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Friends, for a second imagine this is a horror movie….

Four students returning to the mainland (and by extension the real world) and find their way to the town of Clifden. They had planned to stay in the isolated Ben Lettery hostel, a beautiful spot in the shadow of another of the Bens. But following their island retreat the idea of staying in the busy town was much more appealing. But with no reservations, they began the unpleasant activity of searching for our beds for the night.

We come to the Riverside Hostel. A big, expressionless building and with an eerie impression that it may have been a workhouse or prison in a former life. The For Sale sign outside did not bode well either.

The door is locked, unusual for a hostel but we ring the doorbell anyway, expectations dropping. An elderly woman pokes her head around the door without opening it.

‘What do you want?’ She asks.

The four are so stunned to silence by question it takes them a few seconds to respond.

‘Eh…’ I start. ‘We were looking for hostel beds…’ I trail off, no longer sure that this is a hostel at all.

‘Fine,’ she barks and opens the door just enough to let us in.

We follow her tentatively into an office where the walls are covered (and I mean completely covered) in bird feathers. An old man sits behind a desk.

‘What do you want?’ He asks in an equally unhelpful tone.

‘Ah…’ L starts this time. ‘’We were wondering how much four beds for the night would be.’

He sharply informs us that they had four free beds (we are not surprised – there was no sign of any one else anywhere else in the building) and they were €16 each but boys and girls slept separately.

We mutter something about checking prices and made a hasty retreat for fear that we wake up missing our kidneys.

Ok so back to the real world. Unfortunately the more popular hostel in town was completely full (equally unsurprising) which left us paying a little extra for a B&B (€25 per room) but it was a novelty to have not only two double rooms between the four of us but our own bathrooms.


Accommodation sorted we got a day and a half to enjoy the pleasant town that is Clifden. The E. J. Kings is my favourite pub there that does good food and frequently has live music. For the daylight hours the shopping in Clifden is surprisingly good. The Connemara Hamper is a unique delicatessen that sells great food and wine, though the Supervalu has a remarkably good selection of local produce, down the main road (Market Street) there’s a quirky vintage shop and the fabulous Stanley’s, loved by hikers for many years as a quality supplier of boots, coats and penknives. The old train station was converted in a modern retail centre with has a number of boutiques selling everything from crafts to beads such as ‘Oh! By Gum!’ the eco-friendly gift shop.  That’s not forgetting the food and craft market held on Fridays.

There’s a regular bus route from Clifden to Galway city all year round and I would recommend it to any visitor to the west.

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