The west of Ireland has a quiet magic at most times of the year, an ease making tranquillity that sneaks up on you, catching you unaware, making manana the soonest you could possibly consider doing what you were fully intent on doing today.
The mercurial west of Ireland skies do their Dance of the Seven Veils many times a day, revealing luscious light and the verdant topography of County Galway, then casting moody shadows that display the wears of the countryside in a totally other aspect. It is a landscape that is at once highly dramatic and deeply restful. Largely uninhabited, Connemara combines gorgeous lakes and silent mountains, with an ever dwindling population of indolent sheep. The Maamturk Mountains and the glacially carved Twelve Bens make you catch your breath, as the sun and the clouds dance over the sepia boglands.
We made our made way towards the enchanted Kylemore Abbey and Gardens, stopping for tea and scones. The Gothic Abbey was built as a private home in the 1860’s by Mitchell Henry, after he and his wife fell in love with the area while visiting on their honeymoon. The Abbey was handed over to the St Benedictine nuns in the 1920’s and it was a girls boarding school for until relatively recently.
It’s not that things don’t get done, it’s just that you’re on a different clock and things happen in more indirect ways and at a pace all of their own.
Across the fjord in Mayo is the Delphi Lodge, a spectacular country house and fishing lodge built in the 1830’s by the then Marquis of Sligo. Tastefully transformed in the 1980’s into one of the most restful and elegant places to stay, by the former English journalist Peter Mantle, Delphi Lodge is rightly listed in the 1000 Places To See Before You Die. There are just 12 bedrooms in the lodge, none of which have locks and the atmosphere in the house is more like that of a country house than a luxury hotel. Most of the people who we met there, from across Europe, are people who return at the same time each year, to relax and fish the bountiful lakes for salmon and trout. For the non-fishing spouse, there is a well-stocked, eclectic library over-looking the lake and many lovely places to walk or just sit and read. There is also a lovely spa next door.
Evenings at the Delphi Lodge are enchanting. Residents gather for hors d’ouveres and pre-dinner drinks in the lounge before sitting down together to dine at the long communal table. Before plates of scrumptious, organic local food such as lamb or fish, there was friendly conversation about the day’s fishing and other activities, in multiple languages and accents. For the solo traveller, this is welcoming and easy place to break bread. One woman from Carmel in Northern California, who has been coming there by herself, on the same week every year (week 39, as it happens) for several years, caught her first salmon and was presented with the Delphi Trophy. The last name to be inscribed on it was that of a certain Tiger Woods. She joked that it was the most expensive salmon in history!
It’s a very welcoming and low key place, the Delphi Lodge that handles all the small details with exquisite attention.
After dinner, a fire is lit in the lounge, where guests repair for chocolate truffles and post prandials, just short of purring with utter contentment. There is an immense depth of silence and serenity that surrounds the house and the lake which it faces, that makes the cares of the rest of the world seem very remote and really not that important. As we sunk into the four poster bed over-looking the lake, which was once occupied by Prince Charles, I sighed with pleasure and looked forward to one more day in paradise. Patricia Danaher.