Thursday, 13 July 2017

Clifden, the 'capital' of Connemara

My four Irish novels are soon to be republished (with brand new covers!) so here is an introduction to the small town of Clifden, which provides the setting for them all.


 Clifden (An Clochán in Irish, meaning stepping stones) is situated on the west coast of Ireland, between the Atlantic Ocean and the ‘Twelve Bens’ of Connemara.

It was founded by John D’Arcy who inherited the estate at the beginning of the 19th century (and built a castle overlooking Clifden Bay). At the time the area was inhabited mainly by fishermen and farmers, until D’Arcy decided to establish a town and also a road to Galway (now the N59).

John D'Arcy's castle (now in ruins)
overlooking Clifden Bay
Originally it had three streets, forming a triangle - Main Street, Market Street and Bridge Street, with Main and Market meeting at the market square, and Bridge Street linking the other ends of those two streets.

Looking up Market Street from the open area where the
market used to take place

Looking down Market Street toward the market place
and Christ Church (Church of Ireland)

Main Street and St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church

By 1839 the town had grown to 185 dwellings, most of them three-floored, two churches, two hotels, three schools, a police barracks, courthouse, a gaol, a distillery and 23 pubs, and it had a population of about 1,000. It suffered during the Potato Famine in the 1840s and didn’t recover until the end of the 19th century when a railway was built to link it to Galway.

The town from the harbour

In the second half of the 20th century, Clifden became a popular centre for many different outdoor pursuits – hiking, cycling, sailing, fishing, horse-riding and golf. For the less energetic, there is a variety of shops from sweater shops and boutiques to antiques and art, and of course the tourist souvenir shops. Needless to say, there are also plenty of pubs, some genuinely ‘old’ Irish and others more trendy. In many of them, there is live music most evenings.

It's definitely one of my favourite Irish towns! Friendly people, interesting shops, excellent food, great craic - and even better when the rain stops and the sun comes out! 


Next week I’ll tell you more about Clifden’s history and its surroundings.

5 comments:

  1. What a beautiful place Connemara is! When I was a student I took my younger sister on a tour. We travelled from Dublin to Galway, then met some lovely people who took us on a tour. I will never forget the beauty of the landscapes, colour of the sea near Clifden, or the kindness of the people I met there. I do understand why you set your novels there, Paula. The area is breathtakingly beautiful!

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    1. Thanks, Marie. I fell in love with Connemara 10 years ago on my first visit there and have been back several times since then.

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  2. It looks such a beautiful place and I feel I know it so well from your novels. It's on my list of must-see places.

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    1. Thanks, Carol. It's Clifden's surroundings, with the mountains and the sea, that made it different from many other Irish towns.

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  3. Beautiful setting for your stories, Paula - makes me want to visit!

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