(IRISH INDEPENDENT, January 29th, 2016)
The road curves languidly round a rugged coastline as you drive into Roundstone, a charming fishing village and gateway to Connemara in Co Galway. One long narrow street awaits you, its buildings all higgledy and colourful; an old stone harbour and a sweeping panorama, houses on one side, the sea wall and piers on the other, and the magnificent Twelve Bens providing the backdrop.
Roundstone is a great place to live, but equally great to visit – especially if you own a holiday home in a village once cheekily described as “D4-on-sea” because of the number of professional people from the capital with holiday boltholes here.
These, and tourists in general who flock here from St Patrick’s weekend onwards, come for the deep-sea fishing and angling, trekking, cycling, golfing and generally relaxing away from it all.
And to dine on succulent shrimps, plump scallops and mouth-watering lobster, landed at the local pier, and washed down with a cream pint in the likes of O’Dowd’s pub and restaurant overlooking the harbour.
Constructed in 2003 to an olde worlde ‘chocolate box’ design, the property at 4 The Cottages is priced at €299,000 through agents DNG Martin O’Connor (091-866708). On just under half an acre of ground, the three-bedroom dwelling is on an elevated site and within walking distance of the village. Modern construction means it doesn’t have the problems sometimes thrown up by period properties.
Enter into the tiled hall with pine staircase through a pretty red traditional half-door. The sitting room has dual aspect windows, timber flooring and an open fire.
The kitchen/dining room has French doors opening on to a decent decking area, and there’s a utility room off the kitchen.
There are three bedrooms, two of which are good sized doubles, and a stylish bathroom with tiled floor and bath surround. There’s also a second bathroom on this floor.
Outside, there’s parking, a patio and a small storage shed.
Roundstone was founded in the mid 1820s by the celebrated Scottish engineer Alexander Nimmo who, as engineer for the Western District, built houses, roads and harbours throughout the West of Ireland.
The name of the village comes from the Irish ‘Cloch Na Ron’ or Rock of the Seals
Two miles from Roundstone, on the road to Ballyconneely, are two excellent beaches, Gurteen Beach, the larger, and Dog’s Bay, famous for its Foraminiferal Sands made of millions of microscopic shells. It is a stunning beach with its bright white sands and crystal blue water.
What to do
A great favourite with walkers is the Tour de Bog circuit. Going through Ballyconneely, turn right at Ballinaboy on to a quieter road across the bog, and then turn right again at Toombeola, and back to Roundstone.
There are great views of the Twelve Bens to the left. Errisbeg Hill behind the village is also hugely popular for treks and walks.
Roundstone harbour has an abundance of mackerel shoals in the summer for anglers. Dog’s Bay and Gurteen beaches are good for flatfish, while the headland further out offers good fishing for pollack, gurnard and conger eel. A boat can be chartered for a day’s fishing from the harbour in the village.
There are numerous rivers and lakes around the village which offer the fresh water opportunities to catch salmon, brown trout, rainbow trout and eels.
In summer, both the village’s bays are bustling with yachts, dinghies, small pleasure craft and windsurfing enthusiasts. Gurteen and Dog’s Bay are ideal for windsurfing, canoeing, snorkelling, scuba diving and sailing.
There’s pony trekking in Clifden and Ballyconneely, five and 10 miles away respectively.
Roundstone is known as a home for creativity and the arts. For many years some of the most important figures in Irish art have painted there, including Paul Henry, Jack B. Yeats, Gerard Dillon and Nano Reid.
Today, there are also galleries such as Yvonne King’s Studio and the Stable Gallery, which features more contemporary art. Artists also exhibit in the local bars and hotels.
Roundstone Ceramics, run by Seamus Laffen and Rose O’Toole, has established an international reputation for its hand-crafted and hand-painted pottery. Malachy Kearns’s bodhran and craft factory is another popular attraction.
Roundstone Arts Week in late June and early July has a packed programme of events, including writers’ workshops, art exhibitions, trad sessions, drama and activities for children.
Every Wednesday night in the Upper Community Hall, Christina Lowry hosts her Traditional Irish Nights, of music, song and Irish dancing, and is very popular with tourists.
The Roundstone Regatta in July sees the town really burst into colour and life as the distinctive rust-red sails of the Galway Hooker and flashing oars of the currach draw participants and spectators from across Ireland and even from beyond the Atlantic. These traditional sailing and rowing vessels, once used for hauling, now race for glory across Roundstone’s picturesque Bertraghboy Bay.
Food and drink
O’Dowd’s, run by the same family for five generations, is famed for its chowder, and Rebecca Burr, writing in the 2015 Michelin ‘Eating out in Pubs’ Guide, noted: “You get great simple food like crab claws, a pint of Guinness and the atmosphere hits you as soon as you walk in the door.”
Their coffee shop next door was, apparently, a favourite of marine biologist and TV presenter Monty Halls when he was filming his Great Irish Escape in 2011. And, yes, his famous dog Reuben was welcome.
The Shamrock Bar on the main street also has a wine, whiskey and local craft beer selection to go with your food, and regular live music.
Also doing great seafood is the Roundstone House Hotel, run by the Vaughan family for over a 100 years, with open turf fire, and Eldon’s Hotel and Beola Restaurant.
Attracting artists, poets, artisans and musicians; posh Dublin on breaks and sailing set geansies by the boatload.
What’s not to like
- Gaeltacht status means signage for the local beaches is in Irish only which can be somewhat confusing for foreigners and quite a few Dubs.
- Numbers of well to do folk living here has pushed up property prices.