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Ireland is always one of my travel highlights for the year. If you missed my 2016 travel recap, you can read it here.

When we visit Ireland, it’s always to see family and friends and favorite places in Galway; it’s a city you just can’t miss, and surround Connemara and the Wild Atlantic Way are dear to our hearts for many reasons. We also usually try to take a side trip, either in Ireland or somewhere else in Europe. In the past, we’ve done Prague, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Brussels, and others, in addition to stays in Connemara and Sligo in Ireland. On our November trip to Galway, we headed north to Achill Island in County Mayo, and it was just the little getaway we needed.

Our home on Achill was the absolutely lovely Achill Island Hotel (Óstán Oileán Acla in Irish), situated in a place with 360 degree mountain and sea views. It was a simply stunning, quiet, peaceful location.

Achill Island Rooms were cozy and comfortable, country-style decoration with all of the modern conveniences you could want, including WiFi and a great big soaking tub, which I took advantage of after our drive from Galway through Connemara. 

Achill Island Hotel We visited Achill in November, which is sort of off-season, so one of the attractive features of the Achill Island Hotel was a restaurant on-property. It meant we didn’t have to search for what might be open when we arrived hungry in the evening!

seafood casserole

Not only was it convenient, but it turned out to be incredible. Compliments to the chef for some really delicious meals that utilized Irish ingredients like famed local seafood in my seafood medley dish. It was chock full of flavorful seafood atop mashed potatoes, maybe the best I have had.

Even in my stuffed state, I had to have an Irish coffee to finish the meal. It’s kind of an unwritten rule when we visit Ireland.

Irish Coffee

With full bellies, we decided to head out into the cool night for a walk along the main drag in Achill, which was quiet, with only a few people out and about. The most noise we heard was from sea birds in the sea next to the hotel, feeding at low tide. A few locals were putting Christmas lights on the stores, and it was just a very peaceful and good feeling all around. It also helped immensely to get some fresh air.

Before we retired to our rooms for a couple hours of chatting, we headed back to the hotel pub to try their local beer.

Achill Island Hotel

Brewed with seaweed, this Achill beer had a nice richness to it, and of course that hint of sea salt on the finish. It was really good, and it’s always fun to see what local products are being made around Ireland. Craft beer has really picked up, as has craft gin. 

Achill Irish Beer

After our cozy night in, we woke up to a stunning, calm day on Achill, with the below views out our bedroom window and the windows of the hotel’s breakfast room.

 Achill Island IMG_0276

Clew Bay

We stopped and admired the views for some time before checking out and taking off to explore Achill and more of the breathtaking Wild Atlantic Way for the day.

Achill Island is less than two hours from Galway and very near to Westport, another favorite town in the West of Ireland.  It will make you feel like you are a million miles from everything.

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Tags: Achill Island, coastal living, County Mayo, food blogger, Ireland, Mayo, Travel, travel blog, wild atlantic way

2015 was a huge travel year for us, with a safari in Africa, three trips to Ireland, trips to Myrtle Beach, Chicago, and more. When 2016 rolled around, between being a bit tired and also getting a new boat, we wanted to spend more time staying local, and with the exception of a couple of trips, we did just that.

January – I got to travel to beautiful Hampshire County Massachusetts for work and to stay in Amherst, soaking up the quiet magic that is January in the region. It was cold, but we warmed up by the Lord Jeff fireplaces and with perfectly made craft cocktails. This was, as it is titled, a perfect Massachusetts getaway.

The Lord Jeffery Inn

 

February – A dreamy trip to Luquillo and San Juan, Puerto Rico was one of the highlights of the year, so much so that we might return again in 2017. 

Boats, beaches, seafood, rum, music, and lots of sunshine made this the perfect getaway, an easy and direct JetBlue flight from Boston.

Outdoor Adventures in Puerto Rico

Icacos sailing

 

AprilA much-needed getaway to Maine with friends included a stay at the beautiful Hartstone Inn, hiking to the top of Mount Battie in Camden, and shopping in Freeport. I heart L.L. Bean. Maine is just glorious, and our April 2017 trip to Camden is already booked!

16 Bayview Camden Maine

June – Sharing my June trip (and one of the best of 2016) is certainly bittersweet, as the amazing publicist who organized it recently passed away. Florence Tambone brought me along on the most wonderful day to the North Fork of Long Island on Cross Sound Ferry, along with other writers, and I just had the best time, visiting Long Island wineries, learning to shuck oysters, visiting a gorgeous farm, and laughing all day long.  Lavender by the Bay was perhaps the most breathtaking experience of my year. Thanks to Florence and Cross Sound Ferry, the North Fork is one of my favorite getaways, and I will always, always think of her when I visit.

lavender fields in Long Island

 

July – Another work trip to Hampshire County gave me time to stay at Hotel Northampton and visit a favorite, Black Birch Vineyard. I’m hoping that 2017 brings more opportunities to visit Western Massachusetts, both for work and fun!

Black Birch Vineyard

August – My cousin got married in Asheville, NC, so we got to visit this beautiful area for the first time. Outdoor time, beer tasting, and family time made it a perfect summer trip.

horses in asheville

September – We traveled just up to Ipswich, MA for the last weekend of summer and rented the most incredible little waterside cottage. We spent a ton of time on the screened in porch, went to the private beach in the Little Neck community we were in, explored Newburyport, Essex, and Ipswich, and ate a ton of seafood. This cottage is definitely in future plans. I love New England summer!

(I caught the sunrise on the first morning; magical.)

sunrise in Ipswich

October – We traveled to Chicago for the Chicago Marathon, which was a disappointing run for me but an amazing trip overall. We absolutely loved the Thompson Chicago, and WE MET EDDIE VEDDER. Maybe the highlight of my year.

image

 

November – Our annual trip to Ireland for Thanksgiving included time on Achill Island as well as plenty of time to wander around Galway, eating and drinking and being merry. We loved Tribeton for cocktails, and I have so many more Ireland posts to come!

wild atlantic way ireland

December – We rounded out the year with a trip to Maine to visit friends who just moved there. It’s great to have another excuse to visit Portland!

We had the most amazing dinner at Sur Lie in Portland, and despite bitter cold temperatures spent some time outside taking in the stunning coastal vistas and lighthouses. Vacationland for sure.

Portland Head Light

There were lots of weekends boating to the Boston Harbor Islands and other places in Massachusetts, along with other little New England trips here and there. Looking back on 2016, we actually traveled more than I realized.

In 2017, we’ll be going to Tuscany for a wedding in July, look forward to MANY more boating adventures, trips to Maine, and hopefully a warm weather getaway, possibly Puerto Rico again.

Cheers to a wanderlust-satisfying 2017 for all!

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Tags: Achill, blogger, boating, Boston blogger, Camden, Galway, Ireland, Long Island, Long Island wine, Luquillo, Maine, New England, North Fork, Puerto Rico, travel blog, travel blogger, travel planning, wine blog, wine country

Many people plan visits to Ireland and focus mainly on Dublin, Killarney, and the Ring of Kerry. Those places are beautiful and well worth a visit, but our Ireland travel recommendations always take you west and north where towns like Galway and Westport  and Sligo are waiting to greet you with live music, booming food and beverage scenes, art, and wild, rugged coastal scenery.

If you’re a fan of the outdoors, visiting Connemara, outside of Galway is a must. Hiking in the West of Ireland is my favorite way to get away, and the beaches are some of the most pristine you will ever see.

Just north of Connemara you’ll find the incredibly beautiful Achill Island, a place for hiking, taking in the Wild Atlantic Way, finding cozy pubs, and enjoying the peace and beauty of the West Coast of Ireland. 

Achill Island Mayo Ireland

On our most recent trip to Ireland, we spent two days on Achill Island. On our first, we arrived to darkening, stormy skies, which made for a dramatic scene as we drove around looking for a smidgen of sunset. The sunset on the West Coast of Ireland is also a must-catch every night you can.

  achill island

Since we were losing light quickly, we explored by car, stopping to take in photos and to turn our faces to the cool rain. Irish rain feels so good. It makes my skin feel so hydrated, and I just feel alive in general when I am out in it!

 

 

achill sound 

Once the sun went down, we retired to our hotel for an amazing dinner. I’ll cover that in a future post.

The following morning brought quite a different scene as the sun came out, blue skies greeted us, and a calm sea looked like glass that went on forever. When you get days like this in Ireland, you get outside!

wild atlantic way ireland

Up and over the narrow mountain road we went, marveling at the beauty of the coastline. No matter how many times I visit Ireland, I never get tired of it. Each day brings a new view and a new perspective that makes me fall  in love all over again.

achill island

Achill Island views Achill Island Achill Island

Keem Beach Achill Island

From taking in the Achill Sound views from cliff tops to exploring Keem Beach on foot, we squeezed every ounce of beautiful weather out of the day, and silliness ensued as I tried (and failed) to get the perfect jump shot!

Achill Island

Keem Beach is a quiet stunner with the softest white sand and gentle surf. Next time we’ll bring a picnic, a book, and a thermos of something hot to enjoy an afternoon out there snacking and snoozing. I’m dreaming of this day already. . .

famine village

 Achill Island Ireland

Our Achill Island wanders then took us to the abandoned famine village of Dooagh, perched high upon a hill. About 40 houses once stood here around 1838. The inhabitants left no written accounts behind, and archaeologists have been discovering clues into their lives and disappearance, with some news about the villages coming out just this month.  Accounts suggest that it was the famine that drove inhabitants from the settlement, either by death or to live elsewhere, as happened with millions of Irish people during the time.

Achill Island

 Achill Island

Achill Island is very quiet; dark starry nights are punctuated by curls of turf-fire smoke from chimneys and the sounds of traditional music escaping local pub doors. Other than that, you’ll hear the lapping of waves, a few cars, and not much else. For me, this is the perfect place to be closer to nature and away from all of the stresses of the modern world. If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, step off the beaten tourist track and consider some of my favorite, less-frequented places for a truly memorable vacation.

For even more Ireland travel blog posts:

Afternoon Tea at the Meyrick Hotel
Ashford Castle
Ballyconneely

Ballynahinch Castle

Belfast in Photos

The Burren and Kinvara – hiking in Ireland

Bushmill’s Distillery

Colorful Images from Ireland

Giant’s Causeway and North Antrim

Galway Saturday Market
Galway – Spirit One Spa and Sheridan’s Wine Bar
Hiking in Connemara

Hiking Errisbeg in Roundstone

Kinsale, Ireland’s Gourmet Capital

Kylemore Abbey

O’Grady’s Barna Pier

Photos of Galway

Sligo

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Tags: Achill Island, blog, Ireland, Ireland blog posts, Mayo, Travel, travel blog, travel blogger, wild atlantic way

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