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Into the West via The Mighty Midlands (The Heart of Ireland)

The days of taking a handy jaunt down to the West of Ireland for a weekend break have long gone. The road to the west from Dublin can be a Roundstone Harbour, Co. Galway, Irelandnightmare due to traffic congestion. There are two solutions to avoid a stressful journey - go mid-week where the journey to the west can be achieved in a few hours, or break up your journey by taking a break in the beautiful Heart of Ireland. Georgina Campbell gives her advice on how to make a trip to the west a more relaxing one.

Heading West ‘Beating the traffic’ has become a keenly competitive sport for those who cross Ireland regularly, as major road works on the main Dublin-Galway road have made this a pretty tedious journey for anyone in a hurry. But, instead of trying to find ways of getting there faster, perhaps a different solution lies in seeing the opportunities offered by the heart of Ireland (otherwise less romantically known as the midlands) and slowingBoat on the River Shannon, Glasson  Golf Hotel, Glasson, Co. Westmeath, Ireland down properly to the kind of pace that makes travelling a pleasure.

It may seem obvious, but the first part of the plan should be to avoid leaving Dublin on Friday afternoon – and preferably not on Friday at all. Instead, leave on Thursday, even if you don’t have time to go very far – a stopover at Maynooth or Enfield could be very restful, for example, so you’ll be fresh and feel that you’re really beginning your break on Friday morning (especially if you can slow down enough to enjoy the leisurely breakfast that tells you without question that you are now on holiday).
Wineport Lodge, Glasson, Co. Westmeath, Ireland
Next day, both Athlone and Mullingar offer great places to stop off for lunch - or, if you can get as far as that on your first night, there are lovely waterside places to stay at, for example, Glasson (or even Athlone town centre, right on the Shannon), or at Multyfarnham, near Mullingar, where you could sleep just a meadow’s walk away from Lough Derravarragh, where the Children of Lir spent 300 years of their 900 year exile…

Once you cross the mighty Shannon I defy anyone to deny that their heart feels perceptibly lighter – it happens every time. And then, as the landscape changes to a more rugged pattern of smaller fields and dry stone walls, it just goes on getting better. You could stop for a bite in Ballinasloe, perhaps, and wander down to their new marina area for a stretch,
Clew Bay, Co. Galway, Ireland
Further west, the choices get trickier: to turn right, up towards the great scenic magnet of Connemara – yes, a brilliant choice, if you have a few days to spare around Oughterard, Letterfrack, Clifden and beyond – to head straight on for the buzz of Galway city, or to be lured to the left, for a waterside bite at Kilcolgan perhaps, and then on to Kinvara or beyond, to Ballyvaughan, in County Clare? One thing is certain: whichever course you choose, there are great places to eat and stay. Stress? What stress?

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