Carraroe (An Cheathrú Rua, "The Red Quarter") is a tiny village which is nevertheless the largest settlement on the Carraroe / Cheathrú Rua Peninsula of Connemara in County Galway. Just across the channel east is the harbour of Rossaveel, while across the channel west are a chain of islands that have become connected by causeway, linking Lettermore, Lettermullan and Furnish. For convenience all these places are described here, as well as the road west through Rosmuc and Carna.
R336 is the lane west along the coast from Galway via Spiddal to Rossaveel and Costello. From there R343 branches south down the Carraroe peninsula, R374 goes west to cross the chain of islands, while R336 continues north to Maam Cross.
Bus 424 runs every hour or two from Galway to Salthill, Spiddal, Inverin (for flights to the Aran Islands), Rossaveel (connecting with the ferries), Costello and 2 Carraroe (75 min). Three buses a day continue to 3 Lettermore and 4 Lettermullan on the islands.
You need a car or boat. Or cycle at a pinch; it's odd how whichever way you cycle, the Atlantic breeze is always against you.
Carraroe's geography is straightforward, with one main road to the village. A back lane through Derrarthra and Toureen is a short cut towards the islands road, with a side lane crossing to Rossroe Island, which is just a farm.
The chain of islands is collectively known as Ceantar na nOileán - "Islands Area", which on a coast strewn with islands doesn't help a great deal. The name Gorumna is also used but since that can mean the largest of the chain, or the main group of three, or the entire archipelago, you're none the wiser. The R374 which links them is a good paved road wide enough for two farm trucks to hurtle past each other, but no sidewalk. It starts from the mainland at Bealadangan.
- - Annaghavane Island, first in the chain, has The Hooker Bar and the Connemara Isles Golf Club.
- - Lettermore is the second island and also the name of its village. Leitir is Irish for a rough hillside, so it's common in placenames, and "Lettermore" means the big rough hillside.
- - Teeranea or Gorumna is the largest, thinly populated.
- - Lettermullan is the third island and the name of its village. So it's yet another rough hillside, which perhaps once had a mill. Beyond the village, the broad road dwindles to a single track lane.
- - An Crappach to the west and Furnish to the north are linked by lanes from Lettermullan. The public roads end there, but from Furnish at low tide you can walk across to unpopulated Inisherk and Dinish.
- 1 Coral Strand, at the south end of the lane through Carraroe, is a beach is made of maerl, which is Ireland's equivalent of coral reef. Certain species of algae accumulate limestone and build up into a branching seabed structure in cold waters. There are maerl deposits all around the Irish and British coasts but especially in Galway Bay. The algae need sunlight so the maerl grows at 10-30 m depth in these waters. That's shallow enough to be uprooted by Atlantic storms, whereupon they're cast up to form coral beaches, such as this fine example. Wear firm shoes if you walk on it! - which you may, as what's on the beach is no longer a living structure, and it's sharp but not stinging. If you're lucky the toilets will be unlocked, there are no other facilities. Maerl can be crushed to make fertiliser, especially to counteract acid soil, so the beds have been dredged commercially. A modern dredger can make very short work of a bed that may have taken thousands of years to grow. It's a non-renewable resource and habitat that shelters juvenile fish such as cod, saithe and pollack, and there are many alternative sources of lime for fertiliser, so there's pressure for dredging to be stopped.
- 2 Doleen Harbour is another maerl or coral beach south of Carraroe. No beach facilities; the access lane is asphalt but narrow and hemmed in by dry-stone walls, just pray you don't meet a tractor or a minibus.
- 3 Teeranea Chapel is a ruin near the east coast of that island.
- 4 Holy Well of St Anne is by Lough Naffiddaun. It was reputed to cure various ailments, and there's a pilgrimage here on that saint's day, 26 July.
- 5 Teeranea Coral Strand is a maerl beach at the south of the island. You can drive further down the lane to the little harbour.
- Lettermullan Heritage Museum (Ionad Oidhreachta Leitir Mealláin), Lettermullan village centre. Small local history museum. Donation.
- 6 Lettermullan Signal Tower is one of a series of lookouts built 1806-08 against Napoleonic incursions. It exchanged signals by flag with others, such as the tower on Inis Mór seen to the south. Lettermullan signal tower is best admired at a distance as it's on a tidal islet which you can only get onto by wading through seaweed at the bottom of the tide.
You can't write it like that
Patrick Pearse trained as a lawyer. He only conducted one case as a barrister, which he famously lost. In 1905 Niall Mac Giolla Bhríde of Donegal displayed his name on his cart in Irish, which was deemed illegible in UK law. He was fined for doing so, refused to pay, and fined again. The effect was to render the Irish language and script illegal in Ireland, so it was contested all the way up to the King's Bench in Dublin. The Attorney-General decided the prosecution didn't have a case . . . so the Lord Chief Justice convicted anyway, a blatant political decision. More and more Irish signs went up in protest, till the police were instructed not to pursue any more offenders.
- 7 Pearse Cultural Centre (Ionad Cultúrtha an Phiarsaigh), Rosmuck H91 DW9A (on R340). Daily mid-Mar-Oct 10:00-18:00, Nov-mid-Mar 10:00-16:00. History and culture of Connemara, and its influence on Patrick Pearse (1879-1916), executed for his part in the Easter Rising. Adult €5.
- The road north from Costello leads to Maam Cross, junction with N59 - turn onto it for Clifden. But branch off west on to a slow winding route past the Pearse Centre, the small peninsula of Rosmuc and looping round the larger peninsula of Carna - this route is marketed as the Wild Atlantic Way. The headlands further west towards Ballyconneely are described as part of Clifden.
- 1 Connemara Isles Golf Club, Annaghavane Island, ☏ . Nine-hole course, €20 to play all day, and better tote a bucketful of golf balls if you try to carry the water hazards. The "19th hole" clubhouse is a thatched cottage.
- In Carraroe, Eurospar is the convenience store, with a bakery, off-licence and ATM. It's open M-Sa 08:00-21:00, Su 08:30-20:00.
- Carraroe also has a pharmacy, open M-Sa 09:00-18:00.
- Lettermore Centra supermarket is open M-Sa 08:00-22:00, Su 08:30-20:00.
- 1 Carraroe Chinese Restaurant (Royal Garden Oriental Restaurant), ☏ .
- Bia Blasta Cafe in Carraroe village is open daily 09:00-18:00.
- 2 An Chlúid (The Conclusion), Tiernee, Teeranea. M-F 09:30-14:30. Light lunches, snacks and cuppas.
- Connemara Brewing Company is in Carraroe. They produce a lager and a pale ale plus seasonal special brews. They don't offer brewery tours.
- 1 An Chistin. Carraroe village pub also serves food.
- 2 Hooker Bar (Tigh Mhichael Jack), Annaghavane Island, ☏ . Friendly charming pub, serves food.
- 3 Tigh Lee. Welcoming pub just before the bridge from Teeranea island to Lettermullan.
- 1 Donoghue's B&B, R343 (just before Loughainwillan), ☏ . Decent B&B.
- Gite Connemara, firstname.lastname@example.org. A self-catering cottage in Carraroe, 3 bedrooms, sleeps 8, mais uniquement en français, pour une raison mystérieuse.
- 2 Carraroe House B&B, ☏ , email@example.com. Friendly small B&B in mid-village. B&B double from €80.
- Carraroe Hotel closed in 2020, the owners have retired and the property is for sale.
- 3 Bayview B&B, Teeranea, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. B&B, can do dinner with notice. B&B double €80.
Poor mobile coverage here: as of June 2021 you might manage a call with Three, but not with Eir or Vodafone, and you won't get 4G.
Either east back towards Galway, or north and west across the stony fields of Connemara.