LIVING IN THE WEST OF IRELAND
The population of Ireland is approximately 4 million people, with over a million of those living in Dublin and nearly a further million living in the greater Dublin area. Cork is the second largest city with Galway and Limerick each tieing for third place. Outside of these major cities the population is spread through a number of larger towns with small villages and hamlets sparsely interspersed between them. The population of the west of Ireland is still predominantly Irish with many returning immigrants now availing of the improved prospects and considerable advantages of living in this delightful region. But they have now been joined by a number of American, English, French, Swiss, Dutch and German immigrants who now give the area a delightfully cosmopolitan influence.
The West of Ireland is one of the last unspoiled areas of Western Europe with virtually no pollution outside the cities, no acid rain, and a relaxed lifestyle where you are inclined to measure your day not by its achievements but by your encounters. Here you will experience some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in Europe with wide, and usually deserted, sandy beaches interspersed with quays and jetties for boating and fishing dotted along the rocky coastline which stretches from Galway city in the south to Westport in the north.
Connemara is the area of western Galway county between Lough Corrib and the Atlantic Ocean, an area of towering mountain ranges in the interior, flanked by bogs and a myriad of lakes, where the traditional cultures and language of the Irish still flourish. The landscape you see today is the result of 750 million years of evolution, with a number of ice ages creating the glaciation, which only 10,000 years ago, covered the mountains in ice sheets. With the end of the last ice age, the area was colonised by plants, animals and, finally, humans, who gave their tribal name to this grand wild landscape.
The areas immediately west of Galway city comprise a web of dry stone walls enclosing small pastures, with many rock outcrops, with a mixture of modern and traditional cottages and houses dotted along on the coastline and views of the Aran Islands in the distance. Further west the coastline becomes more convoluted leading to many small islands and promontories which extend into Galway Bay and the Atlantic. Beyond these you have the Carna/Kilkerrin region with further islands close to the shore, some of which are connected to the mainland by roads and many of which are still inhabited. Further north west the popular village of Roundstone is home to an active summer population which avail of the fishing, sailing and other water sports for which this village is well known. Between Roundstone and Clifden stretches a mass of low lying bogs and lakes which is largely uninhabited while the coast road extends around to Ballyconneely which is a popular destination for both summer and all year round residents.
The market town of Clifden, the capital of Connemara, is easily reached from Galway and Oughterard by the main N59 which is currently being upgraded along much of its length. The coastal area north of Clifden has a number of extremely scenic and hilly peninsulas, nearly all of which are accessible by road, providing delightful touring country as the roads shadow the shorelines. The villages of Claddaghduff, Cleggan and Letterfrack provide a wide range of shops, pubs and other facilities. North of Letterfrack the Rinvyle peninsula provides some of the best beaches in the whole area and even in the height of summer you would have an abundant choice of sparsely populated sand.
Killary Harbour, which is approximately 10 miles long, is the only natural fjord in Ireland and separates the Maamturk mountains and the famous Twelve Pins of Connemara from the Mweelrea Mountains and the Sheefry Hills to the north. Leenaun is picturesquely situated at the head of the harbour and from here you can drive back through Joyces Country to Maam, with a choice of extending around the top of Lough Corrib to Clonbur Cong and back to Galway or cutting across country to the main Galway/Clifden road.
Lough Corrib extends from Galway City to Maam, a distance of some 40 miles and, at its widest point is approximately 8 miles wide. The lake has hundreds of rocky islands, a few of which are still inhabited and some of which are now connected by causeways to the shore. Boat services operate from both Galway City and between Oughterard and Cong, visiting the island of Inchagoill where, amongst the ruined churches there, is the oldest carved cross outside of Rome.
To the north of Lough Corrib is Lough Mask which is a softer lake than Lough Corrib with fewer islands and gentle sandy shores, famous for its pike fishing and with a number of signposted access points where you will find a sandy beach and little sign of any human intrusion. Toormakeady on the western shore of Lough Mask is the largest village in that area with a range of pubs, accommodation and shops.
Cong is a popular village on the north shore of Lough Corrib with a great archaeological history and also attracting many visitors because of its connections with the film "The Quiet Man" substantially filmed around that area during the 1950’s. Cong is some 8 miles from the market town of Ballinrobe, which sits inland on the eastern shore of Lough Mask, and, with its delightful racecourse and extensive facilities, is on the main Galway/Castlebar road. South of Ballinrobe, where green fields are dotted with drumlins and an intricacy of stone walls, with distant views of the Connemara mountains across the lake, lies the market town of Headford with a good range of commercial and retail facilities.
Galway, the city of the Tribes, is within easy reach of most of the region and has for some years been the fastest growing city in Western Europe, with a modern and thriving technology led industrial base. The inner city area is an eclectic cocktail of culture, music and arts, but with all the modern facilities of a regional centre with a strong university presence and a predominantly younger population. When visiting Galway and crossing one of the four bridges in the city, it is worth remembering that Lough Carra and Lough Nafooey feed into Lough Mask, which in turn feeds into Lough Corrib and that all the water from this great lake system passes under those bridges in Galway city !
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Lough Corrib is an internationally renowned brown trout fishery and, together with Loughs Mask, Carra and Nafooey, plus hundreds of smaller lakes, creates a mecca for the fishermen with an abundant choice of both coarse and game fishing throughout the year. The trout and salmon season starts on February 15th and runs until September 30th. Even in the height of the fishing season, the choice and size of the lakes available means that a day’s fishing will be a relaxed affair. You may stop to cook lunch on one of the many islands in the lakes, with plenty of time to appreciate the beauty of the lake and mountain scenery around you and with only the occasional glimpse of another boat in the distance. In the evenings the pubs in the lakeside villages are vibrant with tall stories about the days encounters and accommodation is just a short walk away.
In addition to the fishing, there are in this most westerly point of Europe, with long summer days, no end of activities which can be enjoyed and all are within easy reach. There are golf courses at Oughterard and a further six within an hours drive of that village whilst the Connemara Golf Club at Ballyconneely has its devotees as they play amongst Atlantic spray. You can spend your day sailing, canoeing, walking, cycling, pony trekking, windsurfing, scuba diving or mountain climbing. Alternatively, you can drive in virtually any direction and appreciate the spectacular scenery which dominates the whole area, with an abundant choice of places to pull off the road and while away an hour or two writing, sketching or just contemplating the landscape with only the sounds of nature around you.
Wherever you go, you have the assurance of a fine meal at the end of the day in one of the many good restaurants which are situated, mainly around the coast, but generally throughout the region. There are few places in the world, where a day spent on a sandy beach, sailing in the sea or fishing on the lake, can be better enjoyed than in Connemara, where the winds from the Atlantic mingle with the peat smoke and the pubs are filled with laughter and a wide range of both traditional and modern music.
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Being on the West Coast of Ireland, where you are never far from the Atlantic Ocean, the climate is considerably influenced by the Gulf Stream, so that winter and summer temperatures rarely vary by more than 10° centigrade. Winter temperatures are usually mild, frost infrequent and snow rarely seen, except on the mountains. Ireland is renowned for its rainy days, or soft days as they are called here, but the rainfall varies greatly depending on proximity to the mountains. For example, the annual rainfall in the Maam Valley is approximately 3 times as much as it is in Galway City, which is only some 40 miles away. With its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and its mountain ranges, the weather in the west of Ireland can change quickly and often does, but this results in the lushness of the vegetation and the general health of the numerous streams and rivers which feed the lakes which dot this landscape.
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The nearest major international airport is Shannon which is approximately 1˝ hours drive from Galway City. From Shannon there are regular daily flights, both transatlantic to the United States, and to some European capitals. Knock International Airport at Charlestown, Co. Mayo is also approximately 1˝ hours drive and there are frequent flights from Knock to a number of destinations in the UK & Europe. Dublin Airport is approximately 2˝ hours drive, along the recently completed M6 motorway and the M50 peripheral motorway which skirts the western side of Dublin from the N1 Belfast Road to the N11 Wexford road.
Both Galway and Westport are served by mainline railway facilities, with direct connections to Dublin and intermediate stops along the routes.
Bus transport is both popular and competitive, with express services to most other cities in Ireland, and local routes serving both the commuter areas of Galway City and the rural areas.
Galway is connected by the following major roads or National routes:
M6 to Athlone and Dublin
N17 to Claremorris and Sligo
N18 to Shannon, Limerick, Killarney and Cork
N59 to Oughterard, Clifden and Westport
N63 to Roscommon and Longford
N67 to The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher
N84 to Claremorris and Castlebar
Substantial investment, with the assistance of European Community funding, has resulted in major improvements to many of the National routes in rural Ireland, and this programme is continuing.
The area in which Spencer Auctioneers operates, being bordered by Galway, Carraroe, Clifden and Cong, has a number of Gaeltacht or Irish speaking areas, although everybody speaks English in those areas, but some prefer to keep to their native tongue. The only disadvantage for the traveller in these areas is that the signposts are in Irish but most of the ordinance survey and other maps available have most of the placenames in both English and Irish. The fact that the signposts are in a mixture of miles and kilometers adds further spice to any journey, but all the speed limit signs are in kilometers per hour.
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SCHOOLING IN THE WEST OF IRELAND
Oughterard over the past few years has seen tremendous growth in its population and, like Clifden and Headford, it is also a centre of education for the surrounding villages. At present, Oughterard has two primary schools, where children attend from the age of four to around twelve years of age. Children start in baby infants where they learn the basics of reading and writing, next onto senior infants, then onto to Secondary school, with classes from first year to sixth year.
Some schools are mixed throughout the entire primary or national school period, however the school in Oughterard is split from second class onwards where the boys attend the National School for boys while the girls remain at the Convent of Mercy National School. However these two schools are soon to be amalgamated into one co-educational school, allowing a pooling of resources to create an overall finer education structure and providing the best facilities available.
Most primary school terms start in early September and finish at the end of June, with class starting at 9.00 a.m. and usually finishing at around 2.30 p.m. with morning and lunch breaks during the day. There are holiday and mid-term breaks throughout the year at Halloween, Christmas, Easter and a long summer break. There are also a number of smaller junior national schools from which children progress to secondary school in Oughterard. Four miles from the village on the Clifden road is the National School at Derryglen/Leam, which is a single teacher school with one assistant, catering for around 20 students. Both Tullykyne and Callownamuc, which are north of Moycullen and Rosscahill, both have small National Schools, which cater for their surrounding areas, while Rosscahill has St Annin's National School with a larger number of students.
Similarily, there are a number of National Schools at Kingstown, Cleggan, Letterfrack, Ballyconneely, Roundstone and Leenaun from which children progress to the secondary school in Clifden.
Secondary school terms start in early September and finish at the end of May, with the school day starting at 9.00 a.m. and finishing around 4.00 p.m. In the third year the first major examination, the Junior Certificate, is taken where exams are taken in all subjects. The student then progresses through fourth and fifth year, taking the final major exam, or Leaving Certificate, in the sixth year. Grades are given for every exam taken for this certificate and these are awarded points, which, if sufficient, qualify the student to progress to college. The points required to achieve a college place varies according to the type of course envisaged and the demand for that course in that year.
The Sisters of Mercy play a major role in the provision of education in the Oughterard area, with a modern secondary school built five years ago and which now has over 400 students. Most students from the Moycullen area junior schools attend schools in Galway City while others attend an all-Irish school at Spiddle. All of the schools in the area have public transport provided by CIE the National Bus Company.
We have included a list of all the schools in the area in which we operate in "USEFUL ADDRESSES AND CONTACT POINTS"
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TAX & OTHER CHARGES
Income tax is charged, with effect from 6th April, 2000, at a basic rate of 20% with a top rate of 42%, but for incoming residents retaining their foreign domicile, investment income earned outside Ireland is only taxable in Ireland if remitted here. In practice, many incoming residents only pay tax on Irish source income.
VAT in Ireland is at four rates, namely zero rate, 9%, 13.5% and 21%. You will be charged tax at 21% on most professional services related to property, such as auctioneers, architects, solicitors etc.
Rates are not currently charged on residential property but they are on commercial property payable in two half yearly intallments. On non principal private residences, there is an annual charge of €200 but on any property which is a principal private residence, there is not taxation. There is no council tax or any other form of rates on residential property in Ireland and most services are provided by the local council, with the exception of refuse collection.
Stamp duty is charged on many property transactions and details of this are given in Spencer’s Guide to Buying Houses and Other Property.
There are currently no water charges in many areas of the west of Ireland except where there are group water schemes (where a community creates its own piped water supply) where there is a small annual charge. In the most rural areas many existing houses will take their water from a well or bore hole which is usually, but not always, within the confines of the property itself or from one of the many freshwater lakes.
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Spencer Auctioneers, Main Street, Oughterard, Co. Galway, Ireland.
Tel: +353 91 552999 / Fax: +353 91 552990
Email: email@example.com / Web: www.spencerauctioneers.com