For Brendan's birthday we took the bus out to Connemara National Park for a night, and everything about our mini-holiday was perfect. The weather was crisp and clear, we had nice meals in the Letterfrack pubs (Veldon's and the Bard's Den; the latter has a slightly more gourmet menu, but the staff is friendlier at Veldon's), and we went for the most exhilarating walk up Diamond Hill, a.k.a. Bengoora, the smallest of the Twelve Bens. (You can see the rest of them in the background in the photo above.)
We stayed at a wonderful hostel, The Old Monastery, which hasn't changed at all since I was there with my sister back in 2003. As Brendan said, it's everything a hostel should be, but seldom is: very bohemian (antiques and taxidermies, animal bones hanging on a wall strung with red Christmas lights, a cozy common room with an open fire), clean enough (it's the kind of place that will always have a few cobwebs in the corner), with a friendly welcome and meals included. (A breakfast of porridge and scones is always complimentary, though the hot-pot at dinnertime might have been a one-off—delicious meat-and-potato stew, Brendan's dinner #1.)
Here he is showing off the gloves I made him for his birthday (I didn't make the hat, he got it at O'Maille's):
The scarf was his birthday gift last year. Here's a shot taken on the way down Diamond Hill:
And here's the waterfall on the Ellis Wood nature trail, which is only half a kilometer long:
There weren't many people around (I think half the people we did see were locals), which is all the more reason to come. As you can see, Connemara is just as beautiful in winter—so long as the sun's shining!