Although The Wild Atlantic boasts both hidden treasures and iconic locations for tourists, there is one Gaeltacht-based stop-off point worth mentioning above the rest: The Celtic Crystal Centre in Connemara.
Here, you can simultaneously take in the idyllic scenery, learn how handcrafted crystal is made, shop for authentic Irish gifts, and educate yourself on a successful local business – all in one afternoon.
Located just 10 minutes from Galway City, the award-winning Celtic Crystal is located in the village of Moycullen Gaeltacht – an Irish-speaking townland – on the site of the old railway station.
Celtic Crystal was founded in 1972 by the late Mary Munnelly, whose roots are in Kilnamona County Clare. Her competitive streak and enterprising nous may have developed early; she won several All-Ireland titles for cycling in the 1940s and ‘50s. Her legacy now, however, is in the hands of her son Aengus and his wife Fiona.
The family business remains one of the last crystal factories in Ireland today and is only a prime opportunity to view the creation – freehand and recalled from memory – of traditional Irish crystal design.
The firm employs 20 local people and proudly advertises its “authentic insight into the Connemara history of Irish craft and heritage”.
At Celtic Crystal, master craftsmen hand-cut exquisite, Celtic designs including “Cross of Cong”, ”Claddagh Ring” and “Brian Boru Harp” from memory, without the use of stencils or patterns, using traditional, stone cutting wheels.
Being individually handcrafted, all pieces of Connemara Celtic Crystal are truly one-of-a-kind.
There is also an opportunity to acquire unique limited edition pieces in both clear and colourful cased crystal. These are signed and dated by the master who created them, accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.
A large range of lamps, chandeliers and crystal jewellery are showcased in the showroom and are also available online.
There also exists a mail-order facility, where purchases can be shipped and insured worldwide.
In 2020, an additional jewel in Connemara Crystal’s crown will be the Glasshouse Café – a modern 80-seat café which will be located above the Crystal Gallery offering the flavours of Connemara.
The ranges range from free and straightforward to the more pricey and immersive options: Free of charge, a short, glass cutting demonstration is available, while at the other end of the price scale, you’ll find the Ultimate Master cutter Experience.
Suitable for 2 people, the tour, which lasts over 2 hours and costs €345 along with a specially made piece, includes a tour of Crystal Gallery, introduction to experienced Master Cutter and short demonstration. Visitors can then choose a piece of crystal, plan a unique design, then watch on as the design is brought to life.