Connemara Country Byways

Trip Start Jul 16, 2011
Trip End Jul 31, 2011

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Flag of Ireland  , Western Ireland,
Thursday, July 28, 2011

We got up at 7:45 and had breakfast at 8:30. Erin had poached eggs on toast and I had scrambled eggs and bacon.  The eggs came from the chickens that live in the garden up the hill behind the house.  We had muesli too with juice and tea.  When our plates came they were decorated with an orange nasturtium which is an edible flower.  I ate mine and Erin's.  After breakfast we went to the Super Valu and got chicken sandwiches and apples for lunch and replenished our supply of McVitty’s Biscuits.  Then we headed up the Sky Road just north of Clifden.  It was narrow and aptly named.  At times it felt as if over the next rise we would be in the sky.  The views were expansive and pretty good despite the early morning clouds.  When finished that drive we did the loop drive suggested by Rick Steves.  We drove south along the ocean.  It was low tide and still cloudy so the views were good but not great.  To get back to Clifden we cut through on a local road.  This part of the drive was more scenic.  Today the clouds had lifted enough that we could see the lakes and mountains found everywhere south of Clifden.  The mountains in this part of the Connemara Peninsula are called the Twelve Pins or in Irish the Twelve Bens.  We are very much taken with these mountains.  There are more mountains and higher mountains than we expected.  We marveled all day long at this wonderful surprise. 

When we got back to Clifden from this Country Byway we decided to eat our lunch inn front of Sea Mist House at the patio table in the front yard.  After lunch we headed north on N59 to Connemara National Park.  They have a visitor’s center with great exhibits.  We read all the exhibits and even took pictures of some of them to help us appreciate this unique area of Ireland.  We read about the cutting of peat to use as fuel – which some still do.  There was an interesting exhibit on the roads they used to make through the peat bogs.  They would actually find pine logs in the bogs and use them for roads and for making roofs for stone houses and tools of all kinds.  There are few trees able to exist in the bog.  We also learned that the bogs were formed in response to the continual burning of the land by early peoples in order to create farm land.  This combined with climate change created the bogs that once covered 20% of Ireland.  We bought a map of the hike up Diamond Hill for Saturday on our way back to Shannon Airport.  I am feeling better but neither of us had the energy to do it today.  When we left the National Park we drove past an area where they are still digging peat out of the bog. 

Our next stop was Kylemore Abbey.  It was an estate built by an Englishman for his wife.  They had honeymooned in Connemara and she fell in love with the area.  So Mr. Henry bought it for his wife.  The house is very large and sits at the base of a mountain beside a lake.  A mile from the house is the largest walled Victorian garden in Ireland and it was well worth the time to tour it.  They ran shuttle buses between the house and the garden.  When Mr. Henry’s wife died at a young age of dysentery in Egypt, he built a gothic church 400 meters from the house as a memorial.  The property changed hands many times due to financial problems but in 1920 some displaced Belgian Benedictine nuns bought the estate at a remarkable low price.  They had been displaced by World War II.  They began an International boarding school for girls which just closed in June 2010.  Since they are mostly a cloistered order (don’t go out to minister) we could not tour much of the house (now called an abbey).  What we did see was well preserved.  The gardens are being restored to the original plantings.  There are statues all over the grounds now, even a large statue of the Sacred Heart up behind the abbey on the mountain.  We ended our visit with ice cream cones.  The ice cream was from Adare where we began our journey.  Erin had vanilla and I had rum raisin.  Both were excellent.  

Our next country byway was along the Killary Fiord, the only fiord in Ireland.  We drove all along the south shore and then around the end into County Mayo to a waterfall.  We decided to turn around there and head back to Clifden via R344 which went through a valley between the mountains with lots of lakes and sheep.  We have seen more sheep on the road today than any other day.  The drive down 344 was awesome.  It reminded us both of southern Montana, except for the sheep everywhere.  We got back to Sea Mist House about 6:00.  We went upstairs and got our computers and headed for Kings to use the internet and eat supper.  Erin had Beef and Guiness Casserole and I Lamb Stew.  They both came in very large bowls.  It was too hot to eat at first.  I have posted two new blogs and have now finished today as far as I can.

We just got back from listening to the most incredible teenage boys play at Griffins Pub.  They are the Hernon Brothers and they play the accordion, flute, and fiddle.  When we came in they were accompanied by a banjo.  In the course of the evening they were joined by a Bohdrahn player, a guitarist from Scotland who could really sing, a woman who sang ballads without accompaniment, and her daughter who did Irish Dancing, as did two of the three young men.  They were so high energy that we didn’t want to leave to see who else was playing tonight.  We got back here about 11:00.
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Toni on

Yes, I see you in that mirror, there. LOL

peggy on

Can hear that music here!

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