Starting to think I might retire in Connemara. Hopefully it will stay the same during the intervening decades. Or … could spend the summer here and go to the Mediterranean in winter. I imagine Connemara would toughen you up in winter, that’s for sure. Someone’d be able to make pair of shoes out of you by spring.
Anyway, have precisely thirty two years, one month and twenty seven? days before I need to start making plans in ernest, so I shall meanwhile write to the local people of Connemara and ask them not to change anything.
More wild open hills of heather, peat and boulders. More waterfalls trickling down stony cliffs, turning into streams that wind lazily through the heather, and then go rushing and tumbling down the hills through the towns below. More serene silver lakes. More wild coastline. More sheep. More roads no bigger than goattracks. More barefeet, and more grass so thick and cushioney that you can’t see the soil. The wind gusts are so strong that they blow your hand sideways as you hold the camera. You think you are taking this brilliant shot and a gust of wind comes along and all you end up with is a photo of the fence post.
It is the landscape of legends up here. Different weather systems just within a few kilometres radius. To the left the sun glinting on silver water and making the rocky face of the hillside sparkle. To the right a dark misty cloud obscuring a mountain peak, and curling its cloùdy tentacles inch by inch down the mountainside towards the plain. Really drives home why the Irish have such a rich mystical and mythological tradition. Only have to look out the window and you would believe all of it.
Drove past Kylemore Abbey and tried another ‘traditional Irish pavlova’ there. It is now a girls boarding school. Just stunning. It is dignified enough to carry the shiploads of tourists without you really noticing they are there.
In contrast, eariler I tried to go to the ‘official’ Connemara marble shop but could barely get in the door as packed with a coachload of tourists, all frantically lining up to buy one of everything. I suppose what I’m trying to express is that the presence of the Kylemore Abbey was so great as to override the constant distraction of the tourists.
Actually, today I did buy something touristey; an official Guiness apron, (and secretly love it).
Earlier in the tour, John the King of Derbyshire shared some of his professional coach-ing knowledge with me, and told me what roads to bother driving along, and what roads not to bother driving along, in Connemara. Well I am so very thankful for his help, as time is limited. I am just now stopping for a breather along the ‘high’ sky road and it is truly spectacular.
Turns out John the King of Derbyshire is quite the daredevil. He tells me that there is not an Irish driver alive who will take a coach along the sky road in Connemara. But John does. Having now driven the sky road I can sympathise with the Irish bus drivers! John has often commented during the tour about how often he would have to stop his bus and get out and reverse someone’s car for them so they could pass on the narrow Irish roads. But I wonder now if this is because John takes his coach where coaches are just not meant to go ….!!! Poor other drivers.
Anyway – its all good for a laugh – if it all ends well.
I am staying in BnB outside Galway – hard to spot as the sign seems to point straight into a rather sturdy looking brick wall with a hedge. Made it on the third lap. There’s a ROAD in there! And it is a road indeed, not a ‘mere driveway’, because it leads into an ongoing network of houses and roads like a little suburb. Blink and you’d miss it.
Actually, that sheds light on a roadsign I saw earlier today which pointed straight into a lake. It was for ‘the (something) tourist drive’. But it makes sense now. There must have been a little road lying there, snuggled underneath the heather bushes!! No wonder the legends about leprechauns, and ‘the wee people’ and parallel universes existing behind the mist. I reckon it is all because of Irish road signs.
The BnB is owned by N who is a widow with four grown up kids and a grandchild expected in a couple of weeks. The expecting daughter went to school at Kylemore Abbey. I am the only one here so it is nice and quiet. N gave me a hot water bottle last night and again tonight and she has kindly shared her evening meal both nights and given me advice on my travel routes. She is also amused by recent travels.
The haunted castle in Clonegal turned out to be apparently more haunted than was properly declared on the website. I was lazily expecting Grace O’Malley’s grand daughter, and her cat, both of which according to the website can be seen walking the castle grounds at night. Well – more relevantly, it turns out that there are also a litany of additional ghosts that wander about INSIDE the castle, including one stupid ghost that likes to come into the room while you sleep and poke you in the ribs to wake you up.
There is also throughout the castle a spooky noah’s ark lineup of the heads and skins of dead animals horridly stapled to the walls and draped casually over chaise lounges.
Given that my nervous system is still recovering from the Newgrange experience, I made the executive decision to sleep with the light on that night. No ghosts or poor dead animals came in, but I did not sleep soundly either.
Next day had a very long drive to the other side of the country; ie Galway. Tomorrow I go back again to Dublin (the other side of the country again) and board a 24 hour flight for home. I think I am a bit over travelling and ready to go home for now.
The bed at N’s is like a cushioney cloud that is all warm and cosy.
It is the most comfy bed in Galway.
27 September 2011 – Connemara, Galway, Ireland
postscript – some photos below
Connemara country – I didn’t get any good photos of the really mythic amazing bits – because of the strong wind