During our travels we have spent time travelling the Great Ocean Road, the Icefield Parkway and Route 66 but, after a fond farewell to Tom, Barbara, their children, Sneeze, Nahun (our fellow HelpXer) and Sam the builder, the time had come for us to negotiate one a little closer to home.
The Emerald Isle
This term is well know to me but I have never wondered why. No it is not from the famous Johnny Cash song about Forty Shades of Green, it is from a poem written back in 1795 by Belfast born William Drennan. The reference was to the green rolling hills and pastures. Maybe he had a side line working for the tourist board?
After one night with our son and daughter-in-law (and one chinese take-away washed down with a Guiness to get us in the spirit of things), we flew from Luton to Knock on the west coast of the Republic of Ireland (or Eire). One hired car later, we headed south through the beautiful scenery of County Mayo for Galway.
When planning this JWalking trip six months ago, we did a huge amount of research about the route and what we wanted to see and had a plan of sorts. A big refresher of our notes and maps needed to take place en route to make the most of this valuable time. I say valuable because we have around 10 days not house sitting or HelpXing so no commitments to clock watch for.
Galway was around an hour and a half from Knock and it is described as the party town of Ireland. The main street certainly does seem to be bar after bar, all of which feature live music and Guinness, of course. After getting our bearings we took a stroll around the harbour and admired the Spanish Arches. These were constructed in 1584 as a part of the city walls to protect the quays and their valuable merchandise. For me the most interesting fact is that in 1755 the arches were partially destroyed by a tsunami generated by an earthquake in Lisbon. Who’d have thought?
We acquired some culture in the large, modern museum on the quayside. Jon took a rather long time in the Galway Hooker exhibition but he had been tricked. The Hooker is a traditional fishing boat not a lady of the night!
We wandered back onto the streets which were busy with shoppers. Rather refreshingly they all seemed to have time to spend a few minutes listening to some of the excellent buskers plying their tunes.
The day’s travels started to catch up on us so we headed to our B&B and then onto the local Trappers Inn for some hearty pub grub. A great first day in the Emerald Isle.
Connemara Coastal Drive
After a good night’s rest and a hearty Irish breakfast we were ready to head off for our first road trip. By the way, an Irish breakfast is not dissimilar to an English one but I think the big difference is that black and white pudding is served as well as soda bread. Orla, our landlady, had given us a great map of the area and lots of advice on the best routes for places to see and scenery for the time we had.
We travelled north from Galway towards the Connemara National Park. At a main junction, Maam Cross, there were a large number of tour buses heading out to see a replica of the cottage that featured in the John Wayne film, The Quiet Man. I have never seen the film but thanks to some crafty research done by Jonno we decided against heading up there because It was only a replica that was in a totally different location to the original one. That evidently has fallen into disrepair.
We drove along the edge of the beautiful Lough Inagh and called into Kylemore Abbey to take a few photos of this fantasy style house built in the 19th century for a wealthy English businessman who spent his honeymoon in Connemara. Only a few of the rooms are open to the public and the weather wasn’t being kind enough to explore the gardens so we admired and moved on.
Connemara National Park
The next stop was the visitor centre at the Connemara National Park. The centre had two exhibitions and a very good coffee shop and although the forecast wasn’t great, we decided to chance our arm and complete the lower footpath on Diamond Hill. The low cloud made visibility very poor so even if we had had time a walk to the top (about two and a half hours return) would have been a bit disappointing. We got some great views of the Connemara coastline and the mountains within the Park just below the cloud level. The majority of the land in the National Park is bog so sticking to the pathways is a must. We felt quite chuffed that we had completed at least one walk even if it was a gloomy day.
Wild Atlantic Way
The W.A.W as we like to call it is a tourism trail on mainly the west coast of the Republic of Ireland. It is all of 1553 miles long containing over 1000 attractions and 2500 activities. We only have 10 days so it will be a snapshot but enough to give us a flavour of this beautiful country. We picked up the route around Cleggan Harbour and travelled the WAW south towards Clifden. This part of the route incorporates the Sky Road. This is a 12km spectacular loop that takes in some of the most rugged and beautiful coastal scenery in the area.
We did manage a second short walk out to Clifden Castle. It was built back in the late 1800s as the family home of John D’Arcy who basically established the whole of Clifden. It is now just a ruin but still quite impressive.
We arrived in Clifden and Jonno managed to find the largest vol au vent I have ever seen. Gives you an appetite this sea air!
Suitably fortified, we headed round the remainder of the WAW on the Connemara peninsula and ended up back in Galway tired but WOW’d by WAW and ready to see more.
06/09 – 07/09/2017