Friday, June 3, 2016

Day 6 - The Road to Connemara


June 2 - Connemara

We spent a long day in the car on Thursday. As I was planning this trip and mapping out the routes and itinerary, this worried me a bit because we drove from Derry down to a seaside town of Clifden in the Connemara region. The direct route was probably four hours for a local (more about that later) but because of stops and my slowish driving, it took us most of the day.

The roads are narrow and most of them don't have shoulders. They're also incredibly twisty so you have one blind curve after another. In addition, this is a touristy area, so tour buses and other large vehicles also use these roads. So do bicyclists. All of this sounds like a recipe for a 25 or 30 miles per hour road in the states, but no. Here they have 100km per hour (62mph) speed signs posted everywhere. Most people don't drive that fast, but there are a few locals who do. It's a bit nerve-wracking. But we didn't die or kill a cyclist, so there's that!
*photo of a bending road:

Another hazard are these shrubs and trees planted right up to the road. This is a two lane road here. We're driving a fairly compact car and it looks like we're taking up the whole lane:


Enough about the hazards of driving. We saw some great things along the way. Our route took us down the northern half of the western coast of Ireland. Along the way we passed through quaint little towns. I love looking at local businesses when I'm traveling:
*photo of McPhilemys Furniture:
*Photo of T. Bourke's pub:
*Photo of Maple Moose shop:
*Pic of an ice cream shop:
John o'brien curtains and soft furnishings:

Outside of the towns was the most beautiful scenery. After seeing the rugged splendor of Scotland I was afraid that I would find Ireland lacking some of the breathtaking qualities, but no. It's different: greener, more idyllic, maybe. Just as stunning.





We made a few stops along the way to our final destination. The first was to visit the cemetery where the poet W. B. Yeats is buried. Yeats was the first Irishman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel committee described his work as "inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation".

The cemetery was small and quaint, but there were graves as recently as January of this year in there:
*photo of the cemetery:

His epitaph is taken from the last lines of "Under Ben Bulben", one of his final poems:
Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by!
Here is his headstone. The small one near the foot of the grave says George Yeats, who, despite the masculine name, was his wife Georgie (who used the name George.)
*pic of the simple grave:

A beautiful church still holding services was on the premesis:


Inside the church were memorial plaques like this one, created by Sir Wm and Louisa Elizabeth Parke in memory of their eldest daughter Alice Charlotte who died in 1834 at the age of 20; and their third daughter, Maria Henrietta who died in 1838 at the age of 18. I read this and couldn't stop thinking about how much that family must have suffered to lose their daughters like that.
*pic of the memorial plaque:

We also stopped at a little lake where people were swimming and enjoying the gorgeous weather:



We stopped for lunch at a restaurant that seemed to be in the complete middle of nowhere:
*pic of the restaurant:

It was a great choice. The boys had steak sandwiches and I had bangers and mash. Yum.

These next few photos were taken as we drove into Connemara, an area in county Galway along the coast, which is made up of multiple peninsulas.



There were sheep just hanging out on the side of the road:


This one looked at us and "baaaaaaa"ed at us as we drove by:



We drove up to Kylemore Abbey which is a benedictine monastery founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore castle. The abbey was founded by benedictine nuns who fled from Belgium in World War I.

It was built as the private home of a wealthy doctor who became an MP for Ireland. The estate apparently has amazing gardens that you can tour, but we arrived too late in the day for them and had to settle for photos of the exterior:


The highlight of the day was a hike through Connemara National Park.




The view from the top was spectacular:



After our hike, we drove to our hotel where we enjoyed a fancy lobster dinner in the restaurant overlooking the coast. We finished our dessert just as the sun was going down and were greeted with this view:
*pic of the coast as the sun went down:

Yeah, it's alright, I guess.

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