To continue our series on our July trip to Ireland, our fourth day was spent in the Connemara. I was very excited and a little nervous. When I talked to people who had been in western Ireland, they all said the Aran Islands was the best thing they did on the trip. We, on the other hand, had decided to go North to the Connemara for hiking in the forest. If we had more time, we could potentially have done both but we only had a full day in the Galway and could do one or the other.
We were not disappointed. It was amazing how quickly the landscape changed. We found ourselves in beautiful mountainous country. I have a magnet at home that someone gave me years ago. It’s a photo of a large group of sheep along a road with the words “Irish Traffic Jam” at the bottom. Well, that turned out not to be just a visual joke. We saw sheep wandering all over the road. I would go on sheep patrol to ensure we didn’t hurt any of them.
Our first stop in the Connemara was the Connemara National Park. What a bustling place at this time of year! We parked the car, readied ourselves and made our way to the visitor center. There were several hikes to choose from but the nice volunteer gave us a suggestion for the hike that had the best views and moderate difficulty.
Our trek took us up to Diamond Hill. It was only a 3.4km hike but it took us 2.5 hours since a good ¼ of it was up. The views were astonishing. We could see bodies of water before us, and fields of heather (I like to think) all around. The wind occasionally would burrow past us and it was exhilarating. The hike up the stone steps was difficult but manageable. It wasn’t as steep as the hike in the Trossachs in Scotland like on our honeymoon.
On the way down, we got to pet two Connemara ponies, enclosed in a field next to the hiking path.
What a sense of accomplishment!
Our next stop of the day was the Kylemore Abbey, where the locals had suggested we check out. It had been built for a couple who had visited the area on their honeymoon. It was this astonishing intricate building, complete with a Turkish Bath. However, the wife succumbed to dysentery on a trip to Egypt. In her memory, he built a miniature of a gothic cathedral. Inside, there are four types of Connemara marble.
Eventually, the house was passed around; one owner lost it in a game of cards. In 1920, it was given to an order of Benedictine nuns who care for it to this day. For awhile, it was even a guest house and girls boarding school, which closed in 2010. It’s still cared for by the order.
The land surrounding the Abbey is splendid. The house is on a picture perfect lake and surrounded by wood. There are several hikes you can do within the area itself. There’s also a magnificent Victorian walled garden that they take great care of. Apparently, it had fallen in decline until they decided to rehabilitate it in 1995 and it has been thriving ever since. What a wonderful place for a retreat.
We ended our stay at Kylemore Abbey with tea and scones at the Abbey cafe. Again, the view was spectacular. I also was much appreciative that there was a table with a nun who was working on a coloring book. It made me happy to see that this Abbey is a place for its inhabitants (the order) and tourists alike can find a moment of joy.
Afterwards, we decided to check out the Skyway, which I imagine was like an Irish version of the Amalfi coast. It was much smaller but it was a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. We found that there was a memorial to Peter O’Toole somewhere off the Skyway, which was exciting, but never saw the turn off for it. Alas.
We headed to Clifden for dinner. There we found a pub advertising Irish music so that was an obvious choice. I had lamb and potatoes whereas Scott had his second bowl of mussels to the delightful tunes of two musicians. There were no American covers here.
On our drive back to Galway, we stopped at the famous bridge from the movie, The Quiet Man that starred John Wayne, just as the sun was beginning to think about setting.
It was a delightful day in the Connemara.
That’s all for now!