Thursday, August 08, 2013

July 24: The Connemara Drive

Jimmy and Patricia were wonderful hosts, serving a delicious Irish breakfast and making suggestions of places to visit while in Galway. Armed with the road map and Greta programmed for the first town on the road along the Connemara peninsula,  we set off. Our first stop was  the Oughterard Golf  Club. It was raining, but that didn't stop the lady golfers out on the course. What a lush green course it was!
Beautiful golf course
The drive continued through small towns and villages, each unique and filled with shops, pubs and churches. Between the villages were hilly fields, some with sheep or cows grazing. Connemara has been noted as being one of the most beautiful places in the world and we could see why.  The landscape is unbelievable, there were  fields of  varying shades of green interspersed with flowers of various colours.  The mountain areas are covered with grey rock amongst the green grass, and the fields are divided by hand made stone walls.  These are the fields that  were covered with rows of potatoes that suffered from the great potato famine These hilly fields are known as the burren and one can only imagine how difficult life must have been for the people living in this area hundreds of years ago and even today. This area is well known for the hiking and biking trails and we met many hikers and bikers along the way. We drove through the village of Leenane, on the edge of the Killary fjord and then wound our way through the Maam Valley.  All the road signs are written in Irish, so it was fun to see if we could figure out where we were going.
Our rental car...and, no,  I'm not the driver!
A small park along the way

Sheep grazing along one of the lakes

Road signs
The clouds opened up and it started to rain quite heavy as we drove  north and then along the west coast. The roads were narrow and curvy. We stopped at Kylemore Abbey for lunch and some photos.  The setting was spectacular.  The Abbey serves as a monastery for Benedictine nuns and  was an exclusive boarding school for girls until 2010. There is a large restaurant and gift shop on the grounds as well as Victorian Gardens that are open for tours.  
Kylemore Abbey

As we headed south to Galway we traveled on a narrow road and saw where peat was being harvested and stored in piles to dry out before being used as fuel to burn. It is referred to as turf when it is used for fuel. There were many opportunities to stop for photos as we saw old stone buildings and ruins and miles and miles of stone walls.
The rocks of the burren

Old stone buildings

Stone walls and a thatched roof building
We drove the coastal road into Galway seeing many empty new homes, a sign of the financial difficulties in Ireland. We drove through Salthill, a very touristy seaside area of Galway. There is a 2 km long promenade, locally know as the Prom overlooking Galway Bay with bars, restaurants and hotels. We decided not to stop. There were lots of families out for a stroll, amusement type rides for kids and shops. Our first day of site seeing had been great and now it was time to relax with a pint!
Galway City Centre
We walked down to the city centre just as it started to rain again so we ducked in and out of shops and finally settled on a small restaurant for dinner. I had turkey and ham with chips and Doug had a steak. My dish consisted of 2 slices of turkey on top of a serving of stuffing and then a slice of ham on the bottom. It was served with cranberry sauce and cooked carrots. Not the way we would traditionally serve turkey, but delicious all the same. After dinner we walked to the Spanish Arches and then listened to some traditional music for a bit. There was another downpour so we headed back to our B&B for an early night.
The view from our window overlooking the street

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