27 September 2013

Road Trip Through Connemara, Mayo and More

It was a misty start and very uncertain what this day would serve us.

We said our farewells to the very homely Corrib View Farmhouse, and Olive the Cat

Past Oughterard the mist seemed to be getting thicker with barely any visibility at all. We did not have time for the heart of Connemara such as the Roundstone to Clifden road or the Sky Road, but headed straight through Maam's Cross and Maam towards Leenaun. I tried to explain what was around us, but the mists cleared to give us glorious picture postcard views :)

Claire Roche once told me that the little cottage in the above pic is the birthplace of Emma Donohue, now famous for her novel 'Room'. The cottage has a 'For Sale' sign and comes with an acre of land.

The mountain to the right in that above pic is Mweelrea, the highest point in the Connaught region, 814 M, 2671 feet, but is, surprisingly, the 34th highest point in Ireland.

No stopping in Leenaun, we travelled around the end shore of Killary Harbour, nicknamed Ireland's Fjord and took a photo across to Leenaun to capture the Leenaun Hotel that Susan and friends had stayed in before.

We are now below Mweelrea mountain, behind the pic. This area was featured through most of the movie, 'The Field', the last movie that Richard Harris starred in.

After some more kms enjoying the Killary Harbour views the road winds into the country, into the mountains, through a small woodland where the Delphi Eco Resort is lodged, and then opens up into the Doolough Pass, a beautiful place today but a place of a haunting tragedy.

During the famine entitlement to any found was ruled by an 'inspection' to see if the people 'needed' the food. An inspection was supposed to take place in Louisburgh for the Louisburgh people, but the 'officials' turned up at Delphi Lodge, 12 miles to the south.

Instead of travelling to Louisburgh to fix their mistake the people of Louisburgh were ordered to travel the 12 miles to Delphi Lodge for inspection then back home again.

The weather was terrible and several were very weak from malnutrition. Some died on the way to inspection and many more died on return.

Today we may feel that a 12 mile hike is nothing for a rambler, but we are healthy and well fed. My family have walked this ourselves. At that time there was a postman who delivered mail on that route on a bicycle daily.

There is an annual walk here, and a monument to revere and remind what happened.




We travelled on towards Old Head Beach, where we hoped to enjoy home made ice cream from an ice cream parlour there, that was apparently enjoyed by Julia Roberts and her family there last summer.

Before getting there we made a detour to Srahwee (Straith BuĂ­) wedge cairn, as the Dearmuid and Graine bed stories had been bantered about, but this is not the sort of dolmen featured in those stories.

However, being at least 4000 years old, this is very interesting.

Onto Old head Beach, but alas the ice cream parlour is closed !!!

Well, its a good bathroom stop anyway and the girls loved the opportunity to relax on and by the beach for awhile.

The mountain peak on this pic is now Croagh Patrick with earlier names of Croagh Lugh and Croagh Crom, and locals call The Reek. On top you can just see the church built, in this picture ...

A drive along the Clew Bay coastline towards and through a very busy Westport town, then along the colourful winding roads to the pretty river village of Newport where we stopped for lunch at the pretty Blue Bicycle Cafe.



with its lovely real china teapots

and cups


And we enjoyed the sandwich and cake choices


After lunch, its off to Rockfleet Castle, the main home of Pirate Queen, Grainne O'Malley.


Grainne was a perfectly legal merchant in the 16th century after inheriting a boat, crew and trading links from her father. When the English pushed up the taxes on imports onto the west coast of Ireland, money that went to England, Grainne raided the passing English boats to take back goods equal to the tax money paid to benefit west of Ireland.

At one point her brother and son had been imprisoned by English agent in Ireland, Robert Bingham, so Grainne visited Queen Elizabeth 1 to appeal for their release. Both women spoke in Latin with each other as that was the trading language of merchants.

Apparently the women got on very well, chatting away about their problems with men.

Grainne obtained pardon for her family in exchange for dealing with the Spanish Armada off of the West Ireland coast.

Here is looking from the castle to the inlet where her boats would have arrived and left


The castle was closed for entry while OPW did more restoration work, which seems to be their modern bungalow style with portland cement and very flat stones. I suspect it will be awhile before re-opening as Carrickahowleys

We left the shores, hills and mountains of Mayo to head east towards past Castlebar and Swinford to Ballaghdereen along the N5 and then the country road towards Monasteraden to visit St. Attracta's Well which ... Alas !!! has been seriously damaged.

At first I was angry, believing it was the work of vandals. However, seeing the new phone service pole behind indicates that a fallen pole had been the cause of destruction to this well's structure.

Even so, the well water was still easy to access and still good

and the population of bees around the Ivy blossom was very healthy

Soon after our visit to Attracta's well we arrived at Ballaghboy Lodge Farm, just as the sun was setting, to complete another wonderful day.



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