Connemara Tour

This morning was my bus tour of Connemara. It was raining pretty hard when we started, and the first couple of places we stopped I was very happy for my Tilley hat and good hiking shoes.

Connemara is, like the Ring of Kerry, very striking scenery on the west coast of Ireland – mountainous, cut with hundreds of tiny streams and several large loughs. The roads are narrow and winding, and there are a lot1 sheep wandering up and down the mountains.

Our first stop was Ross Errilly Friary, which I am told is the best-preserved building of its age and type in Europe. It was still raining, so the pictures aren’t great.

The roof and the floors were timber, and so are gone – the friars abandoned the site just about three hundred years ago, after living here for four hundred years previously. Only the stone remains.
Since it was abandoned, the site has been used as a burial site. The ruins are full of crypts like these, and the floor is tiled with grave markers.
The tower still stands, but you can’t climb up the stairs in it for safety reasons. The bells and bell-pulls are long gone.
The cloister in the middle of the friary, where the monks would read and meditate. It’s surrounded by a walking path, where the monks would walk laps for exercise.

After the Friary, it was on to the village of Cong, where the 1951 John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara movie The Quiet Man¬†was shot. It was still raining, so I didn’t get to see as much as I might have liked, but I did see a little.

Here is the hotel and bar that feature in the movie. The hotel apparently didn’t exist when the film was made, but was added later, and the bar was not a bar at the time of filming. It was turned into a bar afterwards, though.
The narrow, hilly, rainy street of Cong.

We moved on into Connemara itself, then, up through the mountain passes.

Little farms cling to the sides of mountains, above the loughs.
Lough Nafooey (yes, that’s its real name) apparently has a lake monster in it. I didn’t see one.
More farms on the mountainside.
The fields of the farms are divided by dry stone fences. These don’t use any mortar or cement; it’s just rocks fitted together.
This is a Fairy Tree above Killary Fjord. It’s a whitethorn tree that people tie little bits of cloth to in order to attract the good fairies when a child is sick.
When the song talks about “running like the devil from the excise man in the hills of Connemara,” these are the hills they mean.

Our stop for lunch was Kylemore Abbey, where we stayed for two hours. There was a lot to see, and the rain had stopped by this point.

Kylemore Abbey was build at the foot of a mountain, on the edge of a lough, as a stately home for Mitchell Henry and his wife in the mid-1800s.
Here’s a better look just at the building.
Here’s what you see standing on the court in front of the main door into the abbey.

Three rooms have been opened to the public by the Benedictine Nuns who ran the abbey as a school until a couple of years ago. These have been restored to the way they would have looked in the mid-to-late nineteenth century.

This is the great hall.
Here’s the front parlour.
And this is the dining room.

Past the abbey is a nice walk through the woods to the gothic church2 and the mausoleum3. The woods are similar to the ones around where I live, but much wetter.

Thick moss coats everything because of the damp. I started getting moss growing on my shoes just in the time it took to take the picture.
Many little streams run down the mountainside to the lough. This one is big enough to have a bridge over it.
The church was built as a cathedral in miniature, inspired by St. Stephen’s at Westminster.
The interior of the church is also beautiful.
Margaret Henry’s mausoleum.

Up the other direction from the abbey is one of the largest walled Victorian gardens in the world. Much of it was still in bloom, even at the end of September.

This is the formal garden area.
The nearer part of the garden is vegetables, while the gardens in the background are a continuation of the formal gardens.

On the way back to Galway, we made one more stop.

This cottage was built as a replica of John Wayne’s cottage in The Quiet Man. It’s not really anywhere near Cong, as far as I can tell.

It was a nice trip, with a lot of stunning scenery. The guide, Mike, was both knowledgable and friendly, and really added to the day by taking us to see some little-known scenic spots4.

Tomorrow, I’m back with the same tour company5 to tour the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. I’m looking forward to it.

  1. No, really a lot! []
  2. Gothic in style, not in age. It was built around 1877. []
  3. Where Margaret Henry, wife of Mitchell Henry, is interred. She died in 1874, and both the church and the mausoleum were erected in her memory. []
  4. Also to meet Joseph, the Connemara pony, and some sheep dogs he knows. []
  5. Galway Tour Company. They’re good. []