Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Circling Connemara

After a substantial breakfast buffet at our hotel, we packed our bags and hit the road to follow a loop drive of the Connemara Peninsula.  We planned to follow Rick Steves' route suggestions, and it was a good way to start. As the day went on we got creative made different choices. This was Peter's first day driving the Irish countryside and he was brilliant.

Our first stop was the medieval abbey at Cong. The original community began in the 7th century, but most of the buildings were from the 13th. They are in ruins,but that makes them much more evocative. The remnants of the cloister fed my imagination.
We walked into the verdant forest where a cool stream flowed. In the center of the stream stood a monastic fishing hut.
The story is that the monks let down a net attached to a bell which would ring when a fish swam in.  From the bridge we actually saw a large salmon, tucked beside a rock in the stream. 

We drove north to Westport, a picturesque village to the north where we stopped for lunch.

Then we turned west and hugged the coast looking out to the Clew Bay to our right and Croagh St. Patrick to our left. 
We did not climb the mount where St Patrick fasted and prayed for Ireland for 40 days and nights. He must have had a great view. The influence of the Christians who followed in his footsteps would have astonished him.

We turned south at Louisburgh and passed through the barren Doo Lough Valley which eventually led to the Doo Lough ( Black Lake). This was the site of an Irish version of a Trail of Tears. About 600 starving tenants walked this road to ask for help from the council meeting in Delphi. Their pleas were ignored and at least 200 died on the way back to Louisburgh.  The simple memorial cross is a powerful witness. 

Along the road sheep grazed on the hills. But many of them came down and munched along the road. They seemed unconcerned by the cars whizzing by, and posed calmly for photos. 

We passed a waterfall at Aasleagh where fishermen angled for salmon. This is one of the streams salmon travel en route to their spawning grounds. We watched from the bridge as the water swirled and fell around rocks. 

As we continued we left the path Steves had laid out and followed a couple detours suggested by the Wild Atlantic Way. The signs have a wavy line and they direct you to gorgeous coastal scenery. We drove along a lake and down to a wonderful beach this way.

We drove up to the entrance of the Connemara National Forest, but it was so late that we didn't start a hike. Instead we headed for Galway.

Peter was getting tired of driving so we decided to stop at a little town across the lake from Cong where we had started the day. It had the unpronounceable name of Oughterard.   But there were several restaurants and we picked the fourth one.  I had grilled salmon and Peter had salmon and shrimp with pasta.
It was an excellent choice and we were greatly refreshed. It was beginning to sprinkle as we left the restaurant, but we easily made it back to the hotel in Galway and found a parking spot in the crowded lot. It was a good day.

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