Sorry for the lack of pictures on the previous post, and on this post. The internet here for some reason doesn’t want to let us upload anything, so we’ll do a make-up couple of posts with what we’ve missed as soon as we can get a more stable connection! Now, on to our trip!:
We woke up this morning at our bed and breakfast where we ate breakfast, and then we were picked up by the Galway Tour Company for our bus tour of Connemara. We had decided earlier that we would like a break from all of our driving, so it was very nice to be able to just sit back and relax and have someone else brave the Irish roads.
When we got on the bus we had to sit all the way in the back, because it was full by the time we got to transfer on from the pickup bus to the actual tour bus. The tour guide was very funny and knowledgeable. Connemara is a beautiful spot in the West of Ireland. It is mostly a national park, but there are many small villages throughout that are very traditional.
Our first stop was the ruins of Ross Errily Friary which was built around 1350. It is now in ruins but is still used as a burial ground for local residents.
The bus then took us to the town of Cong, which is most famous because the movie “The Quiet Man” with John Wayne was filmed there. (We saw “the Quiet Man Bridge” later on our tour, as it was a little ways away from the town, and on our way back to Galway).
The tour took us through rural farmland and we got to see many ruins of houses from the famine. We learned a lot of history about the famine in Ireland, which caused the great emigration from the country. Evidently, the potatoes just wouldn’t grow in the ground anymore due to a fungus that turned them black. You can still see where the old farmers sowed the potatoes in the ground because the hillsides are still striped in different shades of green. There are also strange horizontal stacked stone walls which divide hills from top to bottom. These are called “famine walls” because when the famine hit the poor villagers would go to the wealthy landowners to beg for food, and the landowners didn’t want to give them anything for free, so they set them to work building walls for no purpose.
This is also the same land that is used by all the farmers in the area as a communal sheep grazing ground. Everyone’s sheep just roam free in this area because all the land is considered communal. The only way to tell apart the sheep is because of the coloring on their wool. The farmers here get grants from the government to run their farms. We got to see a lot of baby sheep right along the road as there are no fences keeping them in.
The main highlight of the tour is Kylemore Abbey. We have some awesome pictures of it, but you’ll just have to wait for that. It used to be a castle that a wealthy man built for his wife after having honeymooned in the area. It is now used as an Abbey and a school, but we learned the school will be closing in a matter on months. It is a really beautiful structure on the side of a large lake. The nuns in the Abbey actually make their own soap and chocolate, which are available for purchase. This is also where we stopped for lunch. Since the Abbey has been bought by private developers they are making the spot into a crowded tourist trap, with a visitor center, cafeteria and shops. There is also an Abbey garden, which I think they said was 6 acres of land. There were definitely some spectacular views at the Abbey, and it was interesting to tour the first couple floors of the Abbey, as they had it set up with furnishings from when it was first built.
The tour bus took us on our route home after the abbey, and we saw more sheep and farmlands. We learned about how the Irish people used the bog moss to heat their houses. People still do that to this day, and we got to see where they cut it from the ground and lay it out to dry. We also drove by some spots where someone had tried to burn the bush and the fire had gotten out of control and caused almost 5 million Euros in damage to the land. The fires are still not under control, and I guess the firemen are working to put it out.
After our tour ended back in Galway city centre, we got to explore the city a bit. We found an awesome cheap chain store called Dunnes, which has great prices (even for being in Euros!) We wandered around for a bit and then walked back to our B&B which was a farther than we expected, but overall not a bad walk. The weather was good today so it wasn’t bad walking back.
Tomorrow will be our last full day here, so we’re planning to drive cross country back to our Dublin to see some tombs, and possibly battle ground.
Alana & Matt