Ireland 2015: Day 13 – Connemara

Well, the weather miraculously cleared up for one last day in Ireland. My plan today was to visit Connemara, an area west of Galway known for it’s more rugged beauty. Connemara is also one of the areas of Ireland which retains the Irish language; all road signs are in Irish only. I set off relatively early from Galway along the coastal route and stopped first at the Spiddal Craft Village. The village is several individual vendors set up in little shops around a small common area. I didn’t end up buying anything, but it was fun to browse the jewelry, artwork, and other local handcrafts.

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Continuing from Spiddal, my route followed closely along the water as the scenery turned to more rugged rocky outcroppings dotting the coastline. Small cottages and homes are perched on the rocks, some beautifully situated right near the water’s edge. It reminded me a bit of the southern coast of Nova Scotia. I stopped in Roundstone, with its quaint harbor sheltering a few boats and the mountains of the Twelve Bens providing a perfect backdrop. I had what will likely be my last scone in Ireland at a small cafe along the main road here.

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My route continued along the coast to the Sky Drive, which begins in Clifden. The road travels high above the cliffs and overlooks Clifden Bay. It wasn’t nearly as harrowing as some of the other routes I traveled last week, but it was every bit as beautiful. My last stop in Connemara was at Kylemore Abbey, just outside of Letterfrack. I had seen pictures of the castle before I left home, and knew it was a “must see” on my trip. It definitely delivered. The castle, gardens, and chapel themselves (which are open for touring) pale in comparison to the photogenic castle nestled in the hills of western Ireland. Mitchell Henry, a wealthy doctor from London, built the castle in 1871. He and his wife lived there for only 4 years before she died during a trip to Egypt. They are both interred in a small mausoleum on the grounds. A group of Benedictine nuns from Belgium eventually purchased the castle in 1920 and turned it into an abbey.

After leaving Kylemore, I made my way back to Galway for dinner and a show – “Trad on the Prom” – at my hotel. The music and dancing was a great way to spend my last night in Ireland!

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