In the Hills of Connemara

IMG_2807Everywhere we went in Ireland Brian seemed to have a fun Irish ditty to sing along the way. Driving through the hills of Connemara was certainly no exception!

I could have easily spent a week in this area of the country. The rolling hills and coastline were beautiful and reminded me so much of home.

We left Westport in the morning and drove down to Killary, snaking along beautiful lakes surrounded by craggy hills.

The roads became narrow and soon we were sharing the pavement with fearless fluffy sheep! There were no other cars in sight so Brian would frequently stop so we could get out and take pictures.

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It was rather overcast but we only had the day to explore so we headed toward our first stop, Kylemore Abbey.

I had never heard of the abbey but it came up right away when I searched for things to do in the area. When I pulled up pictures of it, it literally took my breath away.

The story behind its existence is sad and beautiful. It was originally built as a castle by Mitchell and Margaret Henry who fell in love with the area on their honeymoon. However, they only lived there a short time. They traveled all over the world and during one of their trips to Egypt Margaret got sick and died. Mitchell had a chapel constructed on the property in her memory, which is where she was buried. He lived alone the rest of his life and was buried in a plot near her. A group of Benedictine nuns purchased the property and converted it into an Abbey and school, and they still live and care for the property today.

Because the weather wasn’t nice we decided to skip the gardens, but we did explore the main house and the chapel. I was disappointed that the inside did not live up to the exterior. While it had once been lavishly furnished, the nuns had the inside redone. They live there so only a couple rooms were open for us to visit.

The chapel was pretty and there weren’t many visitors so we had the woods and area to ourselves. It was a nice stop, but if I had to do it all over again, I probably would have admired the landscape and abbey from one of the many picturesque spots along the road winding up to it and saved the admission fee for a different activity.

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After our visit at the abbey we backtracked to Killary to catch a Killary Fjord boat ride. It’s not a perfect vacation for my husband unless we squeeze a boat ride (or two) in!

While there is some debate over whether Killary Fjord is actually a fjord, it is considered one by many people, making it the only fjord in Ireland. I’m sure the boat tours are very popular during the summer and when it’s nice out, but ours was still fairly busy.

We were on a lunch cruise so most people were down on the first floor eating– we grabbed some Guinness and sat on the upper deck trying to stay out of the wind and enjoying the amazing scenery.

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We were ready to warm up after the ride but grabbed a quick lunch at a little seafood food truck along the road near the boat dock.

All of the shellfish were sourced from the fjord and we tried a medley of salmon and clams before getting back on the road.

We decided to spend our afternoon in Connemara National Park hiking and enjoying the scenery. I wasn’t feeling well (which I attributed to the winding car ride and slightly rough boat ride) and thought the fresh air would be perfect. It was busy but we parked, stopped in the visitor center and then set off on one of the shorter loop trails through the hills.

Although we didn’t get to see any wild horses or red stag, we did get to see some donkeys and other animals roaming around in fenced off areas. They were pretty friendly and came over to say hello.

The sun started to peek through the clouds as we climbed up and we had a beautiful walk back around through the meadows to the car. The trails covered any level of difficulty–it was a perfect stop for us but would also be great for families, older adults or even people walking their dogs!

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The sun was starting to set so we drove south to the coastline to find our B&B, Tigh Chualain in Inverin. While most people likely would have gone to Galway, I looked for a place closer to Rosaveel and the ferry to the Aran Islands, which we were planning to do the next day. I came across the B&B online and it looked like a neat little place off the beaten track.

It definitely was! We didn’t have an address, just coordinates, and we were still afraid we were going to miss it driving along the coast in the semi-dark. We finally found it and after accidentally walking into the attached pub, we made our way to our room, which was small but clean with a lot of character.

The pub didn’t serve food so we had to drive to the next town over for dinner. If it had been early I would have like to have explored the area a little more. It wasn’t at all touristy and from what I could see in the waning light, the coastal drive was lovely. As it was, we were done for the day and turned in early!

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One thought on “In the Hills of Connemara

  1. Pingback: Bicycling the Aran Islands | Heather's Compass

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