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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Westport to Clifden



We slipped into County Mayo from County Galway for a lovely evening in Westport before heading back to County Galway. In the morning the sun was bright and it looked like it was in the 80’s. But alas, it wasn’t in the 80’s and soon the clouds came in. More like the fog as the surrounding mountains were shrouded in clouds.


It was warmer though and a grand day for a scenic drive through the area hardest hit by the famine of 1849. We passed the museum of the Famine and by Croagh Patrick, The Holy Mountain. From the parking lot, it is a three and one half hour hike. We balked. Perhaps the most astonishing difference between Mayo and Galway are the stonewalls. Mayo has the most glorious and elegant stonewalls and they are everywhere. This land must have been all stone. All the houses are stone and they all have stonewalls. The stonewalls contain sheep, lots and lots of sheep. They are longhaired and have colors on them of red and green.


We drive from Westport to Louisburgh and to Leenane. The folks in Westport and Leenane consider this the most scenic drive in the West. This is confirmed when we arrive at our B&B in Clifden, The Sea Mist. The road reminds us of parts of Iceland and Norway. The major difference is the number of sheep everywhere. There are no fences to contain them so they wander all over the road and down to the lakes and streams and up the hillsides and into the mountains. From one side of the lakes we see them dotting the countryside on the other side. The number of lambs is incredible and the bleating is deafening at times. The scenery of mountains and hills, contrasted with streams and lakes is inspiring and awesome. Very little traffic so stopping along the narrow road is always possible. There are places to pull off. There are plaques commemorating the plight of the people who were here during the Famine. Another noticeable aspect of the place is the wind. It is fierce. My hat is blown off constantly as I get out to take pictures. Another point of interest is how soft the ground is. This is a source for peat. In fact we see many sites where the peat is being cut from the bog and left to dry before packaging.

We stop in Leenane for a pint and soup before continuing on. The view of the bay and the salmon farms with the mountains on either side, littered by the sheep is breathtaking. Once we get back on the road we hug the shoreline a wee bit more. Once we head inland, we come upon Kylemore Abbey. Now a girl’s school, it is still open for tourists. We are on the western road around Connemara National Park.


Upon arriving in Childen, we drive the two main roads of the town and find our B&B, The Sea Mist. A light rain welcomes us. After checking in, we take a stroll into town, view the shops, stop for a scone and tea at a lovely teashop. I stop at the King’s Bar and Snug. They have a real snug. It is very cute. Not used as it once was. It is more of a private party area now and in the summer opened up. Nonetheless, it is good to see a real snug. Instead of doing more touring in the drizzling rain, we cozy up to the fire in the sitting room of the Sea Mist. At teatime we go for a nap. The rain is still falling. New guests arrive and wake us at 5:30. We trod off to town for dinner at a fine old pub, Marrion’s. When we exit, the sun is shining and we walk back to the B&B to pick up the camera and set off down Beach Road to Childen Beach to watch the sunset. We never imagined we were going to see a beautiful, radiant sunset today. We arrived at the stone beach, that reminds us of Block Island, in fact the two, Block Island and Ireland are similar in landscape with the stone walls and rolling hills and now the stone beaches. Along a path over two stiles and to an overlook with a 20 foot bench for viewing the majesty of the sun setting into the Atlantic Ocean. It is 8:55PM when the sun sets. The days are long here.


Tonight the Lowery is having live traditional Irish music. We make our way there for good cheer, a pint or two, and good music. A Liverpool – Chelsea match is ending. Liverpool is up one nil with 4 minutes extra added. Chelsea is pressing for the tie. With eight seconds left, Chelsea has a throw in and it looks as if Liverpool will win. The throw in goes to the foot of a teammate and is centered, but the Liverpool Fullback is first on the low ball and attempts to head it out of play, but instead heads it into his own goal. Chelsea goes crazy and a man at the bar is disgusted and goes crazy in anger. He has lost a bet. Tommy is his name and we strike up a conversation. He lived in NYC for eight years doing construction. Why he returned is still a question he asks himself. We learn he is a local character as all the locals say hi and let me know to be careful. Apparently he is a loud drinker. His family comes in to hear the music. The musicians arrive and are playing some interesting instruments. I’m sorry I don’t have the camera. They start at 10:15 and we’re out of there at 12:15 cause we have to rise early. The streets are empty and it is a lovely warm, still evening walk home.


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