Tag Archives: Clifden

Ireland Road Trip Day 13 – Sat 23/4/2016

I woke to a glorious morning weatherwise (cold but sunny) and after a decent breakfast at Cregg House,  my b&b a couple of miles from Clifden, I was more than ready for my drive along Sky Road which I’d been looking forward to ever since following it on Google Street View back in Leeds.

This western loop out along the peninsula is only 13 miles long but the first half of it, to the turn, affords some of the most stunning views I enjoyed during the whole trip. The first part also splits into a high road and a low road and as I wanted views out over the Atlantic, I took the high road.

The amazing views started right away……..and what a spot to build your house !

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There were few cars on the road and for most of my drive, I had it all to myself. I was easily able to pull over to take photos and at one point there was a nice pull-in parking section with one of the helpful Wild Atlantic Way signs letting visitors like me know where we were.

One of the nicer views from a car park !

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My pre trip research had shown a minor spur at the turning point which led to a beach right at land’s end. So leaving the Sky Road I carefully drove for a few miles along a single track “path” and soon Dolphin Beach came into view.

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As these photos show, I had the whole area to myself and the beach was wonderful. The water was various shades of blue, almost Caribbean-like and the hard packed sand had no footprints but the ones I left. There were rocks and pools on both sides of the bay and I soon worked off my breakfast climbing over them to get better views.

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I even managed a selfie, looking imperiously over my Kingdom.

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After a couple of hours I headed back to rejoin the Sky Road for the drive back along the peninsula which wasn’t as spectacular as the first half, but decent nonetheless.

45 minutes later along the N59 I came to a causeway across Pollacapall Lough and spotted fabulous views on both sides. On the left was Kylemore Abbey which became a Benedictine monastery in 1920, founded by nuns who fled from Ypres in Belgium after WW1.

These were the views from the causeway, first looking right and then left towards the Abbey.

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You can just see the Kylemore Gothic Church, mostly hidden towards the right side of that last photo.

It really was the most stunning place to visit and a photographers dream. I was so pleased that the weather was helping to show it off to its best.

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Back on the road and the N59 was heading to the border between County Galway and County Mayo at the apex of one of the many inlets of the Atlantic. This is a view back down towards the open ocean just before the village of Leenaun.

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Half a mile north of Leenaun on the N59 and just before the county line, the road was hugging the inlet on the left. To the right I saw the small whitewashed Church of St. Michael’s and to the right was what could be the best view from a graveyard in Ireland…or anywhere else for that matter.

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Please…..no jokes about people dying to get buried there !

Just a few feet from the county line I came upon a pub, the Carraig Bar, and as it was almost 2pm, I fancied getting some takeaway food  and having a picnic somewhere nearby.

It was that sort of a day.

Apart from one regular in a corner with his head on the table and a half drunk pint beside it, the pub was empty and in fact it took some time for anyone to come to the bar to serve me. The owner (?) told me she wasn’t doing hot food but she could make me a sandwich…perfect. So I asked for a ham and tomato one and with my plentiful supply of Pepsi Max in the car, I set off again looking for a likely spot for my picnic.

I didn’t have to go far and seconds after crossing into County Mayo I left the N59, started along the R335 and when crossing a small bridge over the River Erriff, I saw Aasleagh Falls to the right and decided THAT was the place to have my picnic. There was a handy parking area nearby and within minutes I was on the river bank just short of the waterfall and ready to have my lunch in this most idyllic setting.

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I left just after 3:30pm and 10 minutes later I was at my next pre-determined stopping point – the Doolough Valley Famine Memorial along the R335.

Being at that beautiful spot on such a glorious sunny day, it was hard to imagine the tragic events that took place there 167 years previously.

You can read about them here.

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Turning to the right was a spectacular view down the valley to the small Glenullin Lough and beyond it, the much larger Doo Lough that gives the valley its name..

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As usual on this trip, I had the area to myself and was able to safely stand in the middle of the road and take photos.

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After enjoying this breathtaking scene for a while, a couple of cars did come down the other way. Both stopped and the passengers got out to take similar photos down the valley and then the cars drove off…..completely ignoring the monument a few feet to their left.

I thought that was pretty sad but maybe they’d been before and already knew all about the monument and what it commemorates. I hope so.

20 miles further along the R335, the road rejoined the N59 at Westport and I stayed on it for another 60 miles till I reached the small town of Bangor Erris (pop 500) where I decided to stay for the night.

Just on the eastern outskirts of the town I came upon Hillcrest House, a modern bungalow offering b&b for what was becoming the usual €40 rate.

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After settling in and chilling for a while, I walked back along the road and got a chicken and chips takeaway which I brought back and ate in the room. I watched a few shows on my laptop and as I was ready for this main part of the road trip to be over and I was close enough to the border with N. Ireland (100 miles) to be there on Monday, I rang my cousin in Magherafelt to ask if it would be ok to return a few days early and she was fine with that.

So I decided to drive to Dundoran in County Donegal the next day  (Sunday) as I knew it was a nice seaside resort and stay one last night in a b&b. From there it would only be 10 miles to the N. Ireland border at Belleek and a further 90 miles to Magherafelt.

Despite the wonderful road trip I’d had so far with the glorious weather and scenery, I needed a rest and was ready to be back with family.

The morning had been wonderful and I’d recommend that drive along the Sky Road to anyone.

But let’s face it, the rest of the day was pretty wonderful too.

And all it took was 103 miles !

Ireland Road Trip Day 12 – Fri 22/4/2016

Once again I’m starting a blog post with the words “it’s been a long time since my last post and………”

When I came onto this blank page I planned to say that I was not going to be creating day by day posts of my road trips anymore because it was very time consuming to edit the photos and write the details of my daily drives. This is even more relevant now as I went on a 3 week Euro trip in September and took over 1500 photos so the idea of finishing the Ireland blog from last April and then starting on the Euro blog was daunting.

So I’d decided that as I still wanted to blog, I’d just write about…..stuff……and throw in the occasional photo to break up the text.

Then I went back to the last post I published and looking at it, I kinda got the bug to continue what I’d started for a change. So with much less editing and fewer details about road numbers and whether I turned left or right at junctions, here I go again with Day 12 and my first visit to The Cliffs of Moher.

Still in Co. Clare, I left the slightly bizarre Barkers Spanish Point b&b at 10am, headed north and was at the car park by 10:25. The cliffs are the No.1 tourist destination in Ireland garnering over a million visitors a year and so I was expecting to have to pay a fair bit for both parking and walking along the cliff top. Not so.  Entry to both the huge car park, the visitor centre and the walks along the cliff was a very reasonable €6 for adults and when I saw it was only €4 for seniors, that was for me !

It was only later that I discovered that at the Cliffs of Moher, a senior was 65 or older. Oops.

Anyhoo, I was in and after parking I made my way across the road to the entrance.

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Just beyond the entrance were souvenir shops but like the visitor centre, these had been built into the hillsides, Hobbit like, to minimise their footprint. This is a still from the video I took of the area……..

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The shops are on the right and on the left is the visitor centre which you go through to begin the walks along the cliff edge.

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As I didn’t need to make use of the facilities or buy even more souvenirs, I went straight out to the path leading up to O’Brien’s Tower and the start of the cliff edge paths. The tower was built in 1835 by the forward thinking landowner who saw the potential for tourism and built the tower to provide great panoramic views.

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As I’ve said many times in the past, when confronted with a junction, I always take the left option if it’s a 50/50 choice. I’m left handed so it always seems the natural choice.

Except here. The views to the right seemed better so I guess as it wasn’t exactly 50/50, my record remains safe !

As it was 11am and the cliffs are on the west coast, they were mostly in shadow.

Top Tip : best time to visit the cliffs would be just before sunset but the downside would be being blinded by the sun !  A boat trip would be the best choice.

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At this point the path was 214 metres above the Atlantic and for the next few hours it was a case of walking a few metres, stopping to admire the views, taking a few photos, walking a bit further, stopping to……well you get the idea.

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The path really hugged the edge and in many places, as you can see on the left of the photo above, you can stand right on the edge – if you have no fear of heights and you know that the outcrop is well supported. There were several outcrops that looked inviting to walk out along but as you approached them from the path, you could see they had no real support (apart from being a metre thick) and then there was a 200m drop to the sea.

It would have been like walking the plank and often a cracked plank at that !

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There was one section with signage warning people not to go to the edge and looking at the narrow stone platform and all the huge cracks on it, I wasn’t surprised.

The people on the cliff top path give scale in this next photo.

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In this one, I’m not sure if  she’s holding on to him or about to push him over !

Rest easy…..it was the former.

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I probably only walked about 3 miles on the round trip but I still spent 4 hours there as the place was so special. Although I’d only taken my phone (camera) with me on this trip, I was pleased with the results despite not having much of a zoom. I did have my binoculars though and as the cliffs are home to about 30,000 birds, there was plenty to see.

The cliffs have also featured in movies like The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. They were also the last resting place for most of Dusty Springfield’s ashes – she apparently loved the area and made the request before her death on the 2nd March 1999.

So by mid afternoon I was back outside the visitor centre and spent a while eating my   sandwich and watching tourists disembarking from numerous coaches to take in the views. Sadly many of them never made it beyond the steps up to the tower either due to physical limitations, time constraints or just out and out indifference.

I overheard “see one cliff you’ve seen them all” a few times from, I have to say, senior American tourists who just looked for a few minutes and then headed back to their coaches – ticking another box on their bucket lists no doubt.

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After all that exercise and fresh air, I wanted an early night so decided to look for a b&b once I’d driven through Galway, 50 miles away.

Not long after leaving the city, I entered the Connemara region of Co. Galway and the scenery was spectacular with the N59 passing by numerous lakes and loughs with mountain ranges providing perfect backdrops.

By now it was 18:30 and I didn’t want to go beyond Clifden as that was the start of the Sky Road loop which I’d been looking forward to exploring at leisure and wanted to do that the following day. So when I saw a lovely looking b&b just 2 miles from the town, I stopped and got a room for €40.

What a gem it was. A beautiful house, a stunning location and a view from my bed that made that €40 a steal.

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Inside was pretty good as well and that view…..

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I drove into town for supper but I’ve no record of where I went. I just know it was somewhere on Market Street and I enjoyed the dessert.

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Back at the b&b I watched a few TV shows on the laptop and read a bit about the route I was to take the next day……and it looked wonderful.

Hopefully I’ll get round to blogging about it soon !