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