Sunday, 20 September 2015

Ireland week 2 AND a terrific birthday celebration for ME

Standing outside one of the ancient churches on Inis Mo'r (Inishmore) the largest island of the Aran Islands.  The island is a one hour ferry ride from Rossaveel - just down the road from Angela's house.  The church is on a site called the Seven Churches (but there are only 2 there actually) and the site dates back to the 8th century.
To my eye and experience so far Ireland is at once intriguing, charming, ironic, barren and hard.

Just driving around Angela's home, on almost impossibly narrow roads, the car travels through mile after mile of sterile peat bogs dotted with huge boulders and the occasional sheep or donkey or lonely looking cattle.  Then, after rounding a tight corner, the vista opens up to a lough (lake) fed by rapid running rivulets on the side with swans and their cygnets floating effortlessly on the surface.   Then another corner and another peat bog ... this time with purple patches of heather and yellow gorse bushes lying close to the ground. 

Amid all this there are little hamlets with the obligatory monuments to the Virgin Mary on the roadside not far from the Catholic Church and just down the road is, of course, the pub.  And in each place - Pub that is, we don't/haven't visited the people in the churches yet - ... in each place the people we've met are so friendly and funny and smiling.  What a Place!!!

This past week has been full of activities with George's sisters and brothers.  It's been so good to be here with all of them and to see George so happy.

Last Saturday was Angela's birthday and the day started with present opening.  Then the boys all went out fishing in Robert's boat and caught a mess of mackerel which were cleaned and readied for the smoker later on.  Then we all went for a drive to one of the nearest towns - Oughterard - for a pint or two in the pub and some grocery shopping.  That night we had a HUGE  meal of crab from one of the local fishermen, and fresh smoked mackerel.  Robert had built a fire pit/smoker on the back veranda which did the smoking perfectly. 

Robert and John getting the coals ready in the fire pit.
The next day was overcast with a drizzling rain coming every half hour or so.  We decided to go in to Galway to have a look around and grab some lunch so Angela and George's brother Allan came with us.  The rain pretty much kept up all day so we didn't walk around too much and started back home well before we had seen much of the town.  Dinner that night was another noisy and enjoyable family affair!

On Monday me, George and Allan took the ferry over to Inishmore - the largest island of the Aran Islands.  The islanders are ready for the visitors as soon as the ferry lands!  There are vans there to take your around or you can ride in a horse drawn carriage or you can rent a bicycle and cycle the island yourself.  We took a van with a driver giving us some tourist information.  Talk about barren! These islands are nothing but rock.  We couldn't help but wonder what made people stay here over the century's.  There isn't much peat .. if any at all .. no trees, nothing to use to heat your home and even less top soil to try and grow food.  But people have managed to eke out a living for many many centuries.

On Inishmore there is a circular hill fort on the western side ... clinging to the top of impossibly high cliffs. We walked up to the fort from the road - about a 10 minute walk - and we surprised to see some cattle trying to graze right up to the edge of the cliff.  The fort was probably built in the Bronze Age (1100 BC) and is similar to round forts around Ireland and Scotland.  It is described as one of the finest pre-historic forts in Western Europe.

The view from the other side of the fort .. you can see how formidable the cliffs are!

George and Allan in front of the souvenir shop near the fort.  Aran knits are the bit attraction here! 

The next day the boys went sailing on Robert's boat.  They left reasonably early and sailed for about 4 hours around to another little hamlet towards the west.  Angela and I drove around in the car and me them at a pub for lunch and then they had a great sail back around.  Good thing too.  George was getting itchy to get out on the sea .. it was just what he needed.

The boys off for the 4 hour sail back around to Robert's mooring after lunch.  Notice the rocks!  The tide drop is 5 metres here and many of the sea walls have boats - and yachts - just sitting on the bottom at low tide.  You have to make sure you can balance against the wall if leaving the boat! 

On Thursday we drove to Cong.  Nice little historic city but their main claim to fame - and you see it all over - is the making of the John Wayne classic film "The Quiet Man".  They even have a very prominent statue of Wayne and Maureen O'Harra in town and all the souvenir shops sell "The Quiet Man" stuff.  Maybe they should move on .. the film was made in the 1950's! 


I turned 65 on Friday.  My goodness I never thought I'd get to be this old ... and still feel this good!!!

We had a wonderful day.  Presents in the morning - lovely ear rings from George and Angela, cards and phone calls and lots of Facebook well wishes.  Then we went out to lunch in the little town of Bearna at O'Gradys on the Pier.

O'Gradys on the Pier.  Fantastic seafood lunch.  I had crab claws and fish with salad.  Perfect.
The diners - Robert and Angela and Me and George.
My favourite photo from the trip so far!  Angela, George and me ... after a big lunch and lovely wine.  Excellent birthday! 

Today is Saturday our last day in Ireland and with Angela and Robert.  We decided to drive further into the Connemara area for one last look.  It was more of the same but a pretty and enjoyable drive.  We had lunch in Roundstone - a good sized tourist town.

The mountains of Connemara in the distance.

Looking out the window of the pub for lunch in Roundstone.

Roundstone harbour - George just had to take the photo!

And then, on the way back to Angela's we saw this monument.  It had an historical marker calling it the Connemara Giant.  We pulled in to see it.  It turned out it was a monument to the Irish sense of humour!

There were two plaques. Both gave the date erected and said they were, "Erected for no particular reason".
I love Ireland.

We're off to Scotland tomorrow.


  1. I absolutely LOVED reading your Blog! Beautifully written, and with wonderful descriptions - makes me want to go there now! Also loved your photos. So glad to see you are both having such a wonderful

  2. Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed the read. We are having a wonderful time. All the best!