Thursday, July 12, 2012

From the Midlands to Aran to Connemara

We've covered a lot of ground over the last couple of days.  From Athlone yesterday morning we found our way along back roads of the Shannon River valley (very swollen flood waters) to Clonmacnoise, an important monastic site established in the 6th Century....and extremely busy.  We arrived just as a huge coach was disgorging its load of tourists, and saw that there were another 5 coaches already in the parking lot at 10:30 AM.  Apart from Dublin and Newgrange we have been accustomed to having these important sites to ourselves!!
This ruined castle just outside the Clonmacnoise monastic site seems to be about to topple down completely.
Clonmacnoise--to be buried in this graveyard guarantees one's place in heaven...
and it's now is the neighbouring cemetery.
One of the dramatic stone high crosses which is now installed inside the
visitor's center.  This dates from about the 9th Century.
A view of one of the round towers on the site--perhaps used as a shelter when under attack,
perhaps used as a bell tower...perhaps neither.  There isn't agreement
amongst the archeologists and historians.
We drove to Doolin, on the edge of the Burren, thinking of catching a ferry to the nearest of the Aran Islands the following day.  The fellow in the tourist office suggested we take advantage of the weather (sunny) and go on the next ferry at 5:30 PM.  He arranged our accommodation and sold us ferry tickets and off we drove to the pier.  We arrived with 5 minutes to spare--managed to park, put a few overnight things into our day packs and ran to the boat.  The crossing was rough but manageable.
On the ferry to Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran islands.
We stayed at Tigh Ruairi in a luxurious suite (quite a change for our usual hostels).  I even had a bath before bed, just because I could...

We dropped our bags and set off to explore the island because it was still wonderfully sunny.  There are dry rock walls everywhere you look, enclosing very small pastures.

That rusted ship in the background was thrown up on the rocks in bad weather about 50 years
ago.  Miraculously all aboard were saved by the islanders.
Sunset at about 10:45 PM--the view from our room.
After a hearty breakfast, we set off on another walk amongst the rock walls and within an hour the clouds rolled in along with the inevitable drizzle.  So we hustled back to the guesthouse, collected our belongings and caught the next ferry back to Doolin.

Sheltered from the wind and drizzle, knitting socks...
Beautiful flowers amidst the rocks of The Burren, a very desolate rocky landscape.
We spent a couple of hours in the centre of Galway at the museum and art gallery (a good rainy day activity), and then drove out of the city into "The Connemara" district where we have checked into Canrawer House.  We are sharing the hostel with a couple from Croatia and a family from France.  Everyone is continuing to complain about the weather--our host figures the number of tourists is way down, and won't recover this summer.  He seems very pessimistic.  Galway city was very busy as was Dublin.  Maybe most of the tourists are sticking to the main roads and cities where there are more indoor activities.

1 comment:

  1. Love the Burren, and Aran islands, hope the weather improves. Here it is 35C at 5pm. Ireland is better for your complexion. If you are back in Galway be sure to check out Kenny's art gallery and the Spanish Arch.