When the tour bus left the Knockranny Hotel that morning, there was a feeling of deja vu; we took the same road we’d driven on the day before until we reached Leenane. Instead of going along the foot of the hills to the catamaran pier, however, this time we turned onto a road that led up into the hills and headed south along the west coast.
Although we were not always in sight of the ocean, we were never very far from it. The scenery was, as usual, lovely and it was another sunny-but-chilly spring day. We didn’t stop during this part of the journey, but everyone tried to take photos through the bus windows–sometimes with better results than others.
Our first brief stop of the morning was at the Connemara Marble Factory. By some strange quirk of Nature, the green marble they quarry here is unique to Ireland.
We were taken on a tour of the area where the marble is cut and polished, then let loose in the gift shop. I bought a few nice little pieces for friends and relatives–an emerald-colored cross, some “worry stones,” and a little Scotty-dog figurine. Continue reading “Irish Travel Journal, Day 6”
A short day. Our driver Sean had the day off and so we had a substitute, a local man named Martin.
The morning’s tour began with a drive to the village of Leenane–a scenic little place, wedged in at the foot of the mountains at the point where the river flowed out into Killary Fjord (Ireland’s only fjord).
The village and surrounding countryside featured in a film called The Field, starring Richard Harris, Sean Bean, John Hurt, and Tom Berenger. I’ve rented it from Netflix since I returned home, primarily to see if I could spot places I’d been. It’s set in the 1930s. Harris’s character is an old farmer who had rented and tenderly cultivated a field for many years, until the owner of the land put it up for auction. The person most interested in buying the field is an American businessman whose grandfather had emigrated from the same part of Ireland. Things end badly for everyone concerned. Not a bad movie, but very depressing.
The next morning, we drove over to Westport House, which is just on the other side of the town; later in the day, one of the couples on the tour walked on the path along the river in Westport and found their way back to it.
Westport House was the home of the Marquis of Sligo. The family still owns it, though they no longer live there.
Their most famous ancestor was the 16th-century pirate queen Grace O’Malley, who once met with Elizabeth I. There are statues of O’Malley in the house and on the grounds, as well as a pirate-themed children’s park. Continue reading “Irish Travel Journal, Day 4”
After getting in so late from dinner at the Abbey Tavern, I was up the next morning at 6:15 and had my bag ready outside the door of my room for the hotel porters to take down to the bus before I went downstairs for breakfast. We had a long drive ahead of us–all the way across Ireland.
We were out of the hotel by 8:30 and soon heading west on a highway that grew more narrow the farther we left Dublin behind us. It was soon down to two lanes. Once again, the morning sky was overcast and there were occasional spatters of rain on the bus windows during the first part of our journey. But it was beginning to clear by 11:00, when we arrived at Strokestown Park. Continue reading “Irish Travel Journal, Day 3”
When the tour group gets onto the bus the next morning, our first stop of the day is at Trinity College to see The Book of Kells. Fortunately, we arrived just before an even larger busload of tourists got there, so we didn’t have to wait in line behind them.
Once inside the library, before you reach the book itself, there is an exhibition about how the book was made and about the art and craft of medieval book-making in general.
The Book of the Kells is under glass in a separate room, open to pages that show some very delicate blue ink tracery between the lines of script.
On the floor above this display is the long gallery of the Old Library, which houses a large and impressive collection of old books and more rare and interesting items under glass.
The first and last time I visited Ireland was in the summer of 1987. I was a student at the University of Lancaster and my sister Chris was studying in Madrid; we made plans to meet in Dublin. My journey was a relatively short one–just across the northern end of Wales by train, then a ferry from Holyhead to Dublin’s port, Dun Laoghaire (that’s pronounced “Dun Leary”). I was there the next day. Chrissy, on the other hand, had a longer train ride and much longer boat ride. I waited around the Dublin Youth Hostel for her for 4 days and I had to go back to the UK soon after she got there, so I had little chance to look around Ireland then. I always meant to go back one day.