Tag Archives: Galway

Ireland, Galway to Westport

Galway Ireland

Almost as soon as we returned to the car and drove away from Knock it started to rain and by the time we reached the city of Galway we were very glad of underground parking facilities at the hotel so that we didn’t get soaked through getting to reception.

This wet weather came as something as a surprise. We travelled to Ireland in 2014 and went to the west coast, a year later we went to Northern Ireland and stayed in Belfast and in 2016 visited Cork and the South Coast. Despite Ireland’s reputation for dreary weather and lots of rain we enjoyed sunshine and blue skies on all three occasions.

So good was the weather in fact that Kim thinks it is permanently sunny in the Emerald Isle so she was especially dismayed to see the grey skies and persistent rain.

Northern Ireland Blue Flag

So persistent as it happened that we were unable and unwilling to step out of the hotel and walk into the city centre for evening meal and made do with the hotel restaurant instead.

Overnight there was no improvement and in the morning a peek through the curtains revealed a dismal view of steel grey sky and bands of drenching rain swooping in from the Atlantic Ocean. Kim ventured outside for an early morning stroll but was very soon forced back inside to the shelter of the hotel.

Our first day plans were in tatters. It had been our intention to spend the morning in Galway, a city that we had really liked on our first visit in 2014 but the rain was so bad there seemed little point taking to the streets that we had enjoyed in brilliant sunshine at that time. A good job that we had been there before then because if this was my only visit it wouldn’t be on my going back to list that’s for sure.

Galway Ireland postcard

Several countries claim to be wettest in Europe including Switzerland, Norway and Scotland but I have visited Ljubljana in Slovenia which has the dubious distinction of being the wettest capital city in Europe and at fifty three inches that would certainly take some beating.  Before I knew this I would probably have guessed that it would be Cardiff, in Wales, because that is fairly damp as well but the Welsh capital city is left way behind at only forty inches or so.

We were going to drive along the coast but with the road shrouded in mist we abandoned that plan as well and took a more direct route alongside Loch Corrib towards our far west destination via Joyce Country and the Connemara National Park. After an hour or so the rain eased off to a light drizzle so encouraged by that we eventually made for the coast and the fishing village of Roundstone.

I like this picture. There is a saying “Only in Ireland” and I suggest that only in Ireland would you find gas bottles stored next to the petrol pump…

Roundstone County Galway Ireland

At Roundstone there was minor improvement as we drove in and parked the car and by some small miracle, which I attributed to having visited the Holy Shrine at Knock, it had stopped raining and were able to take a walk around the harbour and the streets without a rain coat or an umbrella.

It didn’t last long however and soon it started to rain once more. Our outline plan for this holiday was to roughly follow the west coast route along the Wild Atlantic Way through Counties Galway, Mayo and Sligo and for a few miles we followed a lonely coast road that weaved its way through a landscape of giant boulders and heathland which struggled to look at all interesting in the sweeping rain.  We were heading now for our two night stay in the holiday town of Westport.

Wild Atlantic Way Galway to Westport

In Connamara National Park we looked for The Twelve Pins a mountain range of apprimately two thousand feet high which should have been easy to spot but the cloud was so low and the rain so steady that it was impossible to find them so we just drove on through the damp town of Clifden until we arrived at a windswept car park that a place that commemorated two important events.

First this was the site of a previous transmitting station where Marconi sent transatlantic radio messages to Glace Bay in Newfoundland.  Grainy photographs reveal the huge scale of the building, with the large condenser house building, the power house with its six boilers and the massive aerial system consisting of eight wooden masts, each over two hundred feet high. It is long since gone of course there is nothing very much to see even on a good day.

Marconi Radio Station Clifden Ireland

Secondly this is the landing site of the first non-stop transatlantic flight piloted by British pioneer aviators Alcock and Brown who landed at this place in June 1919 although looking carefully at the photograph below that looks more like a crash to me rather than a landing and judging by the heavy overcoats it was probably as cold on that occasion as it was today and we stood and shivered in the rain for only a few moments before returning to the car and making our way to Westport.

Alcock and Brown Clifden Landing Site

We spent a damp evening in Westport but the owner of the B&B assured us of good weather for the following two days so were optimistic about that and the other good thing is that it doesn’t rain in pubs and we finished the evening in a bar where local musicians entertained with traditional Irish music.

As we walked back to the B&B we were happy to see that the sky was definitely clearing away to the west.

Westport Pub Irish Music

Richard and Pauline had been to this bar twelve years previously and he sent me this picture to prove it.  Goodness me, they were the same musicians…

Matt Molloys Westport Ireland

 

Ireland, Research and Knock Airport

Ireland 03

There is a simple pub quiz question that comes up regularly and which I always get wrong.  The question is ‘what is the nearest country to the United Kingdom’ and the answer of course is Southern Ireland or Eire but I always forget about the border with Northern Ireland and blurt out ‘France, it must be France’.

If the Scottish Nationalists ever get their way then there will be two correct answers to the question which is likely to cause a lot of bar-room arguments!

I suppose I have always been a bit hesitant about travelling in the British Isles because being English I have always been rather conscious that we are not going to win many popularity contests with our nearest neighbours.

A lot of Scottish people seem to hate us and the Scottish First Minister, the Anglophobe, Nicola Sturgeon, desperately wants a vote in favour of independence. Until quite recently the Welsh used to burn down our holiday homes and the last time I went there I got a speeding ticket which I am convinced was issued only on the basis that I had an English registered car.  So I was a little concerned about visiting a country who apparently regard the English responsible for all their recent disasters from the Irish Famine to the failure to qualify for the Football World Cup!

On a more positive note, although it is a thousand miles away or so, Gibraltar seems to like to retain its British connections even if this is motivated by indecent self-interest!

gibraltar-ape_1861379i

The British Isles are a group of islands off the north-western coast of continental Europe that consist of the islands of Great Britain, Ireland and over six thousand smaller islands. The term British Isles however is controversial in Ireland where there are objections to its usage due to the association of the word British which in terms of Irish history continues to be considered colonialist. The Government of Ireland does not recognise or use the term and it prefers the term Britain and Ireland as an alternative description.  Even the British Lions Rugby team is now rebranded as the British and Irish Lions.

The England Cricket Team has an Irish Captain who refuses to sing the National Anthem which to me means he is simply not eligible!  Previously there has been a Scottish captain, Mike Denness and a Welsh Captain, Tony Lewis who  didn’t have the same problem.  I would say to Eoin Morgan sing or you don’t play and get the appearance money!

Ireland Guiness

In preparation for travel I carried out my usual research and used my favourite benchmarks to try and understand the country that I was visiting. Most impressive is that Ireland is placed eighth in the Human Development Index which means that it is the top ten of the most highly developed countries in the World and before the recent economic crisis it used to be in the top five.  The Index ranks countries by level of ‘human development’ and the statistic is composed from data on life expectancy, education and per-capita gross national income.

The economic crisis has had a negative effect on Ireland’s position in the European Happiness Index however and it is rated at only fourteenth out of thirty which is a very long way behind the United Kingdom but I was interested to see that in a recent poll in the Irish Times that Galway was voted the happiest place to be in Ireland and I was glad about that because that was where we were planning to go first.

Ireland has only two UNESCO World Heritage Sites which, let’s be honest, is a rather poor performance and I would suggest that someone in Dublin needs to start travelling around and making some applications – Australia has got nineteen for goodness sake!  The country also needs to do something about its Blue Flag Beaches because it now only has seventy when a few years ago it had one hundred and forty-two!

Ireland Inch Beach

But some statistics continue to be impressive and Ireland remains the most successful nation in the Eurovision Song Contest, which with seven wins is higher than all other competitors so who really cares about the economic crisis anyway?

We arrived in Ireland (an hour late thanks to unannouced Ryanair flight rescheduling) at Knock Airport, or Ireland West Airport as it is now known and as we descended the aircraft steps the wind tugged at the buttons of our shirts and the rain stung our cheeks as though we were walking through a swarm of bees.

Knock Airport

It turns out that this is a most unlikely airport. The site, on a hill in boggy terrain that is often shrouded in dense fog, was thought by airport planning experts to be hopelessly unrealistic but was built following a long and controversial campaign by Monsignor James Horan who had a sort of evangelical business plan to bring pilgrims to the nearby religious site of the Knock Shrine (more about that later) and who convinced both the Irish Government and the European Union to fund the project.

Perhaps due to Devine Intervention it is now the fourth busiest airport in Ireland after Dublin, Shannon and Cork and we were happy about that because on our quest to visit all of Ireland this provided us with a gateway to the North West.

Knock Airport 1

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reward – Street Entertainment

Galway Street Entertainment

By now it was a glorious afternoon and the temperature was continuing to rise (‘hotter even than Spain’) as we walked back through the main streets where there were street entertainers every few yards, some playing traditional instruments, some improvising on spoons and bits of wood and metal and others standing around as statues.

I make it a rule not to give money to beggars who just sit around looking sorry for themselves with a big scruffy dog but I don’t mind throwing loose change in the collection box of someone who is working for a living so by the time we had walked the entire length of the street my pockets were empty of coins.

Read the full story…

 

Travel Postcards of the Year, 2014

Wroclaw Postcard

Guadalajara Province Map

Galway Ireland

Corfu Map

Turkey Postcard 3

Map of Hungary

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Angular

Salmon Fisherman Galway

This is an Angular that I saw fishing for salmon in the River Carrib in Galway, Ireland.

And this is one going off to do a spot of sea fishing in Portugal.

Sea Fisherman Portugal

Ireland, Ring of Kerry

Ireland Inch Beach

Having gone as far west as possible we were driving east again now on the last leg of our journey back towards Killarney and we followed the coast road as far as the village of Sneem, another tourist logjam with a car park full of growling coaches.

There were two distinct parts of Sneem so we parked in the quieter one next to a plaque dedicated to Charles deGaulle who apparently visited the village many times and selected a shocking pink pub with a garden terrace for a Guinness in the sunshine.

After lunch we crossed a bridge over the river, obviously turbulent in winter judging by the tree debris caught and tangled in the saw toothed rocks but rather indolent today as the water trickled rather than surged over the boulders.  On the other side was the main tourist business with craft and souvenir shops and swarms of day trippers pondering whether or not to buy a traditional Aran cardigan and all along the pavement the street entertainers all hoping for some loose change to be transferred from pockets to collection tins.

Our planned schedule was beginning to fall behind the clock now so we walked back to the car past a lady belting out opera at full volume and the parks full of public art and then left Sneem and followed the coast road until it turned sharply inland at Kenmare and headed towards mountains and the Killarney National Park.  With so many panoramic viewing areas it was stop-start motoring now for a few miles as we stopped as often as possible to admire the scenery most memorably at Moll’s Gap, a mountain pass at the highest point of the climb before the descent towards the Killarney Lakes and the look-out spot at Ladies View where more accordion players and fiddlers were attempting to entertain the bus tour visitors.

As we approached Killarney we left the Ring of Kerry and to be honest I wasn’t disappointed to do so.  On reflection the decision to drive it in just one day was a mistake.  It was too far and it really needed a day or two with a couple of overnight stops to be able to enjoy it fully.  I’ll bear that in mind if I get to go back to the south-west of Ireland.

As we arrived in Killarney the traffic began to get heavier mostly on account of the fact that it had to compete with a fleet of horse-drawn jaunting cars that seemed to enjoy priority over the motor cars and exemptions from the normal rules of the road.

It was too late now to do any real sightseeing, we were way behind time and our plan was to find somewhere for a last meal in Ireland before driving back to the airport at Shannon.  This wasn’t as easy as we had imagined because we were in that late afternoon period when pubs and restaurants close down for a couple of hours but we eventually found somewhere suitable and enjoyed a very good meal and a final glass of Guinness.

After the meal we left Killarney for a final two hour drive to the airport which confirmed the days bad planning as we had already spent four hours or so motoring around the Ring of Kerry and everyone was beginning to get a bit fidgety as we drove the unremarkable and rather dull main road towards Limerick.

The dashboard warning symbols were still continuing to blink on and off like garden fairy lights but I became increasingly confident of getting it back without major incident the closer we got to the airport.  We refuelled the car and returned it to the car hire office and I crossed my fingers as the man at the desk examined the paper work and made an inspection.  I explained about the warning lights but this didn’t seem to concern him greatly as though this was a regular occurrence and he signed off the contract and agreed to the refund for the value of the full tank of fuel but for the next few days I kept my eye on my credit card account in case of any damage charges being charged through.  Nothing happened!

I’m so sorry if I disappointed anyone expecting an engine explosion story!

Back at the airport now we prepared for our flight, fortunately one of a handful not delayed due to a French air traffic control strike, with some time to spare to reflect on out holiday.  Ireland, I have to say, had been a revelation to me and had far exceeded my pre-travel expectations, Galway, Dublin, Ennistymon and especially Dingle were all so wonderful that Ireland is now firmly placed in my ‘must return to’ list.

Galway Ireland postcard  Dunguaire Castle Kinvara Ireland

Dublin Postcard  Dingle Ireland

Postcards From Ireland

County Clare Postcard

Dublin Postcard