DAY 6 – Connemara and Kylemore Abbey

Ireland, Day 6 – Connemara and Kylemore Abbey (also was a Castle)

What a long but an amazing day with a wonderful Irish tour guide who really gave us a feel for the people and the country side of Ireland. We started our tour off by being picked up at our hotel!!  What a treat.  We headed through some smaller towns on our way to Connemara (which is a part of Ireland north of Galway)

Connemara (in Irish: Conamara), which derives from Conmhaicne Mara (meaning: descendants of Con Mhac, of the sea), is a district in the west of Ireland comprising of a broad peninsula between Killary Harbour and Kilkieran Bay in the west of County Galway or south west Connacht. The Conmhaicne Mara were a branch of the Conmhaicne, an early tribal grouping that had a number of branches located in different parts of Connacht.

An example of a small pub in a village far from a large(ish) city like Galway.  The license is displayed on the outside of the bar and the bar as a defibrillator on it as there are no hospitals anywhere close, so for help, people know to go to the bar.

Our guide also pointed out the roofs that are made of barley and that they last 10+ years!  But the very top which is very intricate needs to be replaced more often.  He also pointed out to look for these tops of the roofs as they are different at every cottage.
One of our favorite parts of Ireland are the fences that are everywhere!  it has become an icon of Ireland.  Probably the only fence that makes the country side more beautiful.  Something else to note is the shrinking of Ireland that was caused in the mid 1800’s.  What happened is a family would have a plot of land, but when they had a child they would divide their land into 2 so they would lose half their land and the other half would go to their children.  When their children had children they would divide up their land, and so on.  This left the problem of shrinking land space and when the potato famine hit in 1940-1952 the reason why so many died or left Ireland.  Very interesting and had never heard it explained like that below.  Our guide was so wonderful, really gave us the culture and actually showed us explains throughout the day.

Visited the ferry docks and our guide had us look for seals, Mom spotted one and with my killer zoom I was able to confirm! (we will see plenty more of these, hopefully, on our Tuesday trip to the islands)

more beautiful sites in Connemara …

As we went through the bogs of Ireland our guide told us about Peat and the importance of this resource to Ireland.  Peat (turf) is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter that is unique to natural areas called peatlands, bogs, or mires. The peatland ecosystem is the most efficient carbon sink on the planet because peatland plants capture the CO2 which is naturally released from the peat, thus maintaining an equilibrium. In natural peatlands, the “annual rate of biomass production is greater than the rate of decomposition”, but it takes “thousands of years for peatlands to develop the deposits of 1.5 to 2.3 m, which is the average depth of the boreal peatlands”. Peat forms in wetland conditions, where flooding obstructs flows of oxygen from the atmosphere, slowing rates of decomposition.

People in Ireland burn peat as is smolders and it is required if you have a “straw” roof, however, after it is harvested, it does not grow back and it releases a lot of C02 into the atmosphere so now the government and groups are actually paying farmers and country livers to not harvest the peat.

Our tour guide said he had to do this as a kid with his family and it was back breaking and boring…very intensive.  After it is dug up BY HAND it has to be dried out for weeks (turned over or set up in pyramids to dry)

Seaweed…which is another resource that us used and harvested in Ireland for makeup and other cosmetics and products.

Connemara Ponies: Surprisingly, this pony is actually of Scandinavian descent, having been brought to Ireland by the Vikings (who arrived in 795AD). Following that, legend has it that when galleons from the infamous Spanish Armada (who were returning home after unsuccessfully attempting to invade England) unexpectedly ran aground off the Galway coast in 1588, the Andalusian horses on board were set loose. Swimming to shore from the wrecks, they gradually began to breed with the Irish ponies running wild in the mountains.

Stop for tea/coffee and a snack…beautiful (even through it is cloudy and rainy)

The way the water and beaches are, if you did not know any better, it could be a tropical beach!  The sand is actually ground up seashells and is more yellow and course than “normal” sand.

British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight in June 1919. They flew a modified First World War Vickers Vimy bomber from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Clifden, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. Wetdrove through Clifden!!!  This was a very cute town that I would have loved to stay or at least stop in…so much history!!  John and Arthur actually were looking for these two church steepels as they then knew they were in Ireland and that the radio station was near!

Morse Code was also invented and tried for the first time with success near Clifden – like I said, so much history!!

Kylemore Abbey (pictures do not due this place justice, click here to see more)

Kylemore Castle was built as a private home for the family of Mitchell Henry, a wealthy doctor from London whose family was involved in textile manufacturing in Manchester, England. He moved to Ireland when he and his wife Margaret purchased the land around the Abbey. He became a politician, becoming an MP for County Galway from 1871 to 1885. The castle was designed by James Franklin Fuller, aided by Ussher Roberts. Construction first began in 1867, and took one hundred men four years to complete. The castle covered approximately 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) and had over seventy rooms with a principal wall that was two to three feet thick. The facade measures 142 feet (43 m) in width and is made of granite brought from Dalkey by sea to Letterfrack and from limestone brought from Ballinasloe. There were 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, a ballroom, billiard room, library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room and various offices and domestic staff residences for the butler, cook, housekeeper and other servants.

Other buildings include a Gothic cathedral and family mausoleum containing the bodies of Margaret Henry, Mitchell Henry and a great grand-nephew. The Abbey remained in Henry’s estate after he returned to England. The castle was sold to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester in 1909, who resided there for several years before being forced to sell the house and grounds because of gambling debts.

In 1920, the Irish Benedictine Nuns purchased the Abbey castle and lands after they were forced to flee Ypres, Belgium during World War I. The nuns, who had been based in Ypres for several hundred years, had been bombed out of their Abbey during World War I. The nuns continued to offer education to Catholic girls, opening an international boarding school and establishing a day school for girls from the locality. The school acted as the main educator for most girls from Renvyle, Letterfrack and further afield for almost a century but it was forced to close in June 2010.

Walled Victorian Gardens, Kylemore Abbey The Estate includes large walled Victorian Gardens. Since the 1970s these have been open for public tours and ‘nature’ walks. The Benedictine community has restored the Abbey’s gardens and Cathedral with donations and local artisans in order to be a self-sustaining estate.

View from front porch of the Abbey….

there was a fireplace in very room and one was actually lite!  This was a real wood burning fire!

Just a five minute walk along the shores of Lough Pollacapull lies Kylemore’s enchanting neo-Gothic Church. Described as a ‘Cathederal in Miniature’ this elegant building is a lasting testament to the love of Mitchell Henry for his wife Margaret. On your visit you may be lucky enough to enjoy one of the many musical performances that take place here throughout the year.T

Timeline of the Kylemore Castle and Abbey

More sheep, I cannot get enough of this landscape and beauty

No reason to post these as it says “nothing happened” but I thought it was very cute and a great idea! On the other side of the street where shops so they put these up so people would stop.  I like how honest they were – I mean, in the states we have worst things that are massive tourist attractions….”man in the mountain”  my point exactly.  
To the opposite from nothing happening, I guess John Wayne had been to Connemara and there were scenes from The Quite Man shot here (this was the actual bridge that a scene was filmed)  The Quiet Man is a 1952 Technicolor American romantic comedy-drama film directed by John Ford. It stars John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond and Victor McLaglen. The screenplay by Frank S. Nugent was based on a 1933 Saturday Evening Post short story of the same name by Maurice Walsh, later published as part of a collection The Green Rushes. The film is notable for Winton Hoch’s lush photography of the Irish countryside and a long, climactic, semi-comic fist fight. It was an official selection of the 1952 Venice Film Festival.

Dinner at The King’s Head.  Nothing to write home about…but it was nice to relax after a longer day. Trying the new Lager we saw an ad for…it is made by Guinness!! It was OK, it tasted like a good lager….I will stick with Guinness while I am here
Fish and Chips…not as good at Cookes but the green mash (pea mash) was interesting

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