Ireland 2016: Trim, Connemara, County Mayo and County Donegal

Tuesday, August 23: Mary, Joe, and I went to the airport about 8:45; my flight was to leave at 10:15. First connection was made in Detroit; I had some time to kill so went to Delta lounge where I had some lunch of soup and vegetables along with a glass of wine. Second connection was in Atlanta where I met up with the Fosters; we went to the Delta lounge where we had some wine until our last flight to Dublin boarded at 6:20. We boarded and settled into our “rooms” for the night. After champagne, wine, and dinner it was time to put down the seat and go to bed. Woke up about two hours out of Dublin and had coffee plus breakfast.

Arrived in Dublin shortly after 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 24.  After retrieving our luggage and Tom getting euros, we went to Hertz to fill out paperwork and pick up the rental car. Due to Tom having good directions with Sarah assisting, I was able to drive out of Dublin with minimal problem and on our way to Trim where we had reserved rooms at Highfield House B&B.

Highfield House B&B

Highfield House B&B

Trim is in the heart of the Boyne River valley and is renowned as one of Ireland’s most beautiful small towns with its monuments, parks, trails, and floral displays . Our rooms were not ready when we arrived around 10:00 so we walked to the phone store where Sarah and Tom picked up prepaid cards for their phones. We walked to city center area and Trim Castle which is an Anglo- Norman castle started by Hugh de Lacy in 1173; we did not take the tour of the castle but walked the grounds. Our exploring took us to Yellow Steeple and Sheep Gate; the steeple was originally the belfry tower of the Augustinian Abbey of St. Mary and has gotten its name because of its color in the evening sunlight. The Sheep Gate is the only surviving gateway to the Medieval town of Trim. At this point, we went back to our B&B where our rooms were ready. Before heading out again, we took a few hours to rest. Oh, it felt so good to brush my teeth and rest my eyes for a few minutes. Our afternoon walk took us by the Old Mellifont Abbey which was Ireland’s first Cistercian monastery, the Maudlin Cemetery which was the site of the Leper Hospital of Mary Magdalene, Millennium Bridge, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and a pub we wanted to go into but it was not open.

Walking the river trail

Walking the river trail

Fosters at Sheep Gate

Fosters at Sheep Gate

Yellow Steeple

Yellow Steeple

Backside of Trim Castle

Backside of Trim Castle

Mellifont Abbey and cemetary

Mellifont Abbey and cemetary

We walked to the town center and ate at Judge and Jury. Because of the long flight the night before, we decided on an early night. I was in bed on my way to dreamland before it was dark outside.

Three of us at Judge and Jury

Three of us at Judge and Jury

Thursday, August 25, arrived with sunshine. Met the Fosters for breakfast at 8:00;  the owners certainly knew how to provide a great breakfast with full menu selection that included fresh scones. After having a final cup of coffee in the patio area where we discussed our day, we checked out and headed to Westport. We stopped at Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre which interprets an Iron Age bog road, the largest of its kind to be uncovered in Europe dating from 148 BC.  It was interesting to hear the history from the volunteer person; however, she was VERY enthusiastic about the subject and became quite lengthy with detail.

Bog road

Bog road

Fosters on bog road replica

Fosters on bog road replica

Wildflower bushes

Wildflower bushes

Lunch was at Swan Tavern in Lanesboro; I ordered the lamburger thinking I was going to get a sandwich but it turned out to be a full meal with potatoes and gravy plus vegetables which was too much food for me! Arrived in Westport about 4:00 and after settling into our B&B called Killeny House we walked to the town centre where we explored the shops, pubs, and restaurants. I made a purchase at a kitchen store called Market 57, a store full of great kitchen gadgets and gourmet food, candy, and jams. We had dinner at Clock Tower which had a varied menu and the food was good. After dinner, we went to three places where music was being played; the best was at Matt Mallory but it was very crowded.

Channel by B&B

Channel by B&B

Entertainers

Entertainers

Banjo player

Banjo player

Decided to head back and call it an evening. Into bed about 11:30.

On Friday, the 26th, we had breakfast and headed to Achill Island which is Ireland’s largest island. It rained on the way but cleared up and we had a glorious day. At Mulranny, we turned onto the loop that took us to Achill Sound; from there, we took the northern route where we stopped for coffee at Dugort at a neat coffee house which displayed a lunch menu and desserts that looked fabulous.  There were many blackface sheep spotted during our drive; thousands of these sheep were imported from Scotland during the 1850’s and, today, roam on mountainsides, valleys, and on the road.  From Dugort, we drove to Slievemore Mountain (second highest peak on Achill Island) and the Deserted Village plus cemetery.  The Deserted Village consists of some 80 – 100 stone cottages located along a mile long stretch of road on the southern slopes of Slievemore mountain; it is believed this settlement dates back to at least early Medieval times.

Beautiful countryside

Beautiful countryside

Fixture of the road

Fixture of the road

By the Atlantic

By the Atlantic

Remnants of the Deserted Village settlement

Remnants of the Deserted Village settlement

More Deserted Village

More Deserted Village

Tom liking the exploration of the village

Tom liking the exploration of the village

Cemetery at Slievemore

Cemetery at Slievemore

After leaving the settlement, we continued on our goal of driving all the way to the end of the island and winding up at Keem Bay, an area of sheltered beach surrounded by high cliffs.   We thought we would have lunch there but there was only a vendor truck selling hot dogs.  Sarah and I waded in the Atlantic Ocean while Tom took pictures. Back into the car where we went to Keel and had lunch at Gielly’s; Sarah and I had tuna panini while Tom had seafood chowder…everything was great! On our way back to Westport, we stopped at a couple pottery places where, at one, I purchased a vase.

Getting close to Keem

Getting close to Keem

Does the road "drop" into the Atlantic?

Does the road “drop” into the Atlantic?

Water flowing down the mountain

Water flowing down the mountain

Keel Bay

Keel Bay

Ocean wading

Ocean wading

Another view of scenery

Another view of scenery

Old tower

Old tower

Back at Westport, we made a brief stop at our B&B and then walked to the Town Centre where live Irish music was found at JJ O’Mallory so we ordered some drinks and appetizers (since lunch was late, we did not want a full meal).

The entertainers

The entertainers

Really enjoyed the music and hated to leave but it was time…back to the B&B with lights out around 11:00. But it was a very noisy evening with partying going on from 12:30 to 3:00 in the morning; not a good night for sleeping.

Saturday, the 27th, I awoke before the 6:30 alarm, took a shower, and worked on my notes until Tom Foster knocked on my door at 8:00. Went to breakfast which did not vary from the day before. After talking it over the night before, we wanted to thoroughly check out the next B&B we select on the internet before making reservations for our Sligo stop. This B&B was selected by us because we thought it was an old distillery turned into a bed and breakfast which turned out not. The innkeeper was very friendly and nice but the bed hard, very plain decor, and not what we preferred. After breakfast, we looked at various options, settled on one we thought would be good and Tom called/made us reservations. Fortunately, Jeannette and Allan who are joining us in Sligo were able to reserve at the same place! We headed toward Sligo with a couple detours…prehistoric fields and cliffs. We first stopped at Ballycroy National Park which has 11,000 hectares, or approximately 4455 acres) of Atlantic blanket bog and mountainous terrain dominated by the Neptin Bog range. After a cup of coffee, we took a walk along the pathway and shot some pictures.

Walkway by bog fields

Walkway by bog fields

Surrounding area of bog fields

Surrounding area of bog fields

More of bog fields

More of bog fields

Our next stop was Céide Fields which is the most extensive Stone-Age monument in the world; field systems, dwelling areas and megalithic tombs of 5,000 years ago. After viewing a video talking about the times, we walked around the enclosure.

View of area surrounding the visitor center

View of area surrounding the visitor center

Tomb site

Tomb site

Top of visitor center

Top of visitor center

Fosters looking at some of the sites

Fosters looking at some of the sites

And then on the road again. We stopped at the Downpatrick Head for cliff viewing; these are taking the credit of being second to the Cliffs of Mohr in their beauty and dramatic shapes.

Downpatrick Head

Blow hole

Lookout post on top of cliffs

Watch house on top of cliffs

View from cliffs

View from cliffs

Cliff "dwellers"

Cliff “dwellers”

Another cliff view

View of sea stack from cliffs

After taking pictures and walking around, we headed for Killala and lunch at the Village Inn. We arrived in Sligo shortly after 5:00, settled into the Pearse Lodge B&B. Allan and Jeannette were ahead of us so we met them at a pub, which serves food, called Hargadon Bros.; I was not very hungry so ordered dessert with my glass of wine. Back to B&B for bed.

Sunday, the 28th, we met for a great breakfast and then split up with Jeannette, Allan, and Tom hiking onto a mountain top while Sarah and I walked to the Sligo Abbey where we took the self-guided walking tour. The abbey is 13th century and contains the only surviving 15th century sculptured high altar in any Irish monastic church.

Dragon bench downtown Sligo

Dragon bench downtown Sligo

The Garavogue River thru Sligo

The Garavogue River thru Sligo

Inside abbey

Inside abbey

Alcove in abbey

Alcove in abbey

Abbey from the outside

Abbey from the outside

After exploring the abbey, we walked back to the B&B, got the car, and drove to the local farmer’s market by the airport. It was small but fun; Tom, Jeannette, and Allan joined us there. After making a couple purchases, we left and found lunch at The Venue Bar. And then onto Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery where we saw the largest cemetery of megalithic tombs, ranging from 5500 to 6500 hundred years of age, in Ireland and among their oldest with over 60 tombs being located.

One of the tombs

One of the tombs

Opening into a tomb

Opening into a tomb

The tomb

The tomb

Myself with Allan and Jeannette

Myself with Allan and Jeannette

That evening we walked downtown to The Snug for some liquid refreshments; Tom was given a free beer by some guy which caused the rest of us to wonder if the guy was trying “hustle” Tom. We listened briefly to a couple performing live music which was so-so listening.

Inside The Snug

Inside The Snug

Enjoying beer

Enjoying beer

Couple performing

Couple performing

On to dinner at Fiddler’s Tavern and Restaurant; I had the chicken fillet which was quite delicious. One thing about the Irish…they do not skimp on food and provide large quantities of it. We walked back to the B&B with an early night to bed.

On August 29th I woke up early enough to watch the sunrise and get a picture of our bed and breakfast which has been fantastic with wonderful accommodations, friendly host and hostess, and good food.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Pearse Lodge B&B

Pearse Lodge B&B

The five of us met for breakfast at 8:00 and, after paying our bill and loading up the car, we headed north to Belleek Pottery; home to the Belleek Fine Parian china, a pearly coloured china. The company was established in 1857 and is best known for its fine lattice work ornamental pieces that are decorated with pastel-coloured flowers.   We took an excellent 30-minute tour of process and then ended up in the gift shop filled with many, many items for sale.

Pottery moulds

Pottery moulds

Pottery of flowers, stems & leaves

Pottery of flowers, stems & leaves

Hand painting the pottery

Hand painting the pottery

Finished product

Finished product

  We went to Ballyshannon for a visit to Donegal Brewery but they were not open so had lunch at Kate’s Kitchen where I had a very tasty Tuna Melt. Onward to Donegal Castle which was built by the O’Connell chieftain in the 15th century, beside the River Eske, with extensive 17th century additions made by Sir Basil Brooke.

Donegal Castle

Donegal Castle

History of castle

History of castle

Castle's toilet

Castle’s toilet

Dining area with huge fireplace

Dining area with huge fireplace

As we made our way further north, we stopped at a coastal beach where Jeannette and Allan waded in the Atlantic while the rest walked the beach.

The beach

The beach

Wading in the Atlantic

Wading in the Atlantic

Area around the beach

Area around the beach

With that break, we drove to Dungloe where we hoped to get lodging at place called Iggy’s, advertised as a bar and B&B. However, Iggy’s is in Kincasslagh which Jeannette and Allan reached before us. They had enough time to find out Iggy’s does not take in lodgers but Logue’s, a B&B not far from the bar, does so Allan flagged us down as we drove up. Nice accommodations with a beautiful view. Settled in and then walked to Iggy’s for a drink. After our drink, we walked to the Viking House Hotel for dinner where I had chicken skewers and salad; very good. Back to our lodging in time for me to update my notes before getting ready for bed.

Logue B&B

Logue B&B

View from B&B

View from B&B

Iggy's Bar

Iggy’s Bar

Owner of Iggy's

Owner of Iggy’s

Group shot at Viking House Hotel

Group shot at Viking House Hotel

Beautiful morning on Tuesday, August 30th and, after a hearty breakfast, we headed toward Glenveagh National Park where we wanted to visit the Glenveagh castle and walled gardens. On the way, we stopped at a local beach and explored. At this point, Jeannette and Allan went their separate way with the thought of meeting up with us at the park. It was a beautiful drive to the park and we stopped to explore a Catholic Church on the way.

The local beach

The local beach

Allan, the photographer

Allan, the photographer

Another view of the beach

Another view of the beach

Church and cemetery

Church and cemetery

View of beautiful countryside

View of beautiful countryside

Arrived at the visitor center and decided to walk to the castle instead of taking the shuttle bus. It was a good 40-minute walk but, because of the heat, I was glad to arrive at the castle.

View from the walking trail

View from the walking trail

Different view from walking trail

Different view from walking trail

Tom at castle entrance

Tom at castle entrance

We signed up for the tour and waited about 5 minutes before it began. Good tour but felt it did not encompass a lot of the detail. After the tour, we walked the walled gardens which had both flowers and vegetables. While there, we encountered Allan and Jeannette. We explored the grounds and decided to ride back to the visitor center while Jeannette and Allan walked.

Part of walled garden

Part of walled garden

Gardens with castle in background

Gardens with castle in background

Three of us exploring

Three of us exploring

Robin on castle fence

Robin on castle fence

Had lunch at the center and, even though the kids had not shown up, left for Letterkenny where we planned to find lodging for the night. Upon arrival at Letterkenny, it took us awhile to find the Tourist Information Center who, we hoped, would have a listing of B&B’s in the area. The first one they recommended was filled while second one contacted, Ardlee B&B, had available space. We drove there and checked in; the kids were doing laundry so we got a room for them.

Ardlee B&B

Ardlee B&B

Because of the distance from the B&B to the town centre, we decided to drive part of the way; left car at Aldi’s and walked to the nearby shopping center where we got drinks at Oasis Bar; the kids joined us after our first drink. Decided to go the Sister Sara’s for another drink and food but they do not serve food so went to Brewery Bar and Restaurant. Food was good but service slow. Back to car with Jeannette driving back to our lodging. The next day we were headed into Northern Ireland so my blog will describe that portion of our trip in another posting.

 

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