All my projects have been on hold as we have just returned from a week in the west of Ireland, my mother-in-law came from Sligo & her 92 year old sister & family are still there so we combined a holiday with visiting family & friends. We started off in Sligo town itself, arriving in the rain – this is Ireland – so of course it was raining! Sligo is the spiritual home of the poet WB Yeats who loved this area & it inspired his poetry.
Sligo is on The Wild Atlantic Way – a road along the west coast taking in some very dramatic scenery & wild places, our first stopover was at Streedagh Point, we stayed in one of the houses built here as holiday homes for Germans in the 1980’s – they were built overlooking the sea & all have saunas!
Rather gloomy view from the house at Streedagh – Benbulben rock in the background.
We took advantage of the dry weather & went for a long walk along the 3km Streedagh beach watching the surfers & looking at the extraordinary fossils & rock formations in this area.
After visiting family & taking in Glencar Falls & Strandhill on the way, we headed down the coast to Achill Island.
If you look closely you can see the tiny figure of a man running up this giant sand dune at Strandhill.
We made the 2.5 hour journey to Achill, only to discover that we had left our rucksack, with all of our euros, back at the pub in Strandhill. Off we went back – it was still there – & back to Achill, 7.5 hrs driving in the rain – not fun- luckily I had downloaded some radio podcasts to listen to as local radio in Ireland can be a little wearing after a while!
Achill is an amazing place, almost forgotten by time, it has incredible beaches & a very dramatic coastline, it has a history of whaling, farming & piracy! Grace O’Malley the famous pirate queen had a castle at Kildavnet, see here, overlooking Clew Bay, the little cemetery here was interesting not least because it is falling into the sea! – definitely worth a visit.
We stayed in a lovely B&B (if a little quirky), excellent food, location & a genuine Irish welcome right on the beach at Keel – Stella Maris Luxury B&B – highly recommended.
Next we headed down to Leenane & the Killary Fjord – Ireland’s only Fjord, formed when a Glacier carved out the rock along a faultline during the Ice Age. The atlantic comes 16km inland here & the fjord is home to Bottle-Nosed dolphins and other wildlife. There are regular boat trips from Killary Harbour to the mouth of the fjord, worth doing for the beautiful scenery & excellent commentary (& coffee).
We stayed in the village of Leenane, (famously The Field was filmed here), at Portfinn Lodge B&B which has spectacular views of the fjord. Leenane is also home to a Sheep & Wool Museum – full of yarny goodies & has a great cafe too, I now need to find a copy of The Field to watch……
Something to do when it was raining:)
From here we headed inland, via beautiful countryside & Loughs to the very quaint village of Cong, the John Wayne film, The Quiet Man, was filmed here – another one to watch- then on to Carrick-on- Shannon. There we spent a day boating on the river with my husband’s cousin & his wife, dodging showers & negotiating locks & loughs. The Shannon is Irelands largest river but was amazingly quiet & peaceful, a lovely experience. Back in Carrrick, we had a fabulous dinner at The Oarsman gastro pub & restaurant, a lively, friendly pub with great food & live music.
Our last day was spent travelling back to Knock airport via Boyle Abbey – magnificient ruins of a Cistercian Abbey, and the Shrine at Knock where, in 1879, 15 people saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary, St Joseph & others. This shrine is a huge enterprise & visitors come from all over the world to pray for cures & attend mass, Knock airport was built to accommodate the large numbers of people heading here.
On The Shannon heading into Lough Key Forest Park.
Quite by chance one of my old school friends happened to be at her parents house nearby, so we popped in for a cuppa on our way to the airport – we could have stayed longer if we had checked our flight status- delayed an hour & a half:( Stiil, we caught the end of the Mayo vs Dublin Gaelic Football semi final in the departure lounge – now that was lively!!