Many of our group went off down Shop Street last night, somewhat akin to Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and enjoyed many groups playing traditional Irish music. Galway is a college town and the night life never stops.
After breakfast this morning, we drove north west along the coast through Salthill, and on out through Inverin to Spiddle. We stopped, as I promised, at Martin Staunton’s Irish Woolens and Souvenir store where copious amounts of money was spent on everything from Irish made soaps and fragrances to expensive linens and tweeds.
Connemara is one of the wildest and most beautiful regions of Ireland, most of it deserted with just a smattering of cottages and small farms to be seen along the narrow roads. All of a sudden, you round a bend and Kylemore Abbey appears through today’s mist. Built in the early 1800’s by an Englishman as his home in Ireland and built by one hundred men over four years, it is quite an awesome site in the middle of nowhere. After many years, in 1913 it was occupied by an order of Dominican nuns who had escaped from Belgium, and became a girls boarding school until quite recently. Apparently one of singer Madonna’s daughters attended the school. Even during the years as a school, parts of the property were open to the public and these days it is a full on tourist destination with souvenir shops and restaurant available.
The weather was changeable today with some sun and also showers, as we drove on around Ireland’s only fjord, Killery Harbor and past Ashleigh Falls into Co. Mayo. We drove into Louisburg and along the shore of Clew Bay. This is O’Malley country and I regaled the group with stories of my ancestor the great Pirate Queen of the West of Ireland, Grace O’Malley or Grauniauaile in Gaelic. Her famous life story and power as a woman has never fully been given the credit she was due, though many books have been written about her escapades.
We stopped under the great Croagh Patrick mountain, where Saint Patrick fasted for forty days on it’s 2,500 foot summit. At the base is the monastery of Murrisc Abbey, dating to the 12th century, where Grace was most likely baptized and was definitely married there.
Just adjacent is the National Famine Memorial, a bronze sailing ship with skeleton victims blowing in the wind among it’s sails. A very moving reminder once again of man’s inhumanity to man by the English government.
We drove on into the Westport Plaza Hotel for dinner and our three night stay. The food, as always here, was delicious and many of the group again have gone out around the town in search of trad music. Tomorrow we will take off down around Achill Island and I will welcome my very good friend James Keigher from the duo “Men of Worth”, to join me in concert here in the hotel…until then…Oiche Mhaith…..Good night…