Today we took leave of our lovely beachside site and headed off to tour Connemara.
We exited the bay and these eager sheep decided to show us the way out!
We travelled around the coast road ooing and aahing as we gazed out on the coastline.
We followed a sign to Bunowen Bay pier.
Passing this ruined castle..
And on to a working fishing harbour and the home of the Conemarra Smokehouse - apparently one of Rick Steins food heroes.
We admired the view.
And then visited the Connemara Smokehouse, a small, remote, family owned smokehouse at the end of a cul-de-sac in a remote part of Ireland with a sign saying, ring the bell and come in. We were met by two native French speakers, a Swiss girl and a chap from from Montepelier. “We mostly get visited by French people he explains, and these days I spend more time in Ireland than France.” Now we have met lots of French during our stays in the West, in fact probably there are more French than any other nationality except maybe the Americans, although because they are the loudest and they come in waves from bus tours, it just seems like there’s more of them. We leave with a pack of lovely smoked salmon, passing a couple of French campervans on the way back to the main route.
Onwards through the Connemara countryside - wow - we think this is the highlight of our tour!
We stopped for a picnic lunch overlooking Letterfrack pier
And onwards passing by Killary Harbour
We then drove theough hills ( mountains?)
And viewing valley pastureland
On the journey we noticed we were back in doughnut country. The local speciality.
Not the sugary type but the black type you find in the middle of the road. Whenever a road widens, say for a junction, you see some curvy tyre tracks going from side to side until the road widens enough to do a full circle. Round and round they go leaving half the tyre on the road. We assume these are stolen cars - either that or they like spending money on tyres.
And down until we reached the lakes..
We had a van prepared cup of tea overlooking Loch Corrib - just managing to capture a small segment of this massive lake.
Then on to Cong - the village immortalised in the film “ The Quiet Man”, a film unknown to us, (but not to millions of Americans).
Every attraction has reference to the film - there’s a museum, a house advertising itself as the location of the “death scene” and a statue of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. There are tours, walks of scenes and cafés called “The Quiet Man”. The campsite shows the film every night at 8pm and had just taken delivery of a hundred DVD’s for the season.
Thurs 24th May
Woke late and had another al fresco breakfast in glorious sunshine.
We cycled in to Cong to get something for lunch and to visit the tourist office for some info re circular cycle rides.
My goodness Cong is a bottleneck of tourist traffic and heavy lorries - which does not add anything to the appeal of the place.
As Carol walked by a famous statue of - yes- a scene from the Quiet Man - a car drove up and the women in the passenger seat asked her (in an American accent) to step aside whilst she took a photo of said attraction - as the traffic built up behind the car. As I crossed the road I couldn’t help mutter ‘ getting out the car must be difficult for heavens sake’ as a man behind me chuckled.
This morning the streets were awash with Americans queuing to enter the Quiet Man Museum, take photos of the statue, wandering around conversing in their enthusiastic manner.
We will take photographic evidence later today when the tours have finished...
Carol did take a photo of this poster in the tourist office though
And this sign on the bridge we attached the bikes to
After lunch we took off on a cycle tour clutching the map from the tourist office - and subsequently ... got lost..
We did come across a friendly donkey in a garden and it enjoyed a nice stroke from Carol. A little later on as Graham attended to a minor problem with Carol’s bike (it had “thrown her” and landed heavily on the road) - the donkey pushed through a fence for further attention - as Carol reached to stroke it it leant forward and bit into her chest area - oww! - as she recoiled in pain it had a smiling look on it’s face like that donkey in Shrek!
We rode on blindly failing to follow the forest trail but still came across a lovely lake view.
We followed a track back to find we had managed to enter the grounds of Ashford Castle - a posh hotel where rooms start at €650 and go up to €4,500 a night in May. It is patrolled by security vans. The general public can walk the grounds for €10 pp.
We cycled up many paths - all leading back to the hotel - which is surrounded by a moat - with a lake behind. Passing the Falconary Centre, the Equestrian Centre , the tennis courts, the croquet pitch, the helicopter pad, we had somehow (accidently) found ourselves in the inner sanctuary, within the moat and mixing it with the €1,000 per night people. We decided we had just have to go for it and cycled following a chaffeur driven limosine over the bridge over the moat cheerily waving to the top hat formally dressed security staff. Passed the fancy tea rooms and the golf course and back to the campsite via The Lodge - another posh but less expensive hotel complex in the grounds.
Unfortunately the sun was in the wrong place for a good photo - all taken were too dark - so here’s one from the website!
Back to Cong for photo taking -
The Quiet Man museum .
The Dying Man scene cottage
And the statue
Back to the van for an ice cream as the sun still shone brightly.
Score for Cong campsite 8/10 - attached to hostel accomodation - clean facilities, large pitches,easy cycle into Cong via Ashford Castle back route. Begrudged being able to use the laundry facilities 3.30 - 7.30 pm only. Probably better for a 1 night stoppover.
Fri 25th May
Last day in Eire - today we spent the day travelling to Dublin along the motorway - so nothing exciting to report.
Arrived at Camac Valley touring site situated near to a lovely park but near the N7 road in to Dublin so on sadly our last night in Eire we spent the evening listening to heavy traffic rumbling by.
Still - no van cooking for Carol tonight - we had dinner in a nearby hotel - 15 mins walk however it was a tourist hotel and sadly no gourmet food to be had - bar food for us and back to camp for an early night.
We noted an interesting van parked nearby - 3 girls were staying in this...
Presume the one that drew the short straw or had the most to drink slept upstairs (or maybe not 😂)
Score for Camac Valley camping - 8/10 - excellent reception staff, good clean facilities - just too near the noisy traffic for us.
We set off at 6.30am tomorrow to catch the early morning ferry.
We’ve had a grand trip despite technical hiccups and Graham’s illness.
Sat 26th May
Musing over our time in the Republic ( heard the Irish don’t like the name Eire but tolerate it spoken by ignorant English folk)
whilst on the ferry back to Holyhead - top trip highlights were -
1. Connemara - particularly the coast.
2. The Skellig Ring.
3. Clonakilty and Inchydoney Beach.
4. Kilkenny Roots Festival - particularly the Deep Dark Woods concert.
5. Beara Peninsular - particularly the cycle ride to view Dursey Island.
Least favourite -
1. Killarney Town centre ( far too tourist targeted overkill for us and snarled with traffic)
2 The drive from Cork to Killarney - such a shame all those little villages have to suffer such heavy traffic.
3. The traffic through Cong - constant heavy lorry drive throughs - it needs a bypass asap)
4. The noisy campsite on the Dublin ring road.
5. Being ripped off - we’re sure the English pay more for beer than everyone else!
( as you see us Trees are not too tolerant of noise or congestion!)
Although we managed to see nearly all our targeted must see highlights we did miss out the famous Cliffs of Mohar - mainly because of the poor weather but also as a friend also touring by car around the same time texted to say that he thought our very own Bempton Cliffs were much better and cheaper!
We were sad to have not managed to get up to the northern parts of the Republic - or managed to get to any of the islands - perhaps next time. ( ignorant of Irish geography we didn't realise that a lot of the north was actually part of the Republic - innocently thinking it was a north/south split). Also Graham really wanted to visit Baltimore on the southern peninsulars but sadly our battery problems scuppered that.
Graham also enjoyed his regular french coversations with fellow campervan owners - we couldn’t believe the amount of French people touring - 2nd only to Americans.
So that’s all folks! Until next time..
Here’s a scruffy tracing of our route drawn out by Carol (excuse the crossings out and smudges)