“We’re going to have a quiet day today.” What? Did I hear my companions right? “It’s been so hectic for the past few days that we have decided to just take it easy.” Great! I look outside at the first blue sky we have seen for a while and have visions of a relaxing stroll along the nearby beachfront – then the expanded version comes. “We’re just going to drive around the Connemara region. It’s not very far.” Here we go again.
We do take time for a leisurely breakfast. Our host Mary has done this before and plies us with all sorts of fried delights before suggesting a route to see the best Connemara sights. I get a little chill when she suggests places to have lunch and dinner while we are away, but that’s probably just my imagination.
Everyone loads into the Ford and we task Murray with setting a course for the first destination. What? The GPS hasn’t heard of Ballynahinch? How about Lough Aphreahragan? OK – so the GPS is out. Well, at least we have the map and the highways are all marked aren’t they? Now is probably the time to explain that Irish seem to have a different view of what qualifies as a numbered road. While the map may boldly show the N59 and R336, the on-ground reality can sometimes be a little less defined. We make our first mistake soon after Galway, taking a road from Knocknacarra to Spiddal instead of Moycullen. No problem, it’s a loop so we will get back to our track soon.
We are all stunned by the rugged beauty of the landscape as it rolls by. Murray suggests we play a game of I Spy to pass the time. After ten turns where the answer was always “Rock” we decide that maybe we should just stick to singing our selection of two travelling songs. At last we make a stop at the a pretty coastal town and grab some lunch. No gift shops in sight – all good so far.
We head on to Clifden, where our B&B hostess has told us we should look for the Skydrive road. “It’s just behind de church. Yer can’t miss ut.” OK, so there are two churches. We eventually find the Skydrive and it does offer some really good views, partly because it runs along the top of a very steep hill. The road is only single lane, but we don’t have any worries – except for the time I pass an RV and find another car coming the other way.
From Skydrive to bog flats. A short stop at an information centre for hikers, which we mistake for a tourist shop, gives Murray an excellent opportunity to fill in any gaps he has in his rather extensive bog trivia. “Do you know that Ireland has 63.41% of the world’s bogs?” No. “And do you know that people used to smear peat on their doorsteps to stop fairies stealing their infant daughters?” No. We need to find something to distract him, and suggest it would be great to get some photos of the scruffy black faced sheep we see along the road. Murray takes the bait and, camera in hand, leaps from the car even before it has fully stopped and starts chasing the poor animals like an enthusiastic kelpie. He gets some great shots, and seems to have forgotten about the bogs stories for a while.
We make two more stops, one at Kylemore Abbey, where we decide that the twelve euro entry price is a bit steep, and the other in the pretty town of Cong. The boys regret the decision not to tour the abbey, as the largest gift shop I have ever seen is located just beside the car park. I walk through in about fifteen seconds and try the Jedi mind trick. “There is nothing to see here.” It doesn’t work of course, so Murray and I spend what seems like a couple of days waiting for our dearly beloved ones to return.
Cong is a different story. The town is really pretty, with the ruins of an old abbey. It’s also the centre of a very popular trout fishing area. And – it’s all free. We spend a pleasant late afternoon wandering around Cong before we collectively agree it’s time we headed home. No problem, we just need to make sure we stay on the road through Derrycourane and don’t get diverted to Currarevagh – wherever those are.