Loop Head Peninsula. County Clare

We awoke to yet another beautiful morning and devoured the Irish breakfast served at Sea Crest Farmhouse. With a happy tummy, we started our day and headed south on N67. As we crossed the stone arched bridge into the village of Doonbeg, we decided to stretch our legs and explore the area. A dog and his master out for a morning stroll, the swans swimming in the river… It was quite tranquil.

Loop Head

Loop Head peninsula has the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Shannon Estuary on the other, with barely a mile of land saving it from island status. In 2013, Loop Head was named the “Best Place to Holiday in Ireland” by The Irish Times – Wikipedia

Traveling the Loop Head peninsula was breathtaking, and we stopped numerous times to take in the scenery and the fresh Irish air. Walking on the grass in this area was like walking on a cloud; another sign that Ireland is a little slice of heaven.

The geology of this area was impressive. Take notice in the images as to how the layers of land appear almost chaotic and slope in at different angles, sometimes jetting towards the sky.

Over a period of 7.5 million years (318.5 – 311 million years ago) a huge river system carried sand and clay out to sea where it was deposited in a succession of vast sheets to form a large submarine fan delta just off the coast of the continent. Due to pressure and heat caused by subsequent layers of sand and mud, the sediments turned into hard rock which was later pushed up above present-day sea level by many movements of the earth’s plates. For most of the following 300 million years, Ireland was above sea level and subjected to weathering which stripped away a lot of its rock mantle, including most of the coal deposits formed in the Carboniferous period. ~www.loophead.ie 

Bishop’s Island

This unique sea stack was separated from the mainland over the last thousand years. What makes this site unique is that there are the remains of a church, a clochaun (beehive hut) and the ruins of 3-4 other buildings on the piece of land. This monastic settlement is possible connected to St. Senan or his followers who founded a prominent monastery at Scattery on the opposite side of Loop Head in the 6th century. ~wildatlanticway.omeka.net

Kilkee Cliff Walk

Kilkee Cliff Walk is a 2.2 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Kilkee, County Clare, Ireland that features beautiful wildflowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, running, and nature trips.  ~ www.alltrails.com

Bridges of Ross

The Bridges of Ross were a trio of spectacular natural sea arches – at least until two of them fell into the sea. Today, even though only one ‘bridge’ remains, the name persists in the plural. The Bridge of Ross lies on the western side of the natural harbor that is Ross Bay, looking north to the Atlantic Ocean, near the village of Kilbaha. It can’t be seen from the road, but it’s not difficult to find. Head due west (left) from the Bridges of Ross car park and walk for a few hundred meters along the footpath. (Be careful to keep close to the fence, as there have been recent landfalls over the water.) The area is regarded as one of the best sea-watching sites in Europe. In late summer and autumn, it becomes a birder’s paradise as thousands of rare seabirds pass close to shore on their southbound migration – www.loophead.ie

Thanks for joining Dan and I as we traveled this beautiful area of Ireland! I hope this finds you all well; sending peace and love to everyone.

Click HERE to see Dan’s blog post of this area. See you at our next stop.

 

Cliffs of Moher, County Clare

Vaughan’s Anchor Inn

I have to agree with Dan when he said, “The food at Vaughan’s Anchor Inn was divine. Prior to the main course, the chef brought out a sample of his parsnip puree; absolutely scrumptious. Vaughan’s Fish and Chips dinner consisted of Cod in a 9-year-old (starter) batter served with homemade tartar sauce, chips that were steamed, then fried in beef drippings and Pea Puree….Wow! One of the best fish and chips we had experienced on our trip.

After a wonderful meal, we made our way to the Cliffs of Moher. The visitor center closed, and all the tour buses had left for the night so there were not many people around.  We did manage a lengthy hike before the sun set under the horizon; first to O’Brien’s Tower and then back South along Burren Way. The path was easy, and it was shaping up to be a beautiful evening. We made our way south on foot towards a site where we could take in the sunset with O’Brien’s’ Tower in the background.

We were serenaded by the wind as it hit the fence along the path much in a way that a lover would play music in the night under the window of his loved one.

At the end of the 16th to early 19th centuries, young nobles would embark on grand tours of Europe and Irish travel journals around the time of 1780 give many descriptions of the beauty of County Clare and the Cliffs of Moher. Cornelius O’Brien (1782–1857), a descendant of the first High King of Ireland, made many improvements to the area which included the construction of a tower that was erected in 1835 (now referred to as O’Brien’s tower).  He believed that the development of tourism would benefit the local economy and to this day, he was right!

Situated in County Clare along the wild Atlantic Way, the Cliffs of Moher have majestically faced the Atlantic for over 350 million years and their beauty is incomparable. The cliffs reach 214m (702 feet) in height at their highest point; the sheer scale and their dramatic impact never ceases to amaze and will delight in equal measure. The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s most visited tourist attraction; when you visit, you will understand why. – cliffsofmoher.ie

I would highly recommend a visit to Ireland’s top tourist attraction, the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher.

Cliffs of Moher Walk

Click here to see Dan’s images from that area.

Ballynahinch Castle, Ireland

A little after the sun disappeared below the horizon, we packed up the car and headed to our stop for the night, Ballynahinch Castle.

Ballynahinch Castle is a former Irish country house and estate, built on the site of a former castle, which is now a luxury hotel set in a private estate in the Connemara region of County Galway, Ireland. It is one of Ireland’s finest luxury hotels and is located on a private 700 acre estate of woodland and rivers. The castle overlooks the hotel’s famous salmon fishery with a backdrop of the beautiful 12 Bens Mountain Range. We had a relaxing night and woke early enough to take in the sunrise and explore the grounds.

It is mentioned on the hotel’s website, “a visit to the Owenmore Restaurant is a treat for the senses”. I can attest, there was a tremendous buffet which left us completely satisfied for the day. If in the area, I would highly recommend a stay! Ballynahinch Castle.com 

We followed the coastline and stopped many times to stretch our legs. Of course, we ran into beautiful scenery and friendly critters. We even found some Leprechaun poo on the beach 😉 Ok, ok… The piles found in the sand were Lugworm casts.

Our next stop was to explore the Cliffs of Moher. We were close to the area and decided to stop to find a Bed & Breakfast for the night. The owners of Sea Crest Farmhouse were extremely friendly and had given us recommendations for visiting Cliffs of Moher plus mentioned a few good restaurants. We had a wonderful supper at Vaughan’s Anchor Inn. Their Fish and Chips consisted of Cod in a 9-year-old (starter) batter, chips steamed then fried in Beef Drippings with homemade tartar sauce and Pea Puree.  Wow!  I would agree with Dan when he said, “One of the best fish and chips I experienced on our trip”.

Click here to view Dan’s post on Ballynahinch Castle.

See you at our next adventure, Cliff of Moher.

 

A Sunset to Remember

The Irish Countryside

We made our way toward Clifden and the Sky Road for a sunset shoot; eventually ending up at Ballynahinch Castle Hotel for the evening.

I would have to agree with Dan’s statement, “Cong to Roundstone via Maam Cross is a beautiful drive through the Irish countryside.”  Maam Cross, meaning “the burned house”, is a crossroad in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. With several peat bogs around the area, we now have a sense of the smell burning peat gives off; it is quite unmistakable.” The images below are sites we saw along the road as we traveled towards our sunset location.

Roundstone

Today, Roundstone is a popular holiday resort renowned among artists and naturalists for the remarkable beauty of the surrounding mountains and seascapes.

In Roundstone you will find a busy harbour where local fishermen prepare and return with the day’s catch, featuring a mix of Lobster, Crab, Shrimp, Mackerel, Cod plus a variety of other fish. The town itself boasts a good choice of Bars and Seafood Restaurants crammed full of locally caught seafood.  -http://www.roundstone-connemara.com

We stopped to stretch our legs and have dinner at O’Dawd’s of Roundstone. As we walked around the harbour, a couple out walking their dog had stopped to chat. They provided some history of the city and some information on the daily catch.  The pup certainly enjoyed chewing on a few crab legs!

We could not have asked for a more beautiful sunset to end this incredible day. We traveled a portion of the Sky Road as we headed west out of Clifden. Part way around the loop is a car park where we decided to stop and take in the sunset. We set up our cameras and enjoyed the views over Clifden Bay. As we watched the sun drop lower and lower on the horizon, we noticed some movement on the hill behind us. To our amazement, we watched a cow slowing walk to the edge and stand there seemingly watching the sunset with us; almost like it was a daily routine. Not long after the first cow appeared, another one joined. The two cows greeted each other and watched the sunset together. Their actions truly warmed my heart and brought imaginative stories to my mind of how these cows lovingly took the time to watch the beauty mother nature can provide. I think of that memory often.

The videos attached will provide you with additional insight into the area we were traveling in during this part of the trip… Enjoy!

Embrace the Wild Atlantic Way of Life

Soundtrack of Embrace the Wild Atlantic Way of Life by Walking on Cars  (My favorite band)– check out their CD – Everything This Way

Soaring over the Wild Atlantic Way

To see Dan’s post from this portion of our trip click on the following links:
Roundstone
Clifden

I hope this finds you all safe and healthy. See you at our next stop!

Our Drive Continues – Cong, Ireland

Our sixth day in Ireland was a full one; this post is just the half of it.  We started off at Aughnanure Castle and drove part way around Lough Corrib to Ross Errilly Franciscan Friary.  We continued our loop around the lough to the North and arrived in Cong. The city is situated on an island formed by a number of streams that surround it on all sides and is known for its underground streams that connect Lough Corrib with Lough Mask to the North.

Cong Abbey

The ruins of the former Augustinian abbey mostly date to the 13th century and have been described as featuring some of the finest examples of early Gothic architecture and masonry in Ireland.

The Monk’s Fishing House is located on the former grounds of Cong Abbey. This ingenious structure was built sometime in the 16th century on a platform over the River Cong. A small arched opening allows the river to flow underneath the floor of the building and a trapdoor allowed the monks to drop a net to catch fish. A line was then connected to the kitchen in the monastery to alert of a fresh catch. The house also had a chimney and a fireplace to keep the monks nice and warm whilst fishing.

The day was still young; we made our way West toward the next destination, Roundstone and beyond. See you all there!

Click here to view Dan’s post from that day.

Ross Errilly Franciscan Friary

After spending a couple hours at Aughnanure Castle, we started our adventure for the day. One of my favorite pastimes is to drive the countryside just exploring roads never seen. Well, it certainly paid off this day! Driving along taking in the beautiful Ireland scenery, we spotted a bell tower off in the distance and decided to head that way to investigate. This was the route we were following as we drove around Lough Corrib.

To our astonishment, we ran into one of the most impressive and complete Franciscan foundations in Ireland. While we were getting our camera’s situated, a nice gentleman came walking down to road to greet us. He continued to walk with us to the ruins while providing us with a wonderful historical account of the friary. We spent a lot of time here; it is very easy to do and there was so much to explore!  I would have to agree with Dan, “The structure and surrounding countryside is quite picturesque.  It is easy to image the monks living here and farming the land.”

The Franciscan friary of Ross Errilly lies on the banks of the Black River, a natural border which divides the modern counties of Galway and Mayo before it enters Lough Corrib.  One of the most impressive surviving Franciscan friaries in Ireland, Ross Errilly is located 2km North West of the Galway village of Headford.  It was founded at some point between the mid-fourteenth and late fifteenth centuries.

The church and bell tower are to the south of a small but well preserved central cloister and domestic buildings are to the north. Among these are a kitchen (equipped with an oven and a water tank for live fish from the river), a bake house, and a refectory or dining area. The dormitories are on the upper levels. One unusual feature is a second courtyard or cloister, built to accommodate the friary’s growing population.

Like many other abandoned Christian sites in Ireland, Ross Errilly has continued to be used as a burial ground by area residents. In addition to tombs that date from the friary’s active period, many graves dating from the 18th through 20th centuries can be found inside the church walls. In some cases, tombstones comprise the floors of walkways and crawlspaces. ~ monastic.ie

The decline of Ross Errilly Friary

After that Ross Abbey was occupied on and off until around 1753 when it finally had to be abandoned.  Practicing the Catholic faith was illegal under the penal laws, and the penalties were severe. It came to the stage where local support for the monks while they were living in the building was no longer viable. The monks then built huts on a small river island nearby. enjoy-irish-culture.com

Today, the ruin of Ross Errilly is maintained by the Office of Public Works and is open to the public free of charge. It has been used as a filming location for Bad Karma, The Suicide Club, Moving Target & the series Reign.

Another wonderful memory made! I was in awe of the history and character that filled this place and feel very fortunate that we had the chance to experience this site. Here is a short video Dan made while walking through a section of the ruins (do not pay attention to my geeky self) 😉

A portion of our walk through (dantraun.com)

You can see Dan’s post and images from this day here.

Have a wonderful week everyone and stay safe. Sending love to all of you; see you at our next stop!

Aughnanure Castle

We woke to yet another beautiful day full of sunshine. After our delicious traditional Irish breakfast, we said our goodbyes to the owner of the B & B and started our daily adventure. A very short distance away from the B & B, stood Aughnanure Castle. Of course we had to take in a tour!

The name Aughnanure comes from the Gaelic, Achadh na nIubhar – the field of yews.  One very old specimen remains nearby the gates.

The uses and mythology of the Yew Tree are quite interesting:

  • Yew timber is incredibly strong and durable. Traditionally, the wood was used in turnery to make long bows and tool handles. One of the World’s oldest surviving wooden artifacts is a Yew spear head estimated to be around 450,000 years old.
  • Anti-cancer compounds are harvested from the foliage of Taxus baccata and is used in modern medicine. Eating just a few leaves can make a small child severely ill and there have been some deaths linked to yew poisoning. All parts of the tree are poisonous.
  • Yew trees are associated with churchyards and there are at least 500 churchyards in England which contain yew trees older than the buildings themselves. It is not clear why, but it is thought that yew trees were planted on the graves of plague victims to protect and purify the dead, and also in churchyards to stop ‘commoners’ from grazing their cattle on church ground as yew is extremely poisonous to livestock.

Aughnanure Castle and grounds

The castle, which stands on what is a rocky peninsula, is a particularly well preserved example of an Irish Tower house. Though the castle did finally succumb to superior cannon power, the O’Flahertys knew well enough how to protect themselves. The great rectangular Tower House is protected inside two alls or enclosures. The inner enclosure is wedge-shaped with walls pierced with gun-loops. The remains of a gatehouse and drawbridge are at the northwestern corner. On the northern side, the Drimneed River adds a natural defense line. the outer ward consisting of a large irregular enclosure protected by a much more extensive outer brawn wall, which had five wall towers at intervals along its length, to provide a greater variety of angles from which to shoot at attackers.

You can view Dan’s post about this site here.

This was our morning stop; I cannot wait to share more of this day with you. See you all very soon!

Mweelrea Mountains and Killary Fjord – Enjoy Ireland!

Climbing Croagh Patrick was a wonderful experience and am grateful that we decided to explore that area. Fifteen miles away, we stopped to stretch our legs at Old Head Beach. We could still see Croagh Patrick in the background and if you look closely, you can see the chapel at the summit which has been there since the 5th century.

Our stomachs were rumbling so we made a pit-stop in the quaint town of Louisburgh; a small town in the southwest corner of Clew Bay in County Mayo.  In Ireland, it is very common to see colorful buildings which I very much enjoyed seeing. There is so much history in these towns, if only these buildings could talk! We enjoyed our afternoon snack and pint of Guinness at the Front Bar.

I was in awe as we drove from Louisburgh to Aasleagh through the Mweelrea Mountains and around Killary Fjord. We stopped many times along the way and had even placed a Face Time call to my mother to show her the beauty while she was at home in Minnesota watching the grand puppies. We met Captain at this stop as well; such a handsome, well-mannered dog.  Mweelrea (from Irish Cnoc Maol Réidh, meaning ‘bald hill with the smooth top’) and its subsidiary peaks, form the southern half of the “horseshoe-shaped” massif of the Mweelrea Mountains, which are bounded by Killary Harbour (Killary Fjord), Ireland’s deepest fjord, to the south.

Killary Harbour

The scenery never disappointed us as we drove to our destination for the night. We stayed at the Corrib View Country House and enjoyed our walks around the property and the time spent at this Bed and Breakfast.

View Dan’s blog here: Mweelrea Mountains & Killary Fjord – County Mayo_Galway

Thanks for coming along on this trip with us! Enjoy your day and be well, I will see you all very soon.

Just Take That Turn

After spending some time hiking and exploring Slieve League with the time we had, we made our way to our next stop. Driving our way back through Donegal and following the coast heading south, we ran into some more breathtaking sights (Ireland was full of them).  During our time driving, we had always decided to “just take that turn” to see what was down the road which has never disappointed us. One of these roads took us down to Mullaghmore Peninsula and we stumbled upon Classiebawn Castle. As we laid eyes on this property, I caught myself pointing to the structure with my mouth open in awe.  The scenery was like a dream; post processing some of these images from this day was so much fun as I played with texture, filters, and color (which I love).

Classiebawn Castle is a country house built for the 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784–1865) on what was formerly a 10,000-acre estate on the Mullaghmore peninsula near the village of Cliffoney, County Sligo.  It was designed in the Baronial style by J. Rawson Carrol, a Dublin-based architect, and is constructed from a yellow-brown sandstone brought by sea from County Donegal. It comprises a gabled range with a central tower topped by a conical roofed turret.

One of my favorite panoramic images came from this accidental run in. To this day, this image still adorns my desk at work and it takes me back to that spot in Ireland everyday… A little escape to Classiebawn Castle!

Our last stop of this leg of our adventure was Glencar Waterfall. Again, we did not have much time, but it was worth the stop; what a tranquil sight!

Glencar Lough (Irish: Loch Ghleann an Chairthe, meaning “lake of the glen of the pillar stone”), locally known as Glencar Lake, is a freshwater lake in the northwest of Ireland. Glencar Waterfall is located near the lake’s north shore on the Leitrim side.

This was the perfect birthday full of adventure and breathtaking scenery. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. See you all soon; have a wonderful week!

River Glen, County Donegal

From Donegal Town, we traveled to Carrick and on through Teelin.  Our goal for this day was to explore the sixth highest sea cliffs in all of Europe; an area known as Slieve League.

The River Glen flowing through Carrick was quite picturesque. I could envision the faerie folk frolicking near the water’s edge.  Closer to Teelin the river widens as it flows towards the coast and fishing boats rested at low tide along the riverbanks. This birthday, April 18th, was unlike any other and it turned out to be so memorable that I remember the serenity of the day perfectly.

See you at Slieve League!