Ireland is a rather small island. In some two or three hours you can reach the opposite coast. So, I took the bus from Dublin to Galway, where another bus took me around Connemara. Connemara derives from the Irish “Conmacne Mara”, “conmacne” being an old tribe and “mara”, the genitive of the word for sea.  There are different definitions of the Connemara borders – what is sure is that it’s limited by the Atlantic to the north, west and south. Anyhow, it’s more or less this area and I have pointed out some of the landmarks I had the pleasure to visit during a day trip.

The driver of the bus, Ken, took us on some surprisingly narrow roads and he was also a perfect guide with an unlimited knowledge of the region, the places, the people, the horses, the sheep, the cows…. One little problem with the narrow roads is that a bus cannot always make a stop on the most spectacular sites and some of my photos were taken through the bus windows.

Our first stop was at the Ross Errily Friary, founded in 1351 by Franciscan monks. They were expelled several times, returned… until 1753 when the place was abandoned.   

A next stop was made in the charming little village (some 50 inhabitants) of Cong, surrounded by streams on all sides (please note also the duck pedestrian crossing).

As you can see, we experienced some rain approaching the village.

There is a surprising statue in the village…

Cong was the filming location for John Ford’s 1952 Oscar-winning film, The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara… (also filmed at the nearby Ashford Castle, now a luxury hotel which we did not visit).

Here are some pictures from the movie…

… to be compared with photos I took. (Obviously the Ross Errily Friary also served as background.)

We then passed by the Lough (lake) Mask area...  

… and continued our way among horses (“Connemara ponies” – a famous breed with a mixture of Scandinavian – the Vikings - and Andalusian – the Armada -  origins) and (mostly “blackface”) sheep…

… in the direction of the Killary Fjord, 16 km (10 miles) long. Spectacular. This is a place for a large production of mussels in crystal clear waters.

We then arrived at the Kylemore Castle, originally built around 1870 as a private home for the family of Mitchell Henry, a medical doctor, MP, who inherited an important textile manufacturing business and could “offer” this to his wife Margaret. She was already dead in 1874 at the age of 45, Mitchell lived until 1910, but was forced to sell the place a year earlier to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester, who again were forced to sell because of gambling debts.  In 1920 it was bought by Benedictine nuns who had fled from Belgium during WWI. They still own the place, but they have recently given up the fashionable boarding school they had been running.

Today you can (only partly) visit the Castle…

… the neo-gothic (notice the nice female faces of the gargoyles) church…

… and the mausoleum where Margaret and Mitchell are buried.

They also created a Victorian garden… with a charming house for the chief gardener.

On the way back to Galway, we had a look on a peat / turf exploitation, quite common here and turf is partly even used in power stations. There are different opinions about this. Ecologically correct to use this as burning material? Rather leave these peat-lands / mires in peace?                


Dublin - not only pubs...

There is of course so much to be said about Dublin. It’s not – only - a city of pubs. Maybe we could start with some views of the bridges over the River Liffey which runs through the city centre. They are from all periods, including the most recent one, the Samuel Beckett Bridge. Yes, there is also a James Joyce Bridge… There are a number of other Irish poets and writers who could give their names to the bridges: Brendan Behan, Thomas Moore, G.B. Shaw, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats… including four winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature. (Talking about poets, maybe this is also the moment to mention some Irish musicians ranging from the traditional to the most recent – The Dubliners, The Chieftains, Van Morrison, Sinead O’Connor, The Corrs, Gilbert O’Sullivan, The Pogues, U2 … )
A special attention to the “Ha’penny Bridge” from 1816, which will bring you to the Temple Bar district. It was actually a toll bridge until 1919 and in the meantime the charge had increased from a Ha-penny to 1 ½ pence.  

The Saint Patrick’s Cathedral has its origins from the 12th century, but most of the present construction dates from the 17th , 18th and 19th centuries. We must remember the switches between Catholic, Protestant, Anglican… beliefs and communions – for a while this was even the church for immigrated French Huguenots. Today the Church of Ireland is autonomously Anglican. It should be known that there are two Cathedrals in Dublin and the other, older, one – the Christ Church Cathedral (partly to be seen on a photo below, but the tower is at present hidden by scaffoldings) is actually the seat of the Anglican Archbishop – and officially (not in practice) also of the Roman Catholic Archbishop, representing the strongly dominating religion in Ireland.

Saint Patrick’s is headed by a Dean. The most famous of the Deans is probably the author of Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift, who had this role 1713-45. He’s buried here together with his friend Stella.   

In the Saint Patrick’s Cathedral you can find an 18th century copy of Handel’s Messiah Hallelujah Chorus. It should be noted that Handel was invited to Dublin 1742-43 and that’s where the Messiah was performed for the very first time (April 13, 1743) at the Great Music Hall in Fishamble Street – here – using the choirs from Saint Patrick’s. Originally it was thought for smaller settings, but… here we can listen to a large scale version. 

Here are thus some pictures on (part of) the Christ Church Cathedral … and also of the 13th century city wall…

The Trinity College is the oldest Irish University, founded by Elizabeth I.

The 18th century Dublin City Hall and the government complex Dublin Castle are neighbours.

O’Connel Street is the city’s main thoroughfare with a lot of monuments, including the one of Daniel O’Connel, a 19th century nationalist leader… and of course, again James Joyce. It’s also here and in the crossing streets that you can find department stores, hotels and all kinds of shops.

I was impressed by the Post Office and its preserved old interior.

Ireland and Dublin is dominated by the Guinness Breweries, founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759, now owned by Diageo (Smirnoff, Johnny Walker, Baileys, Moët Hennesey…). A visit to Guinness Storehouse is somehow compulsory.  There are seven stores explaining the manufacturing… and when you reach the top, at the Gravity Bar, you can enjoy a draft, overlooking a 360° panorama of Dublin.

In the more western parts of Dublin you can find the 19th century Euston Station

… the Museum of Modern Art, housed in the 17th century previous hospital, Royal Hospital Kilmainham…. which once was occupied by a Knights Hospitaller abbey with lands, now transformed to….

…. a large park area, The Phoenix Park. (Actually Phoenix is just a bad interpretation of the Irish “fionn uisce”, meaning clean water.) The facade of the white building we can see is the residence of the Irish president. There is also Europe’s largest obelisk, the Wellington Monument (yes, Wellington was also born in Ireland), the Magazine Fort…

… large fields for cricket, rugby…

… and a flourishing real park area (where you also can find the zoo)…

… and surprisingly photo-friendly squirrels.
The city is full of old canals, docks, locks…

… and around them you can now find newly constructed offices, apartment buildings, restaurants, theatres…

… and the waters are used for all kinds of activities …

… including diving, jumping, swimming kids.

There are also many examples elsewhere of recent architecture…

… and also of older architecture. (The weather is changing all the time, a little rain shower is “normal”.)  

On the Customs House river quay you can also find one of the monuments which reminds us of the Great Famine in the 1840’s. (See also preceding post.)

Dublin is often visited by large sailing ships. During my visit I could see the Mexican school ship, B.E. Cuauhtemoc.

As in every city there is a bit of street art.

I was impressed by the ever present street lamp design.

Well, I guess I have to stop now… Next post will be about the Connemara.