All I have to say is, I commend the men and women who drive on the back roads of Ireland's country side on a daily basis. We have been on so many twisty, winding roads, that Matt is beginning to feel like he is a rally car driver. He is really getting the hang of this left side driving thing...too bad we leave in 3 days...hah.
Anyway, back to our travels. On Tuesday, we woke up bright and early and decided to head to Kylemore Abbey. It was about an hour drive from Westport, but driving through Connemara National Park to get to the abbey was so worth it.
It was so misty and melancholy looking that morning. We had had so much sun the week before in Dublin and Belfast, we knew we were due for some real Ireland weather. Some might be a little put off by the misty, cloudiness, but it was beautiful rolling off of the mountains.
Connemara is a part of Co. Galway(Gahlway not Gaaalway). It is one of the most untocuhed, unspoiled countryside in Ireland. There are places that the boundary lines aren't marked or are unknown. And, it is here that a man built his true love a huge mansion and it is here that that same man built a church just for her as well.
Kylemore Abbey started out as a country estate that a wealthy doctor named Kyle Henry built for his wife who was Irish and had always loved Connemara. The family had purchased the land while he became a politician and built the home around the 1870s.
The house had 33 bedrooms and electricity, which those coming up to visit the family in the evening remarked what a beautiful sight it was to see it all lit up reflecting off of the lake in front. All of the stone was quarried locally and was once a white limestone and granite, but now time has changed it to the dark grayish color you see in the picture.
Kylemore Abbey was sold to Duke of Manchester in 1909 after the Henry family suffered a great tragedy. Kyle Henry's wife contracted an illness while over seas and she died. Henry had built a church on the grounds for his wife, so it was only natural that he build a moseleum for her final resting place.
After the Duke of Manchester could no longer keep up with the upkeep of the house, he sold the estate to a group of Benedictine nuns. The Irish nuns had been forced to flee France because of World War I and bought the house and land in 1920. With them, they brought several relics from their abbey in France, some are on display in the house.
The nuns opened up a boarding school for girls as well as doing some of their own renovations to suit their needs. The boarding school was forced to close in 2010 due to lack of funds.
There is also a walled garden on site, which went through a major renovation in the 1970s. Much of the money for renovations comes from the local Benedictine community and the nuns themselves who make chocolates, produce honey from the bees in the garden, and pottery.
We did not go to the gardens, it was pouring down rain and we wanted to get to the Cliffs of Moher which was a two hour drive from Kylemore. Good thing we had a GPS, a full tank of gas, and some snacks. The roads were about to get exciting!
When you see the quintessential pictures of Ireland, you see winding, narrow roads, stone fenced pastures of green with cows or sheep, and the random whitewashed cottage. It is usually an Ireland that only exists in your imagination. It is what you think Ireland looks like, but it wasn't until we drove through the Connemara wilderness that we really got a taste for what Ireland is like.
At this point in our trip, we were on a narrow road that was really only one lane. There was hardly a soul around, save for the random sheep farmer we saw mucking about in his wellies with his trusty border collie who gave us a strange look of bewilderment that another car is passing through his part of the woods. He waved and smiled and we continued on our way.
The Cliffs of Moher are probably one of the things you MUST do when you are in Ireland. No matter what the weather, sunny or rainy, you HAVE to go experience them, not only that by the roads you have to travel on to get to them, that was an adventure themselves. Every time we passed a tour bus, we held our breath that it didn't scrape our car.
When we got to the cliffs, the lady at the front gate told us to turn around and come back if we wanted and wait for another day, but we explained to her that we didn't have time. She understood, so we went to the Cliff View Cafe and sat a while and waited for the fog to lift.
The fog did not really get any better, but we were still able to see parts of the cliffs, just the view out across the ocean wasn't very nice.
The cliffs provide for many different species of birds. Seagulls swoop and dive, as well as swifts, and puffins, who you could hear clucking and chirping from their spots on the rocks.
They were a magnificent sight to behold even on a misty afternoon. We were glad we stayed and waited it out a little bit. The fog did clear a bit and we could see parts of the cliffs. And, yes, these cliffs were used in The Princess Bride as the shots of the Cliffs of Insanity.
After the cliffs, we made our trip back down the hill and started our journey to Killarney, Co. Kerry. The views outside of the car window were amazing and we kept remarking at how glad we were that we rented a car instead of taking a bus tour or having a driver. We have seen so many gorgeous things and have been able to stop and pull off to enjoy the views as we go along.
One thing that we did that we ended up being really happy about, was we took a car ferry boat from County Galway over to County Kerry. It cost 18euro and shaved off a lot of driving time. Our trip to Killarney was going to be two hours and the ferry cut it down to about 1 hour 15 minutes. If you go to Cliffs of Moher and are heading to Killarney or vice versa, look for the Tarbet Ferry. The scenery isn't bad either.
After we got off the ferry, we continued our drive to Killarney.