Irish Travels – Part 2 : Galway

Continuing on from the last Travel blog

From Wales we took a ferry to Dublin and a long train ride across Ireland to the coastal city of Galway. We arrived later in the afternoon and upon inquiry understood our flat was close by. The Irish are fond of phrases like “it’s just down around the corner and on a bit”, but many of the street signs are hard to find or non-existent. We did find our flat after walking in circles with our luggage from the train station.  Somehow it all seemed quite charming, though, must be those lovely Irish accents and fresh air.  Later the same day we were greeted with our first rainbow, a foreshadowing of more to come on this trip.

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We stayed in Galway for a week, finding it to be a lively city with many street performers, pubs with traditional music and dancing and friendly folk always up for a chat.

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My girlfriends and I love to keep busy when we’re away. We always want to see as much as possible. So from Galway we took several bus tours, the first to the famous Cliffs of Moher. The tour started along Galway Bay, with a stop to see Dunguaire Castle and the 5,800 year old Poulnabrone Dolmen (ancient burial site)

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Photo Credit: Els Alphenaar

Next stop was the cute little village of Doolin for lunch and the quickest shopping on record. This adorable little pink shop is an example of an Irish thatched cottage, an art that does still exist, but is slowly being lost. The pattern along the roof line, like a signature, is indicative of the thatcher, being a pattern that is uniquely his own.  This area is also famous for its Aran Island sweaters. Gorgeous, brightly coloured knitted confections of beautiful cabled knit patterns. Several of these came home with me.  (Any trip to Ireland requires a 1/2 filled suitcase to make room for these beauties)

doolin-pink

The main attraction of this tour was the 200-metre high, 8kms long Cliffs of Moher. They were spectacular, affording stunning views over the Atlantic Ocean and the Aran Islands. We stayed for a while to soak up the natural beauty of the Cliffs, walking and climbing in both directions.

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Stops on the way back to Galway were in a vast area known as The Burren, home to 75% of Ireland’s native flora. The landscape is so rocky here it seems almost lunar-like.

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The next tour we took was on to Lough Nafooey to see the stark beauty of the hidden valley of Connemara.

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Along the way it was common to see abandoned stone cottages, most roofless, all leftover from the potato famine. This one was unusual in that it still had a roof. Stone fences, sheep and rolling green pastures were other common sights.

stone-cottage

The main destination of this tour was the romantic site of Kylemore Abbey.  It was built by a wealthy businessman, Mitchell Henry, in the 18th Century, out of love for his wife. An enlightened landlord and vocal advocate of the Irish people, Henry poured his life’s energy into creating an estate that would showcase what could be achieved in the remote wilds of Connemara. Along with the Abbey, there is a monastery, woodland and lake shore walks and a beautiful Victorian-style, walled garden.

kylemore-abbey

But of all the amazing tours we took, my favourite was the largest of the Aran islands (of the famous sweaters) called, Inis Mor. Specifically, an amazing Iron Age fort perched on the top of the highest hill; Dun Aonghasa. You could walk right to the very edge of the 800 ft drop to the Atlantic,  and breathe in the history of this ancient place.

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There are so many magical, Irish adventures to be had here. There is indeed a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow –

It’s the beautiful countryside and friendly people of Ireland.

Diane Kennedy, eco-fashion, plus size clothing, made in canada,

 

Travel With Diane: A Photo Series (Part One)

For any of you that read our previous travel blog, Diane’s Suitcase, here’s the rest of the story!

For many years being a single Mom with a young son at home, I rarely took holidays. These last few years I’ve been blessed with supportive staff and the ability to take off; this time for three whole blissful weeks of travel to the UK. What a treat it was to travel to Wales for a week and then Ireland for two weeks!

First stop on the journey was a resort town in Wales, built during Victorian times, called Llandudno. It’s a small, charming town with lots of natural beauty, pretty buildings and a quaint, British town atmosphere.

pastel-buildings

Nearby Llandudno is another small town called Conwy, where I fell in love with their namesake “fairy tale” Castle. Built from 1283 to 1289 by King Edward I, it still stands complete and intact today. Unesco considers Conwy to be one of “the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe” and it is classed as a World Heritage site.

If you’re brave enough to climb the round turrets using the tiny steep stairways, you can get to the second floor which rewards you with a great impression of the inner workings of the building, as well as a lovely view of the harbour and surrounding countryside. This was a favourite spot, for sure.

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Short distances from our home base in Llandudno were several other castles and manor homes.  Beaumaris Castle (complete with original moat) and Plas Newydd, another beautiful location, but the day was very rainy so there are no pictures to share. But well worth the visit just same.

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The weather improved and so we enjoyed the grounds of Penryhn Castle which is actually a manor  not a castle at all. It’s one of the most admired of the numerous mock castles built in the United Kingdom in the 19th century.  The grounds and view, a railway museum (full size and miniature) and stunning architecture throughout….too many photos to share.

 

 

 

Certainly one of the most outstanding features was the  beautiful Italian plasterwork throughout the inner hallways and staircases.

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But of all these beautiful sights, quite possibly, my favourite place of all was Bodnant Gardens.

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I knew it was a famous garden but had no idea how magnificent it would be. Lucky for us, many areas were in full bloom in the middle of September. This was a massive property, much of which we never got to see. Upon entering the garden, you first come across a long “hot” perennial border; planted with yellow, orange and red flowers, hence the term, “hot”! 6c

Beyond this fabulous entrance way, which was actually much longer than any of these photos can show, you can see the manor house which has its own, enormous main lawn and surrounding flower borders. Continuing on takes you past The Bath, a deep pool surrounded by a  stunning, tiered garden planted entirely with tender perennials and spectacular annuals like the huge Ricinus (Castor bean) or Brugmansia (Angel’s Trumpet).

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Peppered along with special varieties of Dahlias, Salvia and Fuchsia, to name only a scant few. This area was choc a block full of incredibly amazing plants in every colour of the rainbow.

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Past The Bath, you will travel along a stream, by a waterfall and through a charming woodland garden that leads you around to the side of a house framed by pastel borders and a huge rectangular reflecting pool full of waterlilies

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Further on was a rose garden gorgeously in full bloom; every shade of pink, cream and yellow that you can imagine! So many beautiful structures, trellises, benches and fountains all surrounded by beautiful old stone walls.

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We walked for over an hour through more natural woods, past an old mill, over bridges and up more woodland walks, with the brilliant blue September Gentians flowing on either side of the path

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The last view I’ll share with you of this beautiful garden is another image of The Bath, this one from the top of the main lawn looking down.

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This truly is a glorious garden and a must see if you ever travel to this part of the world.

Check back soon for part 2 of my travels…next to Galway, Ireland…

Diane Kennedy, eco-fashion, plus size clothing, made in canada,