Friday, July 08, 2016

Ireland & Scotland - Days 8 & 9

Day 8 - a dream comes true

When I first started teaching in 1979, I saw a picture and fell in love with the place. Didn’t know what it was or where, but it took my breath away. A gray-white castle with a green mountain backdrop, the reflection of both gazing upward from a lake so still it might’ve been a mirror.

I kept that picture for my entire teaching career, using it in writing exercises as a visual prompt many times. Sometime later, a few years after I obtained the picture, I discovered the name and the location of such a beautiful spot. And today I went there.

Kylemore Abbey
and yes, I took this picture!
Kylemore Abbey started as a private residence, was sold then lost in a gambling bet, and eventually became the home of the Irish Benedictine nuns, who promptly started a school for girls that existed until 2010. At that point, they had to close the school because the repairs needed were far more than they could afford.

The nuns still live there, but as more and more tourists discovered the beauty of the Connemara Mountains, they opened their property to visitors and the admission fees keep the place in good shape. I doubt there will ever be a school there again, but I stood on the shore and looked across the lake at the castle that has entranced me for years. Another circle in my life has closed and that makes me feel quite contented.

It rained off and on while we visited, mostly just misting. We walked the walled Victorian Garden, which is set off from the kitchen gardens by a stream surrounded by trees and bushes. The kitchen gardens are in two parts and those are separated by the longest formal border in Ireland. Why? So the high and mighty Victorian Lord and Lady (and the later owners, a Duke and Duchess – you know, the Duke who lost the property in a gambling bet) wouldn’t have to watch the lowly workers out harvesting the vegetables that would later be served to them in the dining room by servants expected to blend into the background.

Oops. Letting my egalitarian attitude show through there…

We left Kylemore in our first downpour. We’d planned to hike in the Connemara National Forest (which used to belong to the Abbey, but they sold it off in the 30’s to raise money – and to preserve the land), but the rain deterred us. Hard to climb a mountain when you can’t see more than a few feet in front of you.

So we went to Clifden instead and did some shopping. Walked around the downtown area and bought a few souveniers. Steven got some ice cream. We’d eaten at the Tea House in the Victorian gardens at Kylemore Abbey, so I wasn’t hungry. Plus we’d bought some fudge and I’d had a piece of that in the car.

The tide is nearly out - that's Omey Island to the back
Omey Island was on our way back to the B&B and we were close to low tide, so we took a detour. I’d read about it online – at low tide, the ocean leaves a strand—a stretch of open land that’s underwater at high tide. This one is very wide and you can even drive your car across it to reach the island. Since low tide was still about a half an hour away, we didn’t attempt the crossing by car, but got out and walked it on foot. Glad we didn’t try. The ocean hadn’t completely receeded, leaving a stretch of about forty feet across and a foot deep. We watched a couple cars give it a shot and each made it over, but it was close for a few of them. The sand keeps shifting in the water and it just grabs at the wheels, not letting them necessarily turn in the direction you want. Better to use foot power!

On our way back to the B&B we saw a sign for Cleggan and decided to go that way rather than all the way back to Clifden and out again. Let’s just say it’s a good thing the Lord watches over fools and tourists.

Yes, this is an actual road. Not a driveway.
I’m posting a picture of the “road” we ended up on. When it became obvious this wasn’t going anywhere but to the ocean, we turned around and headed inland. Took another road – that was better but still not right. Came to a T intersection and there was a young man unloading a car in a driveway. Steven stopped and asked how to get to Cleggan. I was so proud of him!

Anyway, the young man pointed in the direction we should take and said, “About three miles that way.” Interesting that they measure in miles here. He’s not the first to use that measurement. The signs are all in kilometers. In any case, we tooled along for less than a mile and the road again came to a T. So much for the kid’s directions.

We both agreed on a direction and drove some more. These are barely roads, you have to realize. Mom and Dad will remember Wayne Place? This road was narrower. Not even a driveway width.

But we kept going, sure we were headed correctly and soon we came around a curve and I saw the B&B on the opposite hill. The road dipped down, curved a few more times and sure enough, came up at the foot of the lane that runs to our home for the next two nights. Yay!

There was a great deal Steven wanted to paint today but the rain made it impossible. He’s now sitting in the living room with a table covered in newspapers as he paints from a picture on his cell phone. I’m finishing here and I think we’ll go back to Oliver’s – the pub in the village where we ate last night—and have dinner. I just might have to get the Hack again.

Later -

Ended up at the Pier Pub. Good food, I couldn’t finish the cod because it was such a large piece. But service was very, very slow…

We’re for bed, even though the sun is still up. Long days here – and it doesn’t get full dark because we’re so far north. :)

Day 9 - Down time

Late start this morning. Breakfast at 8:00 as always, but we’re taking it slow today. We’re tired. Been doing a lot of walking over the past week! So just a walk along the lane this morning.

This cow watched us until we took our picture with her.
Only then did she lose interest.
Oh, and its raining...can you tell?
Just a walk along the lane. Right. This is Ireland, not walking the Ontario Pathway. Cows to the left, Connemara ponies to the right…here I am, stuck in the middle with Steven. I can’t think of a better place to be. J

So there’s this island just across the way – there’s a ferry goes over twice a day and comes back twice a day. It leaves here at 11:30 and 4:00 and comes back at 1:30 and 5:00. The island is Inishbofin and has a rich history of conquest and piracy. We’d decided to take the early ferry over and spend the afternoon.

Except I’m exhausted. Couldn’t figure out why and then realized, on all previous vacations I plan in a “down” day – a day to do absolutely nothing. At Disney World, that means spending the day swimming in the pool (Steven and the kids) and doing laundry (me in the air conditioning). For a cruise, that’s built in as an “at sea” day.

But this time around, I forgot that. For each place we’re staying, I drew up a list of possible things to but very few of them were must-sees. Glenquin Castle, Kylemore Abbey and the Cliffs of Moher were on the must-see list – everything else has allowed for seredipty. Inishbofin is serendipity.

But marriage doesn’t mean having to do absolutely everything together. While we both enjoy it more when we can share it with each other, the reality is, sometimes we need to do our own thing. So Steven’s on his way to Inishbofin and I’m staying at Cnoc Breac to write and relax. He’ll be back on the 5:00 ferry with tons of stories (and at least one painting, I’m sure) and we’ll go together to dinner, both of us refreshed in our own ways.

Later –

What a wonderfully relaxing afternoon! I wrote about 1200 words on a new story and then read a Regency romance all afternoon. Shortly after noon, Tom (our host) came in and lit a peat fire in the small stove here in the living room (the lounge, to be more accurate). Just after that, Mary (our hostess) stopped in and asked if I’d like some tea and a sandwich. I didn’t want to put them out, but she insisted it was no trouble at all, so I had a ham and tomato sandwich and two cups of Irish tea. Marvelous afternoon to sit curled up in a huge comfy chair watching the rain and wind outside the window.

I told Steven he should be able to charge more for this
painting because, you see those white specks? That's real
Irish rain that washed his paint away as he tried to
Because yes, it rained most of the day. Steven came home soaked, but having painted two new pieces while on Inishbofin. He made a wonderful post about it, so I won’t repeat it here.

Off to Oliver’s for dinner again. Then “home” for a quiet evening. We’ll pack tonight because tomorrow we leave early and head for Dublin to catch the plane to Edinburgh!

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