Inside the car, there were flies everywhere –attempts to keep them out had failed spectacularly, so our descent from the Sky Road back to Clifden required methodical extermination using maps, guidebooks, and whatever else was handy.
By the time we reached Clifden, the car’s interior was finally livable. We backtracked a bit so we’d be able to drive through the Inagh Valley on the way up to Kylemore. The Inagh Valley is considered to be one of the most scenic parts of what’s an already incredibly beautiful region.
We certainly were not disappointed, surrounded yet again by mountains rising up into mist and calm lake waters right alongside the road. Irish mountains’ soft greenness borders on the unnatural, as if picture-perfect felted models of the kind used in train sets were made lifesize and placed here. The valley was still and silent, a contrast to the Sky Road’s shrieking winds. Though short, the drive was lovely.
Next stop: Kylemore Abbey. There’s a reason why it’s one of the most photographed sights in all of Ireland. We’d seen pictures of it, but they don’t do it justice. (Aside: I feel as though I’m saying that a lot on this trip. Pictures really can’t convey the sheer, overwhelming beauty of the many places we’ve seen so far, at least not without a panorama or an aerial photo. I’m learning that the ultra-wide angle lens, while good for “getting it all in”, is not so great for giving the sense of vastness I’d love to capture.)
In any case, the Abbey is amazing: once an extravagant 19th century home, it’s now a Benedictine monastery. Having heard the interior tour isn’t that great (since it’s presently in use on a daily basis by the Benedictine nuns, only a small portion is open to the public), we decided to save our money and stick to photos of the exterior. Other amazing Connemara scenery notwithstanding, the Abbey alone was worth the trip.
They were very nice and after ooh-ing and aah-ing over the pictures we’d taken, offered to reciprocate by taking our picture. Jason and I hadn’t been asking people to take our picture at the very sights, being as we are generally more focused on getting pictures of the places we visit rather than pictures of us at them (this apparently makes us abnormal, but it’s not like that’s news to anyone, right? Right.) It’s a good photo, however, and I’m glad we have it. I’m also glad we got to meet them. Our trip, wonderful in itself, has been enriched by the many interesting and kind people we’ve met.
As we were taking pictures outside, some French tourists asked us to take their pictures in front of it. There was a bit of a language barrier, but that made it more fun (the gentleman handed his camera over to me and said, “Automatic, you know how to do it, yes?” with a wry grin and an explanatory gesture to our somewhat beefier DSLR and imposing-looking lenses.) We more than happily complied, and, much to their apparent delight, I got very into it, getting down on one knee to get a good angle, moving around to find the best light, and so on.
After a tasty buttered scone and a cup of earl grey at the Abbey’s well-stocked café, we realized we wouldn’t have enough time to drive through Cong village (I really wanted to see the abbey there, too). Oh well – another for the list of “things to see when we return”.
We did, however, have time to drive by Killary Fjord since it was on the way. Cue both Jason and me realizing that our knowledge of fjords is very limited (conversation on the way: “Jason, what’s a fjord?” “It’s a big… watery thing.”) We passed the fjord at some point I’m sure (we were along the a river, after all), but as far as what bit of the water it actually was, clearly neither of us is the one to ask on that point.
From here, it was sadly time to leave lovely Connemara and return to Galway. We’d have stayed longer, but driving on those roads at night wasn’t a prospect either of us savored. We got a bit lost (a “thirty minutes in the wrong direction” kind of lost – once again, Kimberly fails at her navigational duties), but still made it back before dark.
Dinner: oysters on the halfshell and fish and chips at the famed McDonaugh’s, whose chips were sadly unimpressive and a bit floppy (though we think they were beer-battered?). The fish was a different story – meaty and satisfying cod; crispy, light, and flavorful breading which wasn’t greasy and didn’t fall off. (They also had options such as ray (yes, as in “sting ray”), which I’d have tried for adventurousness’ sake, except cod is a good baseline for judging quality, so, perhaps next time.)
We finished off the night with a Guinness at the bustling Tigh Coili, and then headed back to the B&B.
One low point to the evening: Jason was a bit worried about one of the tires on the car. Ever since that close call with the hedge on day three, the front left tire rim on the car was bent (maybe even cracked – the hubcap was certainly both). The car had been vibrating a bit at 120 kmh from Clonmacnoise to Galway (we attributed it to the higher speed and a small car; now we know it may have been the tire.) It had also gotten a bit low on air overnight.
Before we left for Connemara, I was convinced it wasn’t an issue and my certainty convinced Jason of the same. After an exhilarating day of driving, it was more than a little sobering to come back and find out, thanks to the internet, that driving with a bent rim is potentially a Bad Idea. Thankfully, a tire (here, “tyre”) shop was willing to look at it first thing in the morning. (Our rental agency is supposed to have a 24/7 breakdown service, but none of the documentation they gave us actually lists the number. Go figure.)
I was still worried about expense, not to mention time – it would be a real downer to have an extensive repair cut into our vacation, and I had no idea if they’d need some kind of special parts (not being a car driver means I’m usually blissfully ignorant in this realm.) But at least we’d be safe, and that’s what’s important.
Today I learned:
- Bring bug repellent to rainy scenic Irish lookouts (who’d’ve guessed it?)
- Fjords are watery things which also may or may not be big.
- “Tire” is “tyre”.
- Always get the 24/7 rental agency number.
- Don’t drive with a bent car rim.