Today we faced a bit of a drive as we had still so much to see but were running out of days. We left our B&B early after a delicious home-cooked breakfast and headed south to Galway county, towards the region of Connemara.
Connemara had always stuck out to me because of the breed of horses that came from there. Connemara ponies are famous for being sturdy, reliable and tough and were featured in the popular book series back in the 90’s, ‘The Pony Pals’ by Jeanne Betancourt. which as a horse-mad 8 year old, I was a huge fan of. We made plans to visit the Connemara National Park to stretch out the legs and hopefully see some of these little horses.
The roads were windy and often very narrow, making for a rather precarious car ride, the but green, lush landscape outside made up for it. Starting to see signs for the National Park we were all glued to the window, looking for the turnoff. Suddenly, before our eyes flashed this grand, old, greyish-white building across the lake. Almost braking on the spot, Mum and I leapt out of the car whilst Dad found a safer place to park and had a better look at this beauty hidden away in the trees.
The Kylemore Abbey stood before us and we were gobsmacked by the sheer grandness of the building. I had known the Abbey was around the Connemara area, but to literally drive right past it was a huge surprise. After sprawling through some bushes to get a better glimpse of it, we decided to jump back in the car and head to the official entrance for a better look.
Kylemore Abbey is a Benedictine monastery which was founded in 1920 on the grounds of the Kylemore Castle. The castle and Abbey have been home to several different families and was also an international boarding school up until 2010. For now, Kylemore Abbey and its ground serve as a tourist attraction, open for public tours and nature walks.
We had a wander around and then jumped back into the car and drove the short distance to the National Park. The weather had turned a little ugly, with a harsh cold wind slicing through us, so we rugged up and headed out into the National Park. The park covers around 2,900 hectares of mountains, grasslands, bogs and heaths. There are several different walking paths to choose from which lead you all around the Park. We chose one which took about 45 minutes, taking us up a small mountain to get a wonderful view of the park beneath us. We also got a close encounter with some wild Connemara ponies, who were roaming the park. Animal withdrawals kicking in big time for me, so the little, inquisitive grey gelding made my heart melt as he sniffed around me in search for a pat and some food.
It was such a harsh yet fertile landscape. The foggy sky made the area seem spooky, it was just so different to the nature we have at home in Australia. Unlike lush, green England, Ireland definitely copped the brunt of the chilly weather and have adapted accordingly. In saying that though, it was still remarkably beautiful.
We finished our walk and jumped back in the car ready for the next leg of the day’s drive. We were headed for the Galway Bay to a little town called Doolin, where our next B&B stay was. We followed the coastline down and passed through towns with funny names, such as Gort and Lisdoonvarna, which kept us occupied as we practiced saying them with Irish accents .
We reached our B&B just before the sun set, happy to be out of the car and in another beautiful part of Ireland. Tomorrow we’re off exploring the area which includes the magnificent Cliffs of Moher. Excited! 🙂