Clifden and Cong

After the Aran Islands, we headed to Clifden for a couple days, which is in a part of Ireland called the Connemara.  Ireland is really incredible because every time you think you've seen everything it has to offer in terms of beauty and landscape, it gives you something else to marvel over.  The Connemara was beautiful, barren, rugged, coastal... Just a really great spot and I explored it through two towns, Clifden and Cong.  

Clifden was first and once we checked into our B&B, we headed up the Sky Road and took in some absolutely breathtaking views.  Seriously, if you're into scenic views and are too lazy to hike, the Sky Road is the way to go.  We had a beautiful weather day and made a stop at the Abbyglen Hotel, where we sat out on the front terrace and had drinks and just enjoyed the weather.  Abbyglen is a beautiful spot, a castle-turned-hotel set into the side of a mountain.  Gorgeous, swanky... And way out of my price range as a 3- month traveler :)

 

The first night in Clifden we had one of the best and hugest meals ever at O'Malley's, in the Atlantic Coast Hotel.  It doesn't look like it from the front, but the dining room has an absolutely incredible view at sunset. We were looking out over a river that was surrounded by hills covered in the yellow plant that's so popular in Ireland....and in the three months I spent there I never learned it's name lol.   Regardless, just a gorgeous view, and you'll see some of the yellow plant that I'm talking about below.  The portions were absolutely humongous and I had some of the best steak I've ever tasted at this place.  Both our meals were delicious and neither of us came even close to finishing them.  Definitely worth a visit if you're stopping in Clifden.

 

We walked around town a bit and found a pub that was going to have live music that night, and settled into a table by where the musicians would be setting up.  Imagine our surprise when in walked one of Kevin's friends from Inishmore :). I had heard him play my first night on the island, and there he was entertaining us two nights later in Clifden.  It was great though, because he was an amazing musician and such a nice guy... He even bought us a couple of rounds, and it was an awesome first night in Clifden.  It was also nice because our B&B was close enough to walk back to, so we didn't have to worry about cabs or anything.  As much as I tried to get the best B&B's I could right in town, I found that a lot of owners exaggerated how close their B&B was to the center of town, the pubs and the restaurants.  Just a little friendly tip J

 

The next day we headed to Connemara National Park and did a great hike.  There are several different trails there that you can take; for some crazy reason, we decided to do the most difficult trail, but the view really paid off.  We went up a mountain called Diamond Mountain... To one side of the summit, you could see ocean and islands and beaches, and to the other side you could see Kylemore Abbey and the lake it sits on, on the side of another mountain on the same ridge.  This was the 3rd national park I visited, and though I didn't originally have this goal, I decided at this point that I should definitely take in all six national parks while I was in Ireland (which I'm proud to say I did!)

 

We headed to Kylemore Abbey next, and it's another don't miss in this area.  The house is beautiful, the steeple down the road is beautiful, the gardens are immaculately kept... it's a big tourist destination but its so sprawled out that you don't feel too overwhelmed by other people.  It really is gorgeous there, and you could easily spend half a day just seeing the grounds and learning about its history.

 

The second night in Clifden we had another amazing dinner, at Marconi's, another amazing food find.  I hate to say it but I ordered lamb... yes, after all the times I photographed them and tried to hold them and swore that I would be taking one home as a pet... I ordered one for dinner.  I'm sorry!!!!  But as anyone ever had like a really good lamb shank??? Those little buggers are DELICIOUS!!!

 

When I had been planning this trip, I really tried to be smart about where I'd be staying, because I knew that's where the majority of my money would be spent.  I only stayed in hotels 3 times; two different stays at the same hotel in Dublin, and one stay at a Best Western in Killarney because it was just as cheap as any B&B in that area and it was right in the center of town.  In the big cities like Cork and Galway, I set up home stays, where I was staying with a family with whom I shared meals and a bathroom with.  It was a lot less privacy, but it worked out wonderfully for me in Cork... Not as good in Galway, and so I had amended my plans and not stayed there as long. Anyways, Clifden was one such place that two different B&B owners took me up on this at the same time, and so I stayed a total of four nights in Clifden, pretty much for free.  I think you can really see all of Clifden in two nights, tops.  And so by the fourth night I was pretty tapped out of things to do, and I literally wrote 33 postcards that night.  Not kidding.  But it was also totally relaxing, and one of my favorite Irish movies was on TV.  Waking Ned Devine, anyone? :)

 

Here are some from Clifden!

 

 

 

 

Sky Road views...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiking in Connemara National Park...

 

 

This is what I meant by the split view from the top... amazing!!

 

 

 

 

Kylemore Abbey...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More of Clifden town...

 

 

 

I didn't stay here, but I loved the colors of this B&B!

 

 

 

The two B&B's I stayed at in Clifden...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sheep in the golden hour... god I love them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

After my four nights in Clifden, I took the bus back into Galway, and connected to another bus back out to Cong.  Cong is MUCH smaller and quieter than Clifden... A real blink-and-you-miss-it Irish village that you really shouldn't miss passing through :). Cong is adorable, and while in hindsight I definitely would only stay one night instead of two, I'm still glad I went there.  Cong's huge claim to fame is that the majority of a John Wayne movie called The Quiet Man filmed there, and so people still flock in droves on tour buses to see the spots where scenes from the movie were filmed.  There is a Quiet Man walking tour, which I skipped out on, but I will admit... Although I've never seen the movie, I did take in the Quiet Man museum.  It was only a couple euro and it took up about a half hour, so ya know... Money well spent I guess? :). From the museum, you can easily cross the road and go through Cong Abbey, down the path to the monks fishing cottage, and through the woods to Ashford Castle.  Cong Abbey is a nice peaceful place to visit, but Ashford Castle is the other main draw in Cong.  It's a castle that's been turned into a hotel, and it is stunning.  Another place that was way out of my price range, but it was nice to just go in and have tea... and chocolate mousse ;). My sweet tooth was out of control in Ireland, what can I say?

 

Both nights in Cong I went to the same bar, the Crows Nest, and had dinner and drinks.  The bartender was from Armagh, Northern Ireland, and he was the one I referenced as "Shrek" on my Facebook, because of his accent :). He was fine with it though... I think.  Anyways, it was a great bar... their live trad music was a bit lacking but I really liked the people and the atmosphere there...

 

By the second night I had made a group of friends in the pub.  When I was getting tired and it was time to go, I asked the bartender to call me a cab, and that's when I experienced another Ireland first- the bartender said "Oh no need, the owner gives everyone lifts home."  The owner of the bar, Dennis... nicest guy in the world... gave me a lift back to my B&B... and in my confusion and shock (and, lets face it- slight fear that I might end up murdered in an alleyway somewhere), I forgot to pay my bar tab.  Another thing about Ireland- people there are generally trusting.  So instead of taking your credit card like they do in America and holding it behind the bar, in Ireland they just have your tab going and you're supposed to pay it when you leave.  Anyways, I completely forgot... and the next day on my bus back to Galway I remembered and felt SO BAD... thank God, I ended up back in Cong a couple of weeks later with my friends who were visiting, Melissa and Marc...I went back to the Crows Nest and paid up, which they were completely shocked about... but I know I would have felt so guilty if I didn't make it back there to settle up!

 

Here are some favorites from Cong...

 

 

 

I cracked up when I was walking down a random street in Cong and saw a sign that said "Dying Man House"... I went over to investigate and of course it was a scene from the movie.  Still makes me smile...

 

 

 

 

 

I made friends with this horse and trap driver, Billy Gibbons... such a nice guy and I actually helped him out later that day as I was walking around... a family wanted to get on his horse and trap in the middle of an intersection, not his usual pick up point, and so he had me hold his horse while he helped them on.  He offered me a free lift around town but I didn't take it... he was so nice, just like everyone in this small village...

 

 

Cong Abbey...

 

 

 

 

The monk fishing cottage....

 

 

 

 

 

Ashford Castle...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apparently Billy's horse loves tea... I die.

 

 

Some random Cong shots...

 

 

 

 

Next up... Melissa and Marc's 5 year anniversary shoot in Cong! :)