Ireland 2009 Road Tour Day Five:

As before, the map to the right links to photos we took during the drive. As an added bonus, here is a panoramic view of the town of Leenane framed by the mountains in Connemara (It's too wide to import into the main photo album). We woke up in Galway on Thanksgiving day and had a wonderfully decadent Irish breakfast at the Marriott Hotel. Todays excursion was a driving loop around the Connemara region (County Galway and County Mayo). Connemara is the name given to the western portion of County Galway, which lies between Lough Corrib and the Atlantic, highlighting the rugged beauty of The West of Ireland. We picked up the R336 outside of Galway and had a scenic drive along Galway bay with beautiful views of the Aran islands. The weather was a mixed bag, with a little sun and a little rain, sometimes at once. Before 11:30 AM we were treated to no less then seven intense rainbows along our drive. We stuck to the coastal route, switching to the R340 and R341 before eventually reaching Clifden. Right in town you will see roadsigns for "Sky Road", a short driving loop that climbs high along the rocky terrain, offering stunning views of the Atlantic and surrounding land. There is a great car park near the highest point, and is definitely worth the short detour. We rounded the lower road and headed back to Clifden for a quick lunch before moving on.

Leaving Clifden, we headed north up the N59 towards Leenane. The road, like most in Ireland, wound through the rugged landscape before rounding a bend just north of Clifden, revealing the Twelve Bens mountain range which makes up part of the Connemara National Park. We briefly stopped at a pull-off in the road to appreciate the view. While we have many pictures, it simply does not translate to film and this part of Ireland was one I will have in my memories for a long time. Along the way to Leenane, we stopped at Kylemore Abbey (a very well photographed monastery which is now an exclusive girl's boarding school). While tours are offered, we opted to just take some pictures before moving on. Through mountain passes dotted with lakes and grazing fields, we hit our next waypoint of Leenane and Killary harbor, Irelands only Fjord. We had a short stop to stretch our legs before diverting off of the N59 to R335 towards Lousburgh. We refueled there before hooking east towards Westport, passing by Croagh Patrick, were legend states St. Patrick drove the "snakes" from Ireland. The main visitor center was closed for the season, and low clouds obscured the summit from view, but it was still a very pretty area. Perhaps one day we will take a day from Westport and actually climb the summit (about a three hour moderate hike).

We passed through Westport before picking up the R330 to the N84 and ultimately back to Galway. This section of the drive is a little less scenic, which works out well since it was already starting to get dark at that time. We found our way back to the hotel, had a nice Thanksgiving dinner of a Irish version of Lasagna before crashing for the night. Coming Up: The drive back to Dublin with a stop in Trim and the Hill of Tara.