The Emerald Island: Driving along the north coast (Part I)

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Many people find the weather in Ireland somewhat stifling: clouds, wind and rain will hammer you every day and keep you home during the weekend. However, during my stay on the Emerald Island, I was taught exactly the opposite: no matter the rain, get out there and you might see and experience things the sun would hide from you. So there was I, following the Wild Atlantic Way, going to the wild Irish north.

We left the city of Galway behind and headed to Connemara, known by Oscar Wilde as the “savage beauty”. Connemara is known for the magnificent mountain landscape and hillwalking, but we sticked to the shore, in order to enjoy the ocean. Soon we reached Cashla Bay and Rossaveel, a scenic little harbour on the southwest coast. The wind was strong and fog was covering everything, creating a misty atmosphere all around. No matter how many times I wander around Ireland, I am always amazed by its colours, especially during the fall: orange, red, yellow, green.. As we were enjoying these colours looking on the east, I decided to turn my head once again to the ocean. I was expecting to see the typical combination of white sand and blue water, but to my surprise, what I saw was plain yellow. Tons of Fucus, a local seaweed were washed ashore on the beach, covering everything and painting the whole area in yellow. The smell was somewhat unbearable, but for somebody that has spent hours around all kinds of smelly sea creatures like myself, the situation seemed familiar. While some time ago seaweed in Ireland was just a pain due to the smell and money spent to clean the shores out, it’s value was finally acknowledged and nowadays many small companies use it to produce natural products like cosmetics and, surprisingly, perfumes.

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After the smelly but colorful seaweed experience, we decided to penetrate a little bit into Connemara and headed towards Clifden. We enjoyed hours of driving through the colorful mountains and did small stops here and there. One of our stops was made at Kylemore Abbey, to enjoy the landscape around it. There, we learned that once the area was home to two famous giants of the Irish mythology: Cú Chulainn and Fionn McCool. The two giants were known to be bad tempered and they were often fighting with each other. During one of their fights, Cú Chulainn threw a huge stone to Fionn McCool, a stone that missed its target and landed in a weird position that resembles an old traditional iron. For many years this stone was known as “The Ironing Stone”, and local children used it as a place to make wishes. Despite being dazed by all the tales and legends one can hear about the area and the abbey, we decided to keep our wishes and drop them to the ocean instead, which meant we had to drive further to the west, to join the Wild Atlantic Way again.

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey

Devil's mother mountain

Devil’s mother mountain

Devil's mother

Devil’s mother river

We followed the shore and passed the city of Westport, heading towards Achill island. It was only 2 o’clock in the afternoon when we reached the island, but a heavy black cloud was hovering above our heads and the island was sinking in pitch dark. After a while, we were driving through this dark cloud, watching the steep cliffs developing on the edge of the road. We picked up two kind French guys who were hitch hiking to the west end of the island. We left them at Keem Bay, hoping they will be fine: Bearing the harsh weather and strong wind would be the price to pay in order to sleep over a magnificent view.

Keel beach

Keel beach

Keem Bay

Keem Bay

To be continued..


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