Leaving County Clare was not easy. Seeing the beauty of the Cliffs of Moher and the phenomenal wildlife coupled with the raw beauty of the coast made it difficult to believe that Ireland could continue to amaze me in more intense ways than it already had.
Oh, how little did I understand Ireland.
As we drove north toward Ballina (County Mayo), we passed through some beautiful landscapes.
We stopped for lunch in Gallway, which I wasn’t very impressed with at the time. I described it in my journal as being “like most cities” with “chain restaurants with their own parking lots.” I’m sorry, Galway! My more recent trip hit me very differently and I enjoyed the scenery very much. However, as an 18 year old in 1997, I found Galway to be very tedious.
Our weather this day was beautiful – sunny and warm. The sun does just as much for the beauty of Ireland as the rain. The greens in contrasts with the deep blues of lakes in the valleys of hills and mountains dotted with white sheep seems to shine even brighter beneath the clear skies. We drove most of the day, but I didn’t mind because of the beauty of the scenery.
While we were driving we caught sight of something that made us literally stop in our tracks – Kylemore Abbey. We decided to investigate, knowing nothing about this beautiful castle in the middle of nowhere on the edge of a lake. We were surprised to find out that Kylemore Abbey is one of the more famous places in Ireland.
Originally the home of a wealthy family, the castle eventually became the home of nuns who were displaced during World War 1, and they’ve been there ever since. Indiana connection: The have a partnership with the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana) for their study abroad program!
About a mile up the mountain behind the abbey is a giant statue of Christ with his arms outstretched, as if inviting people to the abbey. Unfortunately we couldn’t go up there because we needed to get to Ballina before dark, so we left fascinated by what we had happened upon.
In Ballina we stayed at Ashley House bed and breakfast which appears to still be operational, though it does not have it’s own website. TripAdvisor has a listing, though with very little information.
The host told us that Ballina was having a festival and that evening was “international night”, so we went into town. The center was blocked off to traffic and different sections were set off as different “countries.” The US section had classic cars from the 50s and a miniature Statue of Liberty. I don’t remember this, but my mother told me that they even had “hotdogs”– but they didn’t taste ANYTHING like actual hotdogs (which is probably a good thing in my opinion). France had an Eiffel Tower and can-can dancers. Germany had an oompah band and copious amounts of lederhosen. It was quite a night!
I checked online and Ballina still has the Salmon Festival– and as of April, it is still planned for the second week of July. Dear Ballina, I hope that you get to have your festival this year because I enjoyed my one night of it!
Other posts in this series: