This tour took us through Connemara, a huge tract of undeveloped land north of Galway city that reaches into County Mayo. I never knew that Ireland had such a large range of terrain, all of which can be seen in Connemara. Usually you just think of the lowland rolling green hills. (Think ... the shire in Lord of the Rings ... it really feels like that) But as I'll try to show with my pictures, the countryside goes from the lowland peat bogs and green hills to surprisingly huge mountain ranges, which we managed to see with rare snow-capped peaks. Snaking through the mountain ranges are innumerable lakes, lochs, rivers, an inland sea, and even a fjord (The only fjord in Ireland! who knew they had these outside of .. what Norway?).
This tour, much more than the other was about the drive and just experiencing the scenery. The only real stop on the tour was Kylemore Abbey, a manor house built onto the base of a mountain overlooking a finger of the inland sea. The house was originally built by an Englishman who lived his whole life there, but upon his death it was sold to Benedictine Nuns, who have run a private, apparently very exclusive, boarding school for girls. At one point students from 80 countries came here to live and study. Unfortunately the nuns are getting old, attendance has dropped, and the school will be closing after this school year. Its a shame, because this place seemed as close to Hogwarts as I'll ever see; we talked about it and we're all fairly certain it might be a school for wizards. (or i suppose witches?) Its basically a boarding school in a castle built into the side of a mountain overlooking a lake ... miles from any sign of civilization. I mean c'mon ... thats a wizard school.
Anyway, the man who owned the estate also built a replica of an English gothic cathedral on the grounds, about a half mile walk from the manor house. It was a gorgeous church in a great setting ... although it did feel like .. well just a miniature cathedral ... as if like a playhouse, or a play church. Judge for yourself i guess.
Here is a slideshow of the Connemara scenery; it was very had to translate in pictures ... there was just something about being in unspoiled nature and in such unique terrain. I swear our tour guide used the word "natural" to describe just about everything we saw or went to, but looking back it was a very fair assessment. Although i thought it was a bit of a stretch when he called the pub we went to for lunch "natural"...
And here is the slideshow of the Kylemore Abbey and the Gothic Church:
Also, Check out the post on NUI Galway for an update with a little slideshow of the Old Quad at the school. I'll snap some more pictures around campus eventually, just, as I said, I'm trying not to look like the dumb tourist that I am.
Finally, thanks to all of you who are actually reading this. I appreciate it. Maybe we'll get up to double digit followers soon. Hell, if I hit 10, I'm putting ads in. I'll definitely need the euros if i keep up my current pace.