We fueled up with a hearty breakfast at the Inishmore B&B in Galway and set out on the road north with final destination Sligo. There would be 8 major stops along the way, starting with the magnificent Ashford Castle in Cong. This quiet little village is also the setting for John Wayne’s movie “The Quiet Man” with Maureen O’Hara. There’s a statue and a museum there as tribute. Also the ruins of the 11th century Cong Abbey with its beautiful gothic archways and high crosses. But we really came to see the castle which was built in the 1200’s and was also once owned by the Guinness family. So grand and royal…and no crowds of tourists in October.
Leaving Cong, we made our way to three nearby towns all within 15 minutes of each other specifically to visit the churches and see the Harry Clarke stained glass windows in Kilmaine (a triple window of ‘The Adoration of the Magi’), Roundfort (a 7-panel window of ‘The Ascension’) and Ballinrobe (8 double windows of various saints). As I’ve said before, photos cannot do them justice… but I tried anyway. I literally took dozens of shots to enjoy later…but to spare you here, I’ve included only two pics from each church…a full window shot and a zoomed in detail shot. The colors! The details!! The importance of his work in the world of stained glass cannot be overstated!!!
Carrying on to the town of Westport, we took a side trip to see the National Famine Monument in the village or Murrisk, commemorating the Great Famine of the 1840s. The sculpture is a bronze ship, with skeletal figures symbolising the many emigrants from the Irish famine who died in the appalling conditions aboard the “coffin ships” on which they left Ireland.
We continued into Westport for lunch and to visit St. Mary’s Cathedral to enjoy the stained glass (not Harry Clark but still really beautiful) and then headed north again for one more stained glass stop in the town of Newport…this time to see a tri-panel Harry Clarke windows at St. Patrick’s Cathedral called ‘The Last Judgement’… hauntingly disturbing with its references to Heaven and Hell. I’ve seen so much of his work in the past week and I still get overwhelmed every time.
Leaving Newport, we continued north through the Nephrin Mountains to Downpatrick Head, a stunning expanse of sheer seaside cliffs on the edge of sheep pasture only a 5 minute hike from the parking lot. We were the only ones there and the wind was whipping the waves into huge surfing curls. Monica was too nervous to get close to the 150 ft. drop off and I wasn’t much braver…but I did get close enough to shoot the “sea stack”, a multi-layered tower of rock just off the shore that has been eroded for centuries. Really impressive!
The last leg of the day’s journey was along the coastline toward Sligo passing though quaint villages including Killala where one finds a 12th century round tower complete with conical cap . Occasional rain showers and intermittent sunshine meant rainbows and we were lucky enough to capture one. It was nearly dark when we arrived at Sligo and found the Glass Hotel. Dinner was a bottle of wine and some peanuts and a relaxing night in our room uploading photos and reminiscing the day’s events. Tomorrow we will explore Sligo and then continue north again.