Connemara

Leaving Bundoran early on a crisp, autumn morning, we continued our drive through County Donegal heading southwest through County Mayo toward Galway. The journey was broken by the necessity to stop and take photographs of the beautiful scenery. Solitary stone ruins scattered the countryside

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and gentle waterfalls tumbled a tune.

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Rivers skilfully traversed rocks before disappearing beneath ancient stone bridges.

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Shafts of sunlight shone briefly on the mountains before retreating once again behind the clouds.

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As the landscape changed, gentle streams meandered through farmland

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and  flowed calmly under stone arches.

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Despite our distractions, we reached Connemara in good time, this old caravan by the side of the road presented a subliminal suggestion.

10.old caravan

We arrived in Leenane in time for lunch, a peaceful village at the head of Killary Harbour. Extending 16km toward the sea, Killary Harbour is the most westerly fjord in Europe, majestic mountains rising on either side make for a spectacular panorama.

11.Killary Fjord12.Killary Fjord

The cemetery has prime position.

13.Leenane cemetery & Killary Harbour

Further along the shore we had a different perspective of the fjord

14.Killary Fjord

and a breathtaking view of Mweelrea, the highest mountain in Connacht and County Mayo.

15.Mweelrea, Killary Fjord

We were looking forward to exploring Connemara, a region in west Galway known for its National Park, stunning coastline and fishing villages. Our intention was to drive to Clifden on the far west side of Connemara and continue the loop back to Galway. Unfortunately, we hadn’t gone far before a police roadblock informed us the road was closed due to an accident. Taking a detour, we came across a pub in the middle of nowhere and sought to assuage our disappointment with a tasty beverage. Entering the establishment, we were greeted with indifference by the three men at the bar who had seemingly already partaken of the amber liquid. The barman disappeared, presumably to prepare for customers. We waited at the bar, then took a seat at a table while the three aforementioned persons spoke to each other in Gaelic and furnished us with less than friendly stares. We were a bit slow on the uptake but, when the barman failed to return, we beat a hasty retreat and, without looking back, made a beeline for Galway. For those of you who have read of our disgruntlement with Holly, our satnav, here is evidence. She is unable to comprehend that we are already on a road!

16.Holly

County Donegal

After a very comfortable night and hearty breakfast at the Ramada Hotel in Portrush, we took an early morning stroll to admire the scenery before continuing on our circuitous journey of Ireland. The small seaside resort town was quiet this time of year, the snow-capped mountains confirming the advent of winter.

1.Portrush2.Portrush

A panoramic ten minute drive

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delivered us to Portstewart. Founded in 1792, this fishing village became a popular holiday destination for middle-class Victorian families. The two miles of golden sandy beach are still popular

4.Portstewart

and waterside homes have a stunning backdrop.

5.Portstewart

The spectacular Derryveagh Mountains accompanied us on our route through County Donegal,

6.Derryveagh Mountains7.Derryveagh Mountains

until we met the coast again at Ardara. The beautiful beaches, perfect for swimming, were serenely deserted.

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To the east, the Blue Stack Mountains loomed out of the mist.

11.Blue Stack Mountains

We stayed the night at the Holyrood Hotel in Bundoran, the tourist season was obviously, well and truly over.

Aonach Mor

After a wander along the main street of Fort William, we drove to Aonach Mor to experience the Nevis Range. The 2.3km gondola ride up the north face of the mountain was exhilarating.

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650 metres up, the ski lifts were still slumbering

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but the light snow gave a hint of things to come.

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The heavy cloud promised more snowfalls and the shafts of sunlight painted beautiful hues through the Great Glen.

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We enjoyed a hot chocolate to warm up at the café and, fortunately, it was after 12 o’clock so we added a Drambuie chaser to fortify us for the trip down the mountain.

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The cloud had lifted a little and the scenery was spectacular. The Great Glen follows a 100km geological fault from Inverness to Fort William, bisecting the Scottish Highlands into the Grampian Mountains to the southeast and the Northwest Highlands.

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We returned to terra firma and continued on our northward journey.

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Farewell Benabbio

The time had come to leave Benabbio. There were many things I would miss, the tranquility and beauty not least. I never tired of the mountains that surrounded us

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and the mesmerising mist that awaited when I opened the bedroom shutters in the morning.

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No matter where we wandered in the village, the mountains followed us.

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We were sad to say goodbye to beautiful Benabbio and our new found friends

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but there were more adventures awaiting us.