The Sky Road

14 October 2015 Wednesday
We took the N59 out of Galway and headed due west into the Connemara district. We’d driven though here in 2003—the scenery is spectacular—but had only passed through Clifden without stopping. I’d heard it was nice. Pretty.

So we headed out toward Clifden. And there was more road work. Honestly, no matter what road we take, it’s under construction! Don’t get me wrong—it’s for a good cause. These tiny roads need some improvements. But … whew. All that shifting up and down.

So if we saw some pretty scenery, we’d stop and take photos. :) This is Lough Bofin on the N59.

So if we saw some pretty scenery, we’d stop, rest, and take photos. 🙂 This is Lough Bofin on the N59.

A beautiful little acre this family has carved out on the lake’s edge. See the sheep on the hill behind the house? (Don’t forget, you can click to enlarge any photo.)

A beautiful little acre this family has carved out on the lake’s edge. See the sheep on the hill behind the house? (Don’t forget, you can click to enlarge any photo.)

And we’re about to get into the mountains.

And we’re about to get into the mountains—we can see them up ahead.

This is the territory of the Twelve Bens mountain range, and we were driving right into them. Here’s a screen shot of the Twelve Bens terrain from Google Maps:

twelvebens copy

We’re on the N59 on the far right-hand side of this map, approaching the mountains.

This is just the beginning.

This is just the beginning.

A view of the Twelve Bens from the N59.

A view of the Twelve Bens from the N59.

Another lake along the way. The Twelve Bens are behind us now. I look at these places and think “Wouldn’t it be lovely” but then I remind myself it’s very remote, and I’m getting older. Remote is fine for younger people. :)

Another lake along the way. The Twelve Bens are behind us now. I look at these places and think “Wouldn’t it be lovely” but then I remind myself it’s very remote, and I’m getting older. Remote is fine for younger people. 🙂

Looking back at the Twelve Bens mountain range.

Looking back at the Twelve Bens mountain range.

We were on our way to drive the ten-mile Sky Road Loop.

In this screen grab, Clifden is in the lower right corner at the green arrow.

In this screen grab, Clifden is in the lower right corner at the green arrow.

We took some photos with our cameras, and a lot of photos with our eyes. Because the scenery was so … huge … it was impossible to capture with bits and bytes. Also, the roads were very small and there weren’t a lot of places to stop. (Here’s a great video; you’ll see. The camera is mounted on the bike, not the cyclist, so you’ll get an idea of the difficult driving conditions, but won’t see what the cyclist—who would turn his head—saw. You’ll have to imagine that—or look at my stills below. This is the direction we drove the loop. And yes, it was chilly and windy.)

First, a spectacular view of Clifden Bay.

It’s not a lighthouse; strictly for warning of the rocks during the daytime. They are known locally as the “White Lady” and the “White Man” (there is another one on Inish Turbot).

It’s not a lighthouse; strictly for warning of the rocks during the daytime. They are known locally as the “White Lady” and the “White Man” (there is another one on Inish Turbot, an island you can’t see here).

From our precarious perch in someone’s driveway, I took a photo of the White Lady at the entrance to the bay, and then turned inland to photograph that little road.

From our precarious perch in someone’s driveway, I took a photo of the White Lady at the entrance to the bay, and then turned inland to photograph that little road. For a while we were behind a FedEx truck and I wondered what would happen if we’d met him head-on instead. Maybe everybody just drives in one direction as much as possible?

A little further along the Sky Road.

A little further along the Sky Road.

What a view these homeowners have!

What a view these homeowners have!

As I say, it’s simply impossible to capture the magnificent view. One stands there with one’s mouth open, awestruck.

Finally, we found ourselves coming out on the other side, a little further up the N59. So we took a right turn and drove back into Clifden. We were hungry.

A couple weeks ago we’d wandered into a bookstore in Malahide and I bought this book on a whim. We have made good use of it to try restaurants in the small towns we’ve passed through from Inishowen to Galway. (Even our inexpensive Galway hotel—The Connacht—gets a mention.) Tomorrow we’re leaving Galway and traveling inland to Celbridge (Co. Kildare), so we wanted to squeeze the last little bit of use out of it.

I’ve often purchased of-local-interest books like this in Ireland and have never been sorry. €12 but definitely worth it.

I’ve often purchased of-local-interest books like this in Ireland and have never been sorry. €12 but definitely worth it.

So we drove into town and found Market Street.

Standing on Market Street (the R341), looking west. That’s the Catholic church and below it, the Alcock & Brown Hotel. You know about Alcock and Brown, right?

Standing on Market Street (the R341), looking west. That’s the Catholic church and below it, the Alcock & Brown Hotel. You know about Alcock and Brown, right?

British aviators Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown made the first nonstop transatlantic flight, taking off at St. John’s Newfoundland in June 1919. They landed in a bog outside Clifden. Say “Alcock and Brown” in this region and everyone knows who you mean. They were heroes! Consider that, seriously. We think nothing of flying across the Atlantic while complaining about the quality of airline food; Alcock and Brown did it in an open biplane less than a hundred years ago and it was huge news all over the world.

Alcock and Brown take of from Newfoundland. I borrowed this photo from Wikipedia.

Alcock and Brown take of from Newfoundland. I borrowed this photo from Wikipedia.

So there we were, in Clifden, Co. Galway, Ireland, looking at the Alcock and Brown Hotel. Then we turned and looked the other way.

Standing on Market Street, looking east at the Twelve Bens. What a view!

Standing on Market Street, looking east at the Twelve Bens. What a view! Clifden would be a strong contender if I were considering retirement in Ireland. 🙂

We’d settled on Mitchell’s Restaurant—it’s the blue building just past the red storefront in the photo above—and it did not disappoint. We were seated up near the bar and had a great view of the room as we enjoyed a leisurely supper.

But we weren’t done in Clifden! We’d both noticed a bakery across the street. It was time for a treat.

Walsh’s Bakery, est. 1953, Clifden.

Walsh’s Bakery, est. 1953, Clifden.

It’s a Clifden institution, apparently. Established in 1953! And ohmygoodness, were those treats appealing! And inexpensive! When the young woman behind the counter quoted the prices, we choose even more baked goods to take back to the hotel. 🙂

We were delighted with our purchases, and looked forward to having them with a cuppa.

We were delighted with our purchases, and looked forward to having them with a cuppa.

And then we headed home. About thirteen miles out we stopped at Joyce’s Craft Shop, which is definitely not your standard tourist trap—it’s a lovely gift shop with nice items to keep as souvenirs of your trip. No plastic leprechauns here. We bought a couple wool throws made at the Foxford Woollen Mills, and they’re so soft and gorgeous. I’d love to have more.

This was our last night in Galway, and my only regret in leaving is the beds at the Connacht were the most comfortable thus far. The pastries from Walsh’s Bakery made it all bearable. 🙂

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