It is incredibly rare these days that all six people in my family have the opportunity to gather together for any sort of extended period of time. Remarkably we all managed to carve of two free days to spend together and decided to use the time enthusiastically and to make every minute count. This resulted in a decision being made to embark on a journey taking us from our home, meeting point in Clare drive through Galway making a few stops, spend a night in Clifden and return doing a loop of Galway back to Clare. Here is what that looks like:
We began our journey driving from Clare to Salthill, Galway where we stopped for a quick stretch of our legs and some fresh air. A walk on the beach is always welcome especially when the weather is so perfect.
We then continued directly on to Connemara driving straight to Connemara National Park where we would embark on a challenging and incredibly rewarding hike. I had previously never been to Galway and I was genuinely shocked by just how striking a landscape I was presented with. Gleaming green expanses overtaken with dandelions, yellow adding sunny warmth to fields of every shade and hue of green imaginable. There is a stark and distinct difference in the type of landscape and land itself evident immediately upon entering Galway. Wide open fields undulating unpredictably scattered with white weathered rocks. We traveled from the very fertile and lush country I am used to, to harsh and rugged fields that appear to be completely at the mercy of nature and neglect of man. Earth unchanged by time, raw and wild. Vast country divided by ancient walls formed by the poorest of men using rocks collected from the land they were giving boundary to, attempting to reclaim it from wilderness. Reeds cover the distance softened by the wind that cuts across the unsheltered expanse. Roads twist and turn, dip and incline without rhyme or reason, so unplanned the journey continues in a direction constantly changing with each unexpected bend in the road. Out of my window the view constantly changes, brown hoof torn earth sister to determined growth, a land of contradictions and determination. Tall trees with mangled aged branches shadow sheep resting beside a noble stone wall, the picture of perfect serenity. Sun kissed clouds sit upon the horizon mimicking hills in the far off distance, guiding our direction. As we continued to drive we journeyed through colourful villages full of culture and history. Bridges proudly guarding streams and water ways, uncountable journeys and stories catalogued, etched in their worn stones. There is an overpowering sense of inspiration to be found driving through this county. I was blown away and my head was fixed on swivel as we drove and drove through constant and consistently varying forms of undeniable beauty. When at last we arrived at Connemara National Park and pulled into the car park, I felt a little overwhelmed by the mountain presented to me as the activity for the day. Standing at it base looking into the distance at the peak standing proud some 730m above sea level, imagining myself perched there seemed impossible. We found a bench bathed in sunlight and ravaged a wonderful packed lunch at the base of the hill we were to climb, we refueled and took in the view mentally preparing ourselves for the undertaking ahead of us. It seemed so daunting my sisters and I joked about the time it would take, if that is it were even achievable to complete the hike entirely.
Here is a photographic chronicle of our ascent up Diamond Hill. The portion that made up our hike stood at 445m and so we walked, climbed and at times with questionable safety completed the 10km circuit taking us from the base of the hill to the peak and down the other side.
The panorama was breathtaking and with weather I can only attribute to some serious twist of faith blessing our day, the adventure was one I will never forget. Sitting atop this hill, with the power of nature and scale of mankind before you, I found myself completely at peace. With a cleansing wind wiping my hair, sitting on rocks that overlook countless lives and hold so many secrets, I felt so small and never more at home. It is a very strange feeling but seeing where you come from, from this angle, seeing everything with a fresh perspective, people no more than tiny dots in the distance, seeing fields stretch for miles and hearing total silence save for a passing bird song. I can only say that I marveled, marveled at a land so diverse I could turn 10 degrees and see something completely different to what I had previously been looking at. I marveled that when I began the hike I was filled with doubt, had countless thoughts swirling my mind, fogging my life but now sitting on this strong, sure mountain I was awake. The journey felt like an achievement and I was motivated, refueled to tackle whatever lay ahead.
After descending the hill, feeling refreshed but a little tired we pilled back into the cars and drove to Clifden in hopes of locating our B&B for the night. Once found and after a very welcome shower we practically inhaled a delicious dinner and then settled into a local pub for the night. Honestly listening to traditional music in an Irish pub with good company is one of my favourite things to do. The night started quite relaxed, a very traditional music session, then two buses of American sportsmen arrived and madness ensued. The music continued with elevated enthusiasm well into the early hours of the morning and laugher was shared creating a perfect finish to a very enjoyable day.
Day 2 adventures to come…..