Summer’s coming and its that time of year for thinking about faraway places. I have been going through my old 35mm negatives and decided to sort out some shots from Ireland in the 1990s. They aren’t too bad, but it’s sad to think what better pictures I could take now with a digital camera!
We went to Ireland for several years in a row, ranging farther and farther to the west, and for me the most wonderful landscape of all was in Connemara, an area of lakes and mountains to the north and west of Galway city.
The first few pictures were taken from the N59 road between Galway and Clifden.
I guessed the “mara” part of Connemara meant “sea”, but didn’t know the full derivation. It is the name of the tribe who lived here long ago, the Conmhaícne Mara, “Conmhaícne of the sea”, descendants of Con Mhac, which literally means “hound son”.
One day we visited the Sruffaunboy nature trail at Letterfrack, north of Clifden
At the Clifden hotel we saw Sharon Shannon, a well-known Irish folk musician, and bought several of her albums, which we love. One is called The Diamond Mountain Sessions, so I can now see they are named after the local landmark.
What surprised me was that many of the boggy areas were clearly connected to the sea as they were full of seaweeds…
We visited Kylemore Abbey, a Victorian estate on Pollacapall Lough.
The place was built on the site of a hunting lodge by Mitchell Henry MP, a wealthy businessman and liberal Manchester politician, as a gift for his wife Margaret, who came from the Vaughan family of County Down. But when she died of dysentery on holiday in Egypt in 1874, just a few years after the castle was completed, he lost heart.
In 1903, Mitchell Henry sold Kylemore Castle to the Duke of Manchester, William Angus Drogo Montague, and his Duchess, Helena Zimmerman, daughter of a rich American businessman. In renovating the interiors they ripped out a beautiful German stained-glass window and large quantities of Italian and Connemara marble, which upset the locals.
Today Kylemore Abbey is owned and run by the Benedictine community who have been here since 1920 – nuns from Ypres in Belgium sought refuge here after the First World War. They ran the abbey as a girls’ boarding school until 2010, so when we visited in 1996 it was still a school and we could not see much of the interior, although we had a light lunch there.
In my notebook at the time I mentioned that the nuns made cream-coloured pottery with a fuchsia design and I see from the website that this is still available in the shop.
I remember walking in a woodland garden at Kylemore when we visited, although I am not sure if the Victorian walled garden was fully developed then. If so, I didn’t take any pictures of that part.
In the grounds is a small restored Gothic revival church.
But back to rural matters and our return to Connemara in 1997, when we visited the Connemara Heritage and History Centre at Lettershea, to the south of the national park…
Connemara has probably changed only a little in 20 years, although I dare say the tourist attractions have been further developed. But I would like to think it is still wild and wonderful!
There’s more from the non-digital picture archive here.