March is all about green so we are off to Ireland! On this adventure we want to see the Ireland we have seen in the movies.
During this excursion we are renting a car to get around. I am driving……on the left side of the road…….. shifting gears with my left hand………the driving seat on the ride side of the car. Hmmmmm……this will be interesting. During car inspection in the Shannon Airport we notice the side-view mirror of the rental car is askew. Not to worry, it just seems loose and the attendant is not concerned. The road out of Shannon is a divided two lane highway that soon narrows to a smaller road, which narrows to a smaller road, which narrows to a smaller road…… At the tight spots, we face cars head on and inch by each other, very slowly, since there are no places to pull over.
We are surrounded by trees or stone walls. Now I know why the side view mirrors are loose! They kiss as we pass each other! Before we know it we are on gravel roads surrounded by peat bogs or sheep grazing on the knolls. I have never seen a peat bog; a marsh without cattails, a wetland made up of dead and decaying vegetation.
Moss, mud and an earth mixture are dug up and made into little bricks. Peat bricks are piled high along the gravel road to dry out. I have to get out and look at the bog closely. Stepping on it is like stepping on a sponge. How to they get those peat bricks so uniform and perfect in size? It is getting dark with a drizzle of rain as we pull into our first stop, Cashel House in Connemara.
Cashel House overlooks the Cashel Bay on the west coast of Ireland. Designed by Geoffrey Emerson, the house was built in 1840 for Captain Thomas Hazell. Geoffrey Emerson is the great, great grandfather of the present owner. The country home was converted to a family run four star hotel in 1968 by the McEvilly family. Situated in the heart of Connemara and nestled in 50 acres of gardens and woodland walks, it is perfect for artists or naturalists. Each of the 30 bedrooms and suites are decorated and furnished in antique furnishings presenting a charming chintzy country house style. The turf fires give a relaxing homey atmosphere. Here are those peat bricks again! There is a sweet smoky smell wafting from the chimneys and fireplaces. I learn that a single brick-shaped piece of peat turf burns for 1 hour. Bogs are sometimes called fens, mires or quagmires. Who knew? There are hundreds of bog bricks placed next to the entry fireplace at Cashel House. The glass conservatory overlooking the gardens is now an elegant dining room. It is so romantic! Unfortunately, we only spend one night here and we are up and off early the next morning to a quick visit through Clifden, then on past the Kylemore Abbey and on into Cong, our next stop.
Kylemore Abbey and Castle, is home to a community of Benedictine nuns who came here in 1920 after the abby in Ypres, Belgium was destroyed in World War I. (I have also been to the battlefields around Ypres, so will talk more about that in the Belgium post) At Kylemore the nuns opened a world renowned boarding school for girls and began restoring the Abbey, Gothic Church and Victorian Walled Garden. It was pouring today so we drove on to Cong.
The Irish in the Peat Bogs
PS: A few years after the first trip to Ireland SB was in an antique shop in Northern England when he came across this item. A Peat Spade!!!!! That’s how they get those bricks so perfect! What a gift for me!
For more information on Cashel House and Gardens see: http://cashel-house-hotel.com/
For more information on the Kylemore Abbey, Castle and Gardens see: http://www.kylemoreabbeytourism.com