Wednesday, June 29–Castlebar, Co Mayo

Forgetting places I wanted to go to and finding places I didn't know about; Knocknarea; Sligo Folk Park; Knocknashee; National Museum of Ireland Country Life; dinner and a pint in the hotel

Connaught Inn A later note about names--this hotel and the one where I'll be staying in Galway (see July 1st) both have different English spellings of the same Irish Gaelic name for one of the four ancient provinces, the Westernmost one, often spelled Connacht and pronounced (as far as I could hear) con-nackt

Black VW Passat sedan



The last two days have kind of been about forgetting to go to places that I wanted to, visiting places that I wanted to but didn't know were on my way, and visiting places that I had no idea existed.

I had wanted to go back to Belleek sometime this trip, but forgot to do so while I was staying in Armagh since that's when it would have been closest. I also wanted to go back the church at Drumcliff, where Yeats is buried, and had intended to go this morning on my way out of Sligo.

The weather this morning was grey, cloudy & drizzly. When I checked out of my hotel around 10:30 I decided I'd skip wandering around Sligo to go see some of the places I didn't get around to yesterday, such as the Abbey and the cathedral but to just head on out and see what I could drive to while on my way.

Drumcliff is on the side of town from two of the other places I wanted to visit, so I kind of forgot it entirely. Instead I headed on over to Knocknarea, the supposed site of the burial cairn of the mythical Queen Maeve and was going to go to the megalithic burial complex at Carrowmore on the way back. Once again the Garmin sat nav was useless, or it found something else called Carrowmore instead of the megalithic complex. I knew that Knocknarea is further on, so once the Garmin told me Carrowmore was on my right and the megalithic complex certainly was not, I pulled over and switched to Google Maps on my Irish android smart phone and it found it.

When I got to the small parking area at the path up the hill to Maeve's cairn it had started pouring rain so I gave that a pass as well. It was still raining so I didn't turn off for the real location of the Carrowmore megalithic complex either but punched in the location of the Sligo Folk Park instead. This turned out to be a small version of the Ulster-American Folk Park I had been to earlier, concentrating of course on life in Sligo and the surrounding area. It's rather charming with a selection of representative exhibits in surrounding buildings, but the displays of items seem to be kind of amateurishly and haphazardly arranged-it's still fun, though, and worth going to if you're anywhere in the area already.

It takes about an hour and a quarter or an hour and a half to get from the Sligo Folk Park to here in Castlebar, Co Mayo, since the Folk Park is on the other side of the city from the route to Galway, the N7, which goes through Castlebar on the way.

This is where stopping somewhere I didn't even know existed comes in. I was driving along and I noticed a sign announcing the turn off for Knocknashee up ahead. I know enough Irish Gaelic to know that means the Hill of the Shee or the fairy folk, so of course I took the turn. It turns out that the sign actually directs to a small pub called Knocknashee and it was closed but now I can say I've actually been to Knocknashee. Adjacent to the car park for the pub was a very lovely little church, though, so it was worth the side trip.

A bit later the road went past a very lovely church on one side of the street and an equally lovely graveyard across the street. Since there was a convenient place to pull over I did and took lots of pictures. That's the second instance of stopping somewhere I didn't know existed until I got there.

After that was an instance of stopping somewhere I had wanted to visit but had forgotten was on my way. Although three of the four sites belonging to the National Museum of Ireland are in the Dublin area, one is in Co Mayo, the Museum of Country Life, which I'd been seeing signs for long before I actually saw signs telling me I was indeed on the right road to Castlebar. I stopped and am quite glad I did.

As usual I know I didn't see everything or give everything I saw as much time and attention as I could have but I had a wonderful time wandering around the delightful and beautiful grounds and looking at the extremely well done exhibits. The museum is in a very lovely setting including the former house on an estate in the Mayo Hills, which adds to the pleasant experience. Before I wandered around looking at the exhibits I checked out the very nice gift shop, where I bought an Irish tweed ball cap (this one has flaps that pull down over your ears, which I don't think I'll need to use here or back home in Florida) and had a late lunch in the very nice café there.

I got to my B&B here in Castlebar, the Connaught Inn, around 5 and drove past it at least once because it's another small place in a town center with no parking or even a place to load & unload out front. I was, however, able to park almost right across the street. The entrance to the B&B is into the pub/lounge/restaurant where I'll probably have breakfast tomorrow morning. It's an older but very comfortable and charming place. There are rooms in a couple of buildings adjacent to each other, one beside a lovely little courtyard. My room is on the first floor on the street side of the building next door to the pub. It's comfortably sized, with a good desk I'm using right now, a nice bathroom with however a shower that's about the size of your average telephone booth with the entrance in a corner that I can barely squeeze through–maybe it will be easier in the morning when I don't have clothes on!

I really enjoyed what I saw of the town coming in. The B&B does have a large car park behind the building. When I checked in they showed and told me where the entrance to it is, just past the walkway next door to the B&B. Getting there, however, turned out to be harder than I had thought. My car was across the street, facing in the wrong direction, so I had to go further and find somewhere to turn around. I thought I'd be able to go around the lovely park just up the street but the roads don't work that way. I eventually was able to find a parking lot I could pull into and bring up the B&B inThis afternoon was quite lovely, partly sunny and almost warm in the sun when the breeze wasn't blowing, so I of course went out for a pre-dinner ramble. I went up to the very lovely park I thought I'd been able to drive around and back around past the B&B. As usual where I've been during the week, almost every place I went past was closing around 6 PM, which I still find kind of early, so I had decided to eat downstairs where I had a good dinner, dessert, and pint of cider. They're open unil 11, and it's just on 10 PM now, so I think I'll pop downstairs for an Irish coffee before coming back up to decide where I want to go tomorrow and how to get from here to there to there and on to my next B&B in Boyle, Co Roscommon, for tomorrow.

It's now just after midnight. I went downstairs for an OK Irish coffee; my fault, I should have put more sugar in it. There were only two employees and two other guests when I was there.

Afterwards I came up and watched one of my programs on YouTube on my Irish Android smart phone. Services like Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Netflix all restrict what you can watch based on where you're currently accessing their service from and not where you usually do. One way around this, so you can watch everything you can do from home no matter where you are, is to use something called a VPN or virtual private network. For a small monthly subscription fee, I can log in over the Internet via wifi to a site which will then link to anywhere I want as if I was somewhere in the US. I originally signed up for this service back when I was in Paris for three weeks two Christmases ago. The previous version worked on my Kindle Fire but for some reason it doesn't, they don't have an app for iPhone but they do for Windows and for Android so I can watch videos using it on my laptop and my Irish Android smart phone.

After watching my show, I went through my lists of what I want to see and where I want to visit both here in the vicinity of Castlebar, Co Mayo, where I am right now, and where I might want to stop on my way to Boyle, Co Roscommon, tomorrow.

One place I was interested in going is the Stone Age site called Ceide Fields but that's way the hell North of here in the other direction from most of the other places I want to go to. I've liked what I've seen of Castlebar but looking on Google Maps just now, it looks like I've already seen most of what there is to be seen in the area. The main reason for staying here was as a staging point for what else I want to see in the area, and Castlebar is at least half an hour closer to Sligo town than the other main town, Westport, where I'll go tomorrow.

Westport is on the coast about half an hour East of here. Besides being a town that's supposed to be quite pretty and have some interesting sights, it's also fairly close to three other places I want to visit. Clew Bay is about fifteen minutes East of Westport, St Patrick's holy mountain Croagh Patrick is another fifteen minutes from Clew Bay, and Louisburgh, with its visitors center focusing on the life and career of the Irish female pirate captain Grace O'Malley or Graniaule (whom I wrote about in conjunction with my trip to Greenwich while in London last year) is fifteen minutes from Clew Bay.

That's it for Co Mayo, which leaves me all the way over on the Atlantic coast. From Louisburgh to Boyle directly it's an hour and a half; it is, however, also about an hour and a half from Louisburgh to the Coleman Irish music center in Gorteen/Gurteen Co Sligo, 35 minutes from the Coleman center to the Carrowkeel megalithic cemetery, and then half an hour from Carrowkeel to Linsfort House B&B in Boyle, Co Roscommon. That would get me there sometime before dinner, and I'd have been to two of the places I'd been planning on going while in the Boyle area already.

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