Friday, July 1–Dad's 84th birthday, Galway City

King House; Boyle Abbey; Boyle Visitors Centre; looking for Turlough O'Carolan's grave site; Lough Key; Kilronan Castle; Kilronan cemetery; Keadue & looking for the O'Carolan Heritage Park; driving through Leitrim, Carrick-on-Shannon, Strokestown, Roscommon and past signs for Athlone and Athenry; traffic jam in Galway; dinner and a pint in the hotel

Connacht Hotel

Black VW Passat sedan



The weather and the kinds of roads I was driving on all day today were both variable.

It was rainy & drizzly in Boyle this morning, and remained so for most of the day with occasional sunny, almost warm periods until the sun went behind the clouds or the rain started up again. And today I drove on the usual mix of single lane, theoretically two lane, real two lane, and more than two lane highways–sometimes technically on the same route number. It seems to work something like this–out in rural areas between towns you'll often be driving on a lovely, wide, well paved highway that's at least a singe lane in each direction, then you'll approach a town on narrower or perhaps not as well paved lanes, when you get into the town itself you're basically just driving through the town center on one of the main streets with people parking on either side going both directions and so on.

I slept pretty well in my lovely room at Linsfort House last night, and this morning I was delighted to discover that although the shower in my en suite bathroom was also phone booth size, the door opening was a little larger than it had been in the shower in Castlebar. Not only that but it was the best shower I've had since I left home in terms of both water pressure and hot water. Then after I packed most of my stuff, Frank did a light Irish fry breakfast for me and we had a bit of a chat and I got to meet his partner, Heather, before I left.

King House is up the hill on the next corner, and the Boyle Abbey is a couple of blocks past there. I have to admit that I was standing on a corner about to check Google Maps to see if I'd already gone past the Abbey when I looked over my shoulder and there it was. It's a rather lovely old ruin of a place, which at one time was an abbey and after the dissolution of the monasteries was a military garrison at one time. There's a small but well done exhibit in one of the buildings. They also let you walk around with laminated guides to some of the site's more interesting features.

Frank had suggested going into the small tourist information office at King House to see if anyone could give me more information about the O'Carolan heritage park in Keadue or where Turlough O'Carolan is actually buried. The three women working in the tourist office were very helpful. One checked online and told me he's not buried in the cemetery in Keadue but in Kilronan, she thought in the grounds of Kilronan Castle. Another of them gave me a list of several pubs she liked the best for traditional music here in Galway.

King House was quite beautiful, the staff was very welcoming and informative, and there are lots of exhibits about the history of the King family, King House, and the local area, including up in the attic where they've restored the stone work to the way it was when the house was first built.

It was raining again when I left King House, so I decided to skip going out to Carrowkeel after all, especially since I have several other megalithic sites on my lists of places to see while I'm here in Ireland. I decided to just go ahead and go to the two sites on my own O'Carolan pilgrimage tour.

Neither Google Maps nor the Garmin sat nav listed a cemetery in Kilronan, but did list the castle which is where the woman in the tourist office thought O'Carolan was buried. The trip out there went up in the hills past the lovely Lough Key. Kilronan Castle is now a large hotel and event facility; in fact, I saw several members of a probable wedding party when I got there. It's a rather stunning place. The staff working at reception were quite helpful; one older gentleman told me that I had to go back down the hill to the main entrance, turn right, and the cemetery would be a little further along, and so it was.

It's a lovely little place, with many quite recent burials and grave markers. There were fresh flowers on many graves as well. Across the road from the cemetery is a directional sign pointing across the street to O'Carolan's grave. I didn't find it at first, but wandered around taking pictures. I eventually came out a gate a little bit down the road and as I walked back up to the entrance I looked a little closer as to where the directional sign was pointing–and then read the informational sign that said his grave is in the ruin of a small building from the original abbey. Some of the grave stones are relatively new, with the dates of 1738-1978.

Keadue turned out to be a little further along on the route I needed to take from Kilronan on to Galway. I almost accidentally found the O'Carolan heritage park, but basically it looked just like someone's front lawn with a small bronze statue of a harp in it. There was no place to stop, and although I passed an attractive looking pub called Carolan's a work crew was resurfacing the road I was on so I didn't go to that either.

Traffic was incredibly heavy & bad when I got to the Galway city limits, and it felt like it took about an hour to actually get here to my hotel. Somewhere along the way, when I was stopped waiting for traffic to start moving, I was able to get the directions to the hotel on Google Maps again on my Irish Android phone.

The Connacht is a pretty large, fairly new hotel. The layout is a bit confusing at first. It didn't help that at the time I got here myself there was also a huge influx of cars on one of the legs of something called the Pure Rally, which goes from Cork to here and on to Dublin. Parking out in the front lot which is near reception/check in has narrow spaces and was very full at the time, and I thought just getting my bags out of the car (but not the trunk) would be hard. When I finally found my room, which is quite a ways away from reception and the hotel's bar and restaurant in an adjoining wing, I looked out my room's window and saw that there's parking on this side as well so I moved my car and then brought my bags up.

There's not a lot within walking distance of the hotel, except a convenience store across the street, but the hotel does have its own health club I can use, and a very nice restaurant and separate bar.

There's a hen party down the hall from my room a bit. I know because 1) they have a sign on one of the doors that's been moved a couple of times and 2) like most hotels anywhere I've stayed, the hall door (and sometimes the door connecting adjoining rooms) has the worst sound proofing of the layout, and I've heard groups of women in the hallway several times.

After I unpacked, I went to have dinner in the hotel's restaurant about 8. I had originally decided to not eat in the hotel's bar because there were lots of people watching one of the European cup soccer matches. At first I went to the main restaurant, but it was closed for a private party, so I was directed back to the small restaurant that's actually part of the bar and is where breakfast is served.

I have three whole days here and most of Tuesday in Galway, since the trip from here to Doolin takes about 90 minutes. Before I started typing my notes up from today, I looked at my list of places I thought I might like to visit while here. As much as I'd like to see Kylemore again, since that was one of my favorite places we went on the tour ten years ago, I'm pretty sure it hasn't changed much since then and it's a three hour round trip there and back. If I do a day trip outside of town, I'd rather go somewhere I haven't been and one company runs a tour from Galway to Inis Mor, one of the Aran Islands, that leaves from a different hotel downtown at 9:30 AM and returns to that hotel at 7 PM, so I think I'll do that Sunday or Monday.

There's also a hop on, hop off bus tour service here in town I plan on doing tomorrow. I need to drop off all my laundry at reception by 9 AM, and the first of the tours leaves from downtown at 10:30 so that's what I'll do tomorrow morning. While I'm downtown I'll see if I can find an office supply or computer store and pick up another USB to micro cable since I have three devices that use one to charge and I only have two cables. And I think maybe I'll see about replacing the suitcase that's damaged while I'm here in town.

And as usual it's later than I had planned on going to bed, about 1:30 AM.

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