And Relax! At least that’s the plan anyway. We’ve moved on, to a site just a short walk from Lough Arrow just south of Sligo. We’re all set up for a fortnight - the awnings’ up, the recliners are ready. We have some lovely views to enjoy. There’s just one thing. Yep, it’s raining. Oh well.
So, after that flurry of blogs that kept coming like TV presenters in the dock, you’ve had a bit of a break. Not least because we’ve had a busy few days - in sightseeing terms anyway. Our time in Cong, Co. Mayo was far too brief but without doubt a highlight of the trip so far - and in the words of the hideously wonderful, or the wonderfully hideous Mrs Slocombe - I am unanimous in that! There’s lot’s to tell - and photo's too of course so this might end up in two parts. It all depends on how much waffle and drivel I can come up with…..
Right, Wednesday saw us make the 160 mile trip up north - the longest of the trip - to The Quiet Man Cong caravan site and I took the wheel for the first half. In fact it turned out to be the first three quarters, not only because the journey was going so well but also because, once on the motorway, places to stop were limited. I definitely got the better deal though - the last part of the journey involved a ride on another of Irelands rollercoasters - again, not a problem if you’re travelling solo, but with a tonne and a half of caravan on the back a little unnerving.
Nevertheless, we arrived around 12:30pm, a little inside the four and a half hours anticipated but overshot the turning that would take us too the site. I was getting my miles and kilometres confused and it appeared a little earlier than expected. Happily, there was a junction less than half a mile up the road so Trev was able to perform that manoeuvre so loved of politicians, particularly when there’s an election looming (gawd helps us) - a spectacular u-turn.
We were greeted by Margaret and could not have wished for a friendlier welcome. Again I was lacking in the cash department but that wasn’t a problem. With a handful of info about the area, we went off and pitched up, then headed in to the village for a first look around. Even the sun was out.
Cong is a pretty village in it’s own right. There is a large car park on the outskirts but sadly some of the streets were still choked with cars which was a pity. Nevertheless it’s a pleasant place to stroll around and there are plenty of opportunities to fill you belly and empty your wallet too. Our spending was limited to a pint in one of the hostelries - and it was good to be able to sample a local beer - Connemara Pale Ale -rather than the usual (but perfectly acceptable) Smithwicks or of course Guinness. Like all ale we’ve found in Ireland so far it is on tap and so a bit gassy. I’ve not seen a hand pump and suspect I wont until we get in to the North
Cong is well know for another reason too. A film called ‘The Quiet Man’ starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara and Barry Fitzgerald. A film clearly made with Trev in mind (!), I must confess I hadn’t heard of it - maybe something to do with the fact that it was made in 1951 and set in the 1920’s. It wouldn’t have registered on my radar.
Anyway, the film is shown nightly in the TV room on site - every night bar the odd World Cup game - so off we went to see it. Briefly Sean Thornton (John Wayne) is an Irish-American boxer who returns to Ireland to retire and find love. It’s dated, obviously but very amusing in places and still a great story, and there were several scenes in the film that we recognised from our walk around the village. There were some French teenagers staying at the adjacent hostel and several of them came in to watch the film. One by one they gave up - I was struggling with the ageing soundtrack and broad accents at times, so it must have been tougher for them - but one lad stuck it out and really enjoyed it.
Gerry, Margaret’s other half and owner of the complex came to find us and invited us to join a tour he was giving the following morning of some of the sites used in the film. With no firm plans, we happily accepted and also his kind invitation to sample the breakfast over the road at their Bed & Breakfast too.
Thursday morning brought with it, er rain, just for a change, so the umbrellas were pressed in to service for the short dash across the road to the B & B. ‘The Quiet Man’ is the theme here and there are lots of pictures of the wall from the film but the stained glass windows - depicting scenes from the film were very impressive - and I’m sure they wouldn’t have come cheap.
Margaret was doing the honours in the kitchen and Gerry was mine host. Both the service and breakfast was excellent - the best scrambled eggs that I’d had in a long, long while. We hatched plans to kidnap Margaret and have her cook us brekky for the rest of the trip…..
We headed into the village as requested and met up with Gerry outside ‘The Quiet Man’ museum, along with 60 or so Americans on a coach trip. Gerry took us all around the village to various sites, getting the crowd to act out various parts in the film. His knowledge and enthusiasm were infectious and he knew how to tell a story too. Whilst all the outdoor scenes were shot in Ireland, the interior filming all took place in Hollywood. So, when John Wayne’s character threw a punch in Pat Cohan’s Bar, his opponent, the squire fell out of the door of the bar and on to the street 6000 miles away in Ireland. Some punch!
We finished up in the downstairs part of the museum which is set out as an exact recreation of the cottage used in the film. Several of the crowd got to dress up as characters. It was damn good fun, as well as informative and the hour or so just flew by. A big thanks to Gerry for inviting us along.
It was still drizzling so we returned to the site and I played hunt the letter with the laptop keyboard in an attempt to knock a blog out. Later in the afternoon, and with the skies at last clearing we found ourselves down at the jetty boarding a boat for a cruise on Lough Corrib over to Inchagoill Island.
It is a beautiful lake. Or Loch, or Lough.The 30 minutes or so it took us to reach Inchagoill Island gave the captain Patrick a chance to give us some information and history. At 40 something miles long and 9 miles wide it is the biggest in The Republic of Ireland, and since the early sixties no building has been allowed on the lake foreshore. It is popular with fishermen and there are some great spots to swim. The water is also pure enough to drink - and it certainly looked clear enough. The Connemara mountains over to our right, sorry, starboard provided an impressive backdrop, particularly as the sun at last began to emerge.
Also on board was a chap by the name of Martin who played the accordion and sang as we chugged across the Lough. Martin was an extra in the film ‘The Quiet Man’ and looked far younger than his eighty something years.
Inchagoill Island soon loomed large and after docking we headed to to the site on which there are ruins of two churches - one from the 12th century - and one from the 5th. Blimey, that’s nearly as old as some the punters in our club back home. Anyway, the boat's captain Patrick gave a very interesting talk on the history of the Island. St Patrick - THE St. Patrick no less was known to have spent time here on their mission to spread Christianity, as was his navigator, companion and er, nephew, Lugna who is buried here. Nephew? Yeah, ok. An ancient but remarkably preserved gravestone marks the spot with an inscription in Latin.
On the way back we eschewed the open deck for a pint of Guinness downstairs in the bar. At €4.00 it was sensibly priced and no more than you’d pay in a bar ashore - how nice that they’ve taken the decision not to stitch people up just because they have a captive audience. Had it been overpriced I wouldn’t have bothered, but through them not being greedy they've made at least one more sale. Good luck to ‘em.
On, the way back we made an additional stop - and a welcome one too as it gave us our first look at Ashford Castle. It really is stunning, particularly from the water and is almost too perfect - you could be forgiven you were looking at Disney recreation of what a castle should look like in some theme park. Once owned by the Guinness family it is now an exclusive hotel and is the place where our hosts Gerry & Margaret met while she was working there.
Some two hours later we were back on dry land. The cruise was - in my mind - excellent value at €20.00, and was made all the more enjoyable by Patricks knowledgeable and entertaining commentary. Again, we’ve found that the temptation to rip off tourists has been passed up and the desire to entertain and give value for money has been uppermost. This is what is making Ireland such a great place to visit. If you are in the area, check them out - Corrib Cruises.
So, it came to pass. That’s enough waffle for now. Check back soon for the second part of our stay in lovely Cong. More of ‘The Quiet Man’, lovely scenery and an opening night too!