The recollections of our stay in Cong continues…
So, after the exertions of the afternoon (sitting on a boat), some sustenance was called for. The Crowes Nest pub in Cong was the venue of choice and once again I was able to avoid chips. By having pizza……
The remainder of the evening was spent in the ‘van. With no telly, the radio has got a work out and RTE Radio 1 has proved the most popular background accompaniment.
Friday, and it was cloudy and drizzly of course, so we hatched vague plans to head straight in to Galway for a look around, but Gerry had recommended a drive that would take us through Joyce Country and some apparently stunning countryside. Galway could wait until later we thought and we set off after breakfast.
The southern end of Lough Mask came in to view first, but a stop at a designated picnic area didn’t yield much in the way of decent photo’s. Further on Lough Nafooey came in to view and the road hugged the side all along it’s northern edge. The road was by now down to a single track and places to stop safely for photo’s were limited, but there was no denying it’s beauty and it was as pretty as the Gap of Dunloe down in Co. Kerry but without the horse shit.
Sheep were running wild but the didn’t appear overly concerned by our presence:
We could have continued on the loop and eventually returned to Cong but instead turned right and headed out to Leenane which sits in Killary harbour.
Further up was another viewpoint where the channel continued, eventually out in to the open sea. There was just a hint in the sky that the weather might be improving too.
Further west on the N59 and across another Lough the stunningly beautiful Kylemore Abbey came in to view. It looked even more impressive closer up from the car park but we decided not to go in as we still planned to get around and down to Galway.
The town of Clifden was the next stop - and in fact we looked at a campsite near here when we were booking up the trip. We’d more or less decided it wasn’t as central as Cong for getting out and about but it then turned out that they were full for one of the nights anyway. We stopped for an hour or so, most of which was spent caught up in the traffic of the one way system and looking for somewhere to park. It was a busy bustling place and great for exploring the far west of Ireland no doubt.
We were heading back east now, still on the N59 as Ballynahinch Lake came in to view on our right. Again, very photogenic and a large pull in opposite a row of shops was busy with cars, campervans and coaches.
A large statue seemed to be begging to have it’s picture taken so I duly obliged. Behind it was a stone and marble display seemingly requiring same. Of course, in a country steeped in history such as Ireland, you would think that the statue was dedicated to some ancient figure with the object behind erected to commemorate some special event. Well, the plaque tells you that the statue does depict Connemara - Son of the Sea (apparently) and was built just 15 years ago by the shop across the road “For no apparent reason” - except to attract camera wielding tourists presumably! The plaque on the thing behind was equally er, informative. Again, one for the tourists but a great way of getting people to stop right outside your shop!
We continued east on the N59 which would take us right in to Galway but a glance at the clock showed that time was getting on and we decided to delay our visit. We turned around and on the way back spotted the bridge that was used in ‘The Quiet Man’ film.
Turning off we headed north with the gorgeous Maumturk mountains away to our left, eventually re-joining the loop that would take us back to Cong. With the sun now making it’s presence felt (at last) we paused for more photo’s, this time at the north western tip of Lough Corrib. Just when you think you’re starting to get all ‘sceneried out’ along come views like this. It was just wonderful.
A late afternoon burst of sun saw the recliners come out back at the site. It was chance to get to know our neighbours around us, who were predominately Northern Irish and gave Trev a real run for his money in the chin wag stakes. this was without doubt one of the friendliest sites we’ve been on. Everyone speaks and you won’t get away with a quick ‘hello’ either. Of course the weather helps - when you can stand and have a chin wag without getting soaked it’s so much better!
Grub & grog o’clock was approaching, so after freshening up we headed back in to Cong to sate our appetites.
The rumours - circulated by Gerry - were true and Pat Cohan’s Bar had reopened with new owners and a refit. We felt it our duty to investigate and it was doing well on it’s opening night. It was busy with both locals and tourists and the Guinness was flowing - not least in my direction.
There was no food so we went around the corner to Lydons for a gut busting burger and chips.
Saturday and it was dry! Yes! After breakfast we fired up Rosie and pointed her in the direction of Galway. We headed straight for a car park and emerged into a rather bland shopping centre. A short walk away however was the Latin quarter, a much more atmospheric area with independent shops lining the narrow streets rather than bland chain store outlets.
Some streets were devoted almost entirely to bars and one could imagine the atmosphere at night. Street performers entertained the crowds. Well, most of ‘em:
We paused for coffee by the river at the Spanish Arch then walked around by the harbour.
Next up was the seafront promenade at Salthill where we procured and consumed lunch and cheated the local council out of the 20c they charged to use their idiotic toilet cubicles.
Another lazy late afternoon back at the site enjoying the intermittent sun, then it was time to get spruced up for our last evening Cong. We had toyed with the idea of going to the nearby Lodge at Ashford Castle. They did both more formal and pub style dining so we slipped - or in my case squeezed - into jeans for the first time since we finished work at the end of June. I have to tell you it felt a little odd.
Having got reasonably tarted up we then changed our minds and headed into Cong and one of the local boozers for some pub grub. The newly re-opened Pat Cohan bar was now serving food and we decided to try it out - and very glad we did too. Not the cheapest, but very, very tasty and the service was friendly. But then that’s the norm in Ireland and another reason it’s a great place to visit.
No sooner had we arrived in Cong than it was time to leave. We only had 4 nights here - so three whole days really - but it seems longer, simply because we’ve crammed so much in. Seen so much, learnt so much and met so many great people.
The site itself was great and in a fantastic location. All the usual facilities you’d expect - grass pitches throughout and plenty of room for both caravans or motorhomes and tents. For those that prefer a more solid roof over their heads, there is a hostel on site or the B & B is across the road. There are also houses to rent in the village itself. So, great for caravanners that have friends that don’t - or vice versa! Wi-Fi was free as it has been throughout our trip.
Had Hollywood and John Wayne et al not come over to make The Quiet Man in 1951 it would still be a great place to visit. But when, back in 1985 a guest of Gerry & Margaret's hostel mentioned the film and brought them a copy did they see the potential benefits of promoting Cong using the film.
Fan still flock to Cong - Quiet Man Crazies as they are known affectionately - and bring huge revenue to the area, and this is down to Gerry & Margaret who work tirelessly to promote the area. They’ve received awards and recognition of their work from Tourist Boards and Tour Companies and rightly so. Gerry’s enthusiasm is infectious and I’d love to have some of his energy.
It was a real pleasure to meet them - they really helped make our stay a memorable one. Cheers!