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We got up early Saturday morning and took the bus up to the airport to pick up the car that Sarah had rented online the night before. The Budget rental place charged us an extra 25 airport fee, which wasn't mentioned in their online quote. Three cheers for hidden fees, eh?
We piled into the little blue car with our duffle bag and two backpacks and headed out of Dublin on the N4 toward Westport. We were officially off 'on holiday'.
We stopped for lunch in Spar, then made a wrong turn at Bellaghaderreen resulting in a 'scenic tour' through Loughglinn, Castlerea, Ballyhaunis, and Claremorris. From there we got back onto the main road in Castlebar and arrived in Westport at about 2:20. Things of note about Irish roads: 1) There are no yellow stripes between lanes of 2-way roads. ALL of the dividing stripes are white, regardless of which way the traffic in the other lane is going, and 2) Road warnings are sometimes rather amusing...
While en route to Westport, I used Sarah's cell to call a list of riding centers that we had compiled. Most were booked for the weekend, but the Carrowholly center was not, the manager was extremely friendly, and at 30 per person, they were cheaper than several other places, so we decided to go there. We called again once we'd arrived in Westport, in order to get directions, but even so we still managed to miss the turn toward Carraholly, and ended up in Newport instead. On the second try, we did find the turn-off and spent about 2 hours enjoying the Irish countryside from horseback. The weather was beautiful.
We finished the ride at about 5:30 and drove out along the coast to Louisburgh, then out toward Killadoon. Mountains on one side and ocean on the other; very scenic.
We had sandwiches at a roadside pub where the food was good but the service was excruciatingly slow. Then we followed signs for an archaeology trail that led us to the ruins of Kilgeever (Cill Ghaobhair) Abbey, a 12th century church surrounded by graves dating as far back as the 7th century AD.
As we drove further, the countryside changed from lush greenery to rocky pastures and mountains.
We followed a long winding road, thinking it would take us around the coast and instead we ended up at a beach. We got there shortly before sunset and spent some time walking along the beach, collecting a few unremarkable shells, and taking photos. There were several people setting up tents along the beach, but since we didn't have any camping gear, we drove back up the winding road in search of a Bed-and-Breakfast.
We drove through Delphi and into the Connemara, a rugged land of bogs and boggy mountains. We stopped to take a photo of a statue and discovered swarms of midges. Eep! The plaque at the base of the cross reads: TO COMMEMORATE THE HUNGRY POOR WHO WALKED HERE IN 1849 AND WALK THE THIRD WORLD TODAY.
From Delphi we drove down to Aasleagh and through Leenane looking for a place to spend the night, but all the B&B's in the area were full. Finally we gave up (by that time it was nearly 11:00), and ended up pulling into a campground and sleeping in the car.
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