t. elizabeth renich

author of historical fiction

Do-Overs & the Sunset from Sky Road

Saturday, 29-Jan-2011

 The new memory stick, which I purchased at the camera store on Shop Street, seemed to be working fine when we exited the store.  I took pictures all the way to the market and the jpeg numbers increased with each shot I took – as they should.  The new problem I was having was that the camera would allow nothing but the basic auto settings, so I took what I was given and adjusted the best I could.  Something was better than nothing.

We walked to the outdoor Saturday Market near St. Nicholas Church.  It was an Irish version of a farmer’s market with offerings of fresh fruits for sale, vegetables, flowers, cheesemongers, wines, breads, pastries, spices, and a few booths with local arts and crafts.  Lunch at the Skeffington Arms (of tomato soup reminiscent of Magnolia’s) happened amid our backtracking through Eyre Square, past the bus station, Garvey’s/Sammon’s Pub, and Murty Rabbitt’s bar.  We didn’t go back to the Spanish Arch or the museum, as I already had pictures of those places from my 2008 visit. 

Leaving Galway behind, we headed west on N59 toward Clifden.  Along the way, we passed familiar places I remembered from the Connemara trail ride back in 2003:  Moycullen, Oughterard, Maam Cross, the location of the Quiet Man Bridge, and the turnoff for Ballynahinch Castle.  Travelling through Connemara country and seeing the Twelve Bens again starting tickling my imagination.

Upon our arrival in Clifden, which we seemed to reach even sooner than we did last time given the growth and development and construction leading into town, we checked into the Station House Hotel.  From 1895 to 1935, a rail line ran from Galway to Clifden.  The hotel is in the old station house and there are several shops and galleries, a pub, a theatre, a spa, and a museum – which though closed at present, was scheduled to re-open in May for tourist season – now occupying the renovated brick railroad buildings.

Some parts of Clifden had changed noticeably – the Esso petrol station has been replaced by Topaz, with its vivid red and green digital display for prices per litre – and there is a traffic signal across from the Catholic church!  (Very sad, but there’s not much to be done in slowing down urban sprawl anymore… anywhere.)  “Downtown,” however, is very much the same with its brightly-hued buildings and one-way up Market Street and the opposite way down Main Street.  SuperValu is still there and doing brisk business.

First stop was to the leabharlann (library), where I was able to get some online information and ask a few questions of the librarian, who had grown up and lived in Clifden all of her life.  She gave me an e-mail address and told me I could contact her if I had any additional questions…  I do intended to follow up on that.  Then we went to the Clifden Bookshop to browse through the books, postcards, and stationery.

We drove past the grounds where the Connemara Pony shows and sales are held, and following the librarian’s directions, we made our way out Sky Road, beyond the Abbey Glen Hotel, to find the remains of Clifden Castle, originally constructed by John D’Arcy.  We did not take the “twenty-minute” walk from the castle gate down to the ruins, as it was blustery cold and the sun was starting to go down.  Besides, a twenty-minute walk in also requires twenty-minutes back, and from our vantage point on the hill above, it really looked like more of an hour’s walk to me and my feet.  Bernadette found a driveway to pull into so I could snap some photos and we agreed to come back again the next morning to see what difference the lighting might make earlier in the day.

E.J. King’s pub has been operating in the same location for over 150 years, and that is where I treated Bernadette to her birthday dinner.  We were celebrating early since my flight home was booked for February 1st and her birthday wasn’t until the 4th.  After dinner, we took advantage of the free wi-fi and internet service in the lobby of the Station House, checking our respective e-mail accounts, and then watched Into the West on the DVD player.  It didn’t take me long to fall asleep and dream of what Clifden might have looked like almost fifty years ago…  while some things have changed, others haven’t at all…

About The Author

Author of the Shadowcreek Chronicles


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