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Post Info TOPIC: Ireland and Scotland - October 2012 - Part 1 - Westport, Co. Mayo


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Ireland and Scotland - October 2012 - Part 1 - Westport, Co. Mayo


Wow! You certainly know how to pack a lot in to just a few days! If my experiences in Wesport were even half as fun, it might not be on my "once & done" list!

Looking forward to hearing more of your adventures...

Slan Beo,

Bit



-- Edited by CowboyCraic on Wednesday 31st of October 2012 03:20:58 PM

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I'm trying to remember the last time my wife and I visited Ireland and I think it was 2005 and we also visited Scotland on that trip.  Too long I think.  We've enjoyed travelling to other places during these years but we both agreed once and for all at the end of this trip that Ireland is our hands down favorite.  As such we're going again next year to Ireland and only Ireland.

In the meantime this excursion to both Ireland and Scotland was both interesting and a tremendous amount of fun.

I've never travelled to Ireland this late in the year (we arrived October 19th) and so the first thing that struck me was how dark it was at 7am.  We arrived at Shannon at about 6am and by the time the sun finally came out we we're already on the outskirts of Galway City on our way to Westport.  We rented a car from Europcar and we're very happy with that.  Service was good and quick.  I noticed now you no longer have to take a shuttle bus at Shannon to get to the rental car depots.  You just get your keys near the baggage claim and walk across the street.  Much easier. 

It seems like the outskirts of Galway City have grown quite a bit since my last time there.  On the road towards Oughterard there was quite a queue of cars on their way into the city for the morning commute to work presumeably.  It made me a bit nervous that Connemara itself wouldn't be as I remembered it.  Thankfully I was wrong.  Not too far past Oughterard the spectacular scenery of Connemara began to unfold before us.  My wife was taking a nap while I drove and I just had to wake her up.  It was stunningly beautiful to see Connemara just after dawn with the sun rising up behind us and rainbows rising up out of the valleys amidst the Maamturk mountains.  I was in love with Ireland yet again.  We were very lucky to have mostly sunny weather for these first three days of the trip.  As I drove past Maam cross on the way to Leenane the stress of daily life dissipated and vacation officially begun and all I could think about was how Connemara is the most starkly beautiful place on earth to me and how lucky I was at that very moment to be there once again.  What a morning!

We spent the next two days in Westport, Co. Mayo.  My personal favorite town in the universe.  We stayed at the Wyatt Hotel in the Octagon.  It was a good choice as the folks at the Wyatt were very pleasant to deal with and it is a nice hotel in a perfect location.  They even let us check in 4 hours early.  Funny moment at check in was when the receptionist told me that we looked very familiar and if I had been to Westport before.  When we explained how many times we've been and the pubs we typically hung out in she was even more certain we had met before.  This was somewhat of a recurring theme for the two days as a couple of other people in town said the same thing to us during the visit.  Westport really does feel a bit like coming home to us or at least our home away from home.  We've vowed to stay in Westport for east least 4-5 nights the next time around.   

After taking a short jet-lag nap that day we decided to wander around town a bit and pop in to a couple of pubs we had never visited before.  There are something like 28 pubs in Westport yet prior to this visit I had only visited 7 or 8 of them yet I knew there were some classics that we had overlooked over the years like Moran's and McGing's.  We stopped in Moran's first and it was a real locals hangout.  A combination convenience store/pub.  Most of the locals hanging out in the pub we're drinking tea or coffee complaining that with the recession they no longer could afford to drink pints on a Friday afternoon.  But I swear I notice the bartended slipping a little "something" into their coffees and tea before handing it to them.  Anyhow it was fun to listen to the elderly locals converse that afternoon.  The bartender at Moran's was a friendly and talkative chap.  We discussed the differences in beer between the UK and Ireland.  He expressed annoyance at all the variety in the UK instead he preferred the uniformity in beer selection found throughout Ireland.  I told him how I sometimes wished more of the pubs would carry some of the Irish craft beers on tap in places like Westport. 
Still the pint of Guinness at Moran's was perfect as it was everywhere else in Westport that weekend.  Next stop was McGing's up the street past the clock tower.  We sat quietly in the corner and watched the locals file in after work for the first drinks of the weekend.   It was a younger crowd than at Moran's and seemed more like the local professional and office workers came here to drink on a late Friday afternoon.  Just my perception.

After having a very casual fast food dinner in a place not worthy of note we decided to visit Matt Molloy's yet again before nighttime rush came in.  It was lively as usual but not yet overcrowded.  We hung out for a while.  Met Matt Molloy out in the beer garden/smoking area and had a quick chat with him and another local.  Before long the music started and the place filled up rapidly.  You couldn't even find a place to stand in the room where the music was going on.  We decided not to waste anymore time there and headed over to our favorite local M.L. Hoban's pub at the Octagon.  Good idea.  There was a great session going on in the front room of what I would have to say were expert level trad. musicians.  A fiddle player, banjo, Uillean Pipes (this is a rare find), guitarist, and flute player.  There were a mix of peope in there.  Some tourists from the UK on a holiday weekend.  I nice older couple from Wexford and another couple from County Offaly that we ultimately sat at a table with and had a few rounds and nice chat with.  The music was terrific.  One of the best traditional sessions I had ever stumbled upon and it was very casual.  They were in no rush and ultimately they played late into the night after shutting the doors at the usual time.  We stayed for the "shut in" and watched some phenomenal music, singing, and poetry unfold.  A "traveller" came into the bar right before the shut in and stayed to sing a few tunes.  He had a beautiful voice and the other musicians we're thrilled that he came in to join in on the session.  One of the gentlemen at the pub that night was a poet whom we had met before and is quite talented.  He recognized us from past visits and knew we could take a joke so he told a lengthy and hilarious poem in which my wife was the butt of the joke.  I don't remember all the details but the theme of the poem was about a young man who climbed "the Reek (Croagh Patrick) in hopes of finding God but instead ran into the unscrupulous blonde woman from Cape Cod.  The place was roaring in laughter us included.

... and you would think that after leaving the shut in at 2:30am that this would be the end of our first night but unfortunately as we attempted to ascend the stairs at the Wyatt some of the UK tourists that we're at Hoban's early noticed us from the bar and called to us to come and join them for a nightcap.  Well we didn't want to dissapoint anybody so we had just one more before going to bed. 

Needless to say the following morning was one of those where you just put the "Do not Disturb" hanger on the doorknob.  We slept very late.  The hotel was kind enough to hang a bag a fresh towels on our doorknob.  Nice touch I thought.  Another checkmark for the Wyatt.  When we finally left the hotel in the early afternoon we walked down to a nice cafe across from the Clew Bay Hotel near the corner across from what used to be the Olde Railway Hotel and had a very nice lunch and cappuchino.  After being revived we decided what we really needed that day was some exercise so we walked down to the Quay and enjoyed the scenery, took photos, etc.  Afterwards we sat outside the Wyatt on the sidewalk and had some tea.  We had made reservations at a nice restaurant for the 2nd night.  The place is called An Port Mor http://anportmor.com/ in brewer's place off Bridge street and it was fantastic!  Lovely atmosphere and food.  Afterwards we paid a quick visit to McCarthy's pub near the Wyatt just to explore yet another pub.  Had a nice chat with the owner and she mentioned that she had self catering apartments up above the pub that we're fairly cheap.  A couple in the pub that we're staying there that week said the apartments were very nice.  So I took her card as I reckon that would be a much cheaper and more comfortable way to spend 5 or 6 days in Westport.  I like the idea of staying in a place that feels more like your own for the week and just go out for breakfast when you feel like it.

Of course we ended our stay in Westport with another night at Hoban's.  Saturday night they do a great session in the back room of Hoban's including singing, piano playing to accompany more traditional instruments, and sometimes even a set dance or two.  The nice couples from Wexford and Offaly were there again that night and once again we had a nice chat with them.  The woman playing piano I think is one of the owner's at Hoban's and she tried to get me to sing a song.  I assured here that it was in the best interest of everyone present that I not be allowed to do this unless they like to hear the sounds of what could be best described as a wounded goat.  I got off the hook.  Thanks to my wife for throwing me under the bus though by making such a suggestion in the first place. 

Once again though it was proven to us that the people of Ireland are still the warmest and most hospitable people in the world.  More to come.....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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A tremendous report -- I can't wait to get back to Westport again.



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Mark,

Fantastic detail! You stayed up till 2:30 on your first day in Ireland? Now that is stamina. I love your description of Connemara. So poetic. Really looking forward to more.

Michele

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Thanks all.

I don't know why I never seem to go to bed early on our first nights in Europe whether its Ireland or somewhere else like Germany. I guess there's just too much adrenaline and I'm too excited to be there and I can't find it in myself to crash early. I usually take a very short nap in the early afternoon for about 1/2 hour then go. I always sleep late on the next day though.

Mark


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