Office Adventures to Connemara
The last bank holiday weekend kind of crept up on the Educated Machine squad. We’re so used to working ourselves to death without pause it was a shock for us to find there was to be some government mandated respite from our grind. With this bounty of temporal surplus we decided to head out beyond the city limits in search of adventure. Well, everybody apart from Darren. He had “plans” apparently. He also supposedly has a “life outside the office”, whatever that is.
Myself, Ruth and Micheal settled on Kylemore Abbey and the surrounding wilds of Connemara as our destination, as like most people who live in Galway we’re constantly pining to explore the place while never actually going. When you live in the city its easy to forget that 40 minutes west of you a fantastic landscape springs out of nowhere, as soon as you pass Oughterard everything changes and you’re immediately surrounded by mountains and lakes. Truth be told one or two would be enough to impress you but there are literally hundreds of peaks and valleys to explore out there. The day we chose to travel was exceptionally fine so each mass of rock carelessly tossed dramatic shadows every which way. On a wet day though it can be just as majestic. Rainfall can tear the pacific skin of a lake to shreds while the peaks above are obscured by low lying clouds creating a moody ambiance.
Kylemore Abbey itself is quite a change of pace when you arrive there. Traveling through Connemara there is a great feeling of isolation. The roads lie low beneath the mountain ranges and there is next to no traffic. When you get out at the Abbey though you’re suddenly in the middle of a whirlwind of activity. Tourists from all over the world constantly descend on the place and your day is immediately switched from one of relative silence to a cacophony of mixed language and exclamation at the surroundings the visitors find themselves in.
As a native, it seems you rarely explore the sites of your own country that make the place so special, I personally forget they’re there sometimes so it was cool to head out and explore the Abbey. The main building is a castle nestled at the foot of a tree covered hill and of course is facing one the many lakes of the region and the mountains beyond. It’s a deceptively young structure, having only been built in the late 1800’s despite having a more retro aesthetic to the casual onlooker. The turrets in particular seem a superfluous addition, I doubt there was much threat of Viking’s scaling the walls at that point in history. There are a host of other interesting design choices made during its construction besides these traditional affectations. Inside the building itself you’ll also find pieces from its past as a colonial country estate for the English gentry mashed up alongside remnants of the Benedictine convent that settled there in 1920. One thing I myself noticed was how perfectly placed the main door was. When standing at the end of the entrance and looking directly outward the sky is completely occluded by the hills beyond the lake, as you approach the exit the sky begins to stretch up from behind the ridge giving a real feeling of the world itself opening up for you as you leave the hall itself.
A few hundred yards from the castle is an interesting, diminutive gothic cathedral which is still in use as a place of worship. It had a similar retro finish to it, featuring stonework usually associated with older constructions but with some great detail on the facades adorning the walls. Further down the path from the church you can find the mausoleum of the family who built the castle itself. We made jokes about fighting their skeletons, like in Skyrim.
On the other side of the grounds is a walled garden which contains the partial remains of a Victorian greenhouse, destroyed by a fire at some point. Some of the glass structures remain along with solitary stone walls that were once part of a grander design. Being real adults myself and Micheal had a forward rolling race down one of the immaculate lawns. I won, no doubt to my extensive tumbling experience. That’ll teach him to have dreams.
Once we’d fully explored Kylemore, including jamming on its collection of outdoor instruments, we wandered down to Connemara national park. The park itself is just one part of the mountain rage that’s been tamed with paths and wooden walkways. We had actually decided to to take one of the shorter walking routes and then head home, but somehow we got confused and took a massive ramble around the base of a beastly hill and eventually up to just below the summit. It was worth the effort though, when you’re at the top, you’re surrounded by incredible views on all sides. What’s particularly striking is how the different layers of visibility of the peak themselves create a parallax effect as the hills furthest from you fade into the distance. On the way down from we stopped on a bare patch of land for a breather, the thing that struck me personally was just how tangibly silent it was there. The air was still, there was nobody nearby creating noise. It was so strange, even though we were in the widest open possible space it somehow felt we were inside a giant bubble, a kind of vacuum. Shortly though, the silence was pierced by Mark Morrison’s 1996 hit “Return of the Mack” as we needed something to jam to.
At the foot of the mountain is a small play area. Carrying on from our earlier grown up behaviour myself and Micheal decided to use the see saw. Let me tell you, see saws are still a lot of fun. Ruth wouldn’t know as she didn’t ride it, I thought she hated fun outright but then she followed us in our use of the park’s slide, which I would describe as “dope”.
After this we set out towards home. We had to stop a couple of times just to look at stuff and so Micheal could swim in a body of water which was a goal of his on this particular day. As I mentioned at the beginning, its so easy to forget at times that you live near really cool stuff like this. No matter what country you live in I imagine there’s a landmark or area you’re probably not visiting or making the most of, and you really should. That’s why Educated Machine have decided to conquer and document the many wonders of Ireland in blog and podcast form from here on out. If you’re interested at all in exploring our fair Isle keep up with our posts as we endeavor to find cool spots and offer new perspectives.