But I really enjoyed Clontarf. We stayed in Clontarf Castle and explored quite a bit of the area (some of it by happy accident). There I saw some beautiful gardens that really brought me joy and gave me loads of ideas for my own front yard. I am not sure I can be as elaborate with the larger amount of space I have available and the amount of money I have to spend, but I plan on bumming day lilies, irises, and other perennials off of everyone I can this fall so I can get started. I found a tree that I love and I need to find out if it is available in the US. It reminds me a lot of a cross between a weeping cherry and a forsythia. Saint Patricks had a massive version of this tree. Though standing to the left of Saint Patrick's Cathedral, it looks a little wimpy! But to give a little scale, we were standing nearly a full city block away to get the whole cathedral in the picture and still didn't manage to get the clock tower in the picture!
I didn't take too many pictures of private gardens, mostly because people were not out in their yards for me to ask if it was okay if I did so. However, I saw a load of perennials that are used in US gardens: columbine, irises, lilies, allium, box shrubs, holly, periwinkle, etc. And as with anywhere in this region of the world, loads and loads of Ivy. It is everywhere. There is a cemetery behind Clontarf Castle Hotel that besides being beautiful, it also contains what remains of the church where Bram Stoker was baptized. The main tower happens to be covered in ivy.
I also came across the most beautiful little garden snails having a not so private, private moment just outside the cemetery. Not sure why four of them decided to congregate on top of this stump to make baby snails, but I guess it was as good a place as any.
The biggest thing I have noticed about Ireland is the lack of abundance of big box stores. I have seen a total of two. A big box home improvement store, and an IKEA. Even within Dublin, there was very little in the way of strip malls. I even saw a store called "Knobs and Knockers" that really sells only door knobs and door knockers. Though the name threw me into hysterical giggles.
The further west into the countryside you go, you see more sheep than people and the land turns from fairly flat to gently rolling hills and finally to these beautiful ancient mountains that signify how old and fertile this island is. The houses in this area remind me a little of West Virginia and Virginia. You can definitely tell that the families of that area of the United States immigrated and took that Scotch/Irish heritage and sense of style with them. The houses have rock walls around the front yards, they are set fairly close to the road, and even some of the architecture is similar. But while the Appalachian mountains are so beautiful for their grandeur, jagged cliffs and forests; the mountains of the Conemara region are beautiful for their antiquity, lakes, and green pastures. They are green in the most vivid sense. Saying they are green barely scratches the surface of how teeming with life these mountains are. Broken here and there on their peaks by patches of weather worn stone, and in their valleys crystal clear lakes, they evoke a sense of calm and tranquility. It is no wonder the people here seem to move at a much more relaxed pace. No one seems in a hurry to get to where they are going.
Even though the mountains, from a distance, appear to be mostly grass, there is a variety here that is surprising. Rhododendron are abundant, elderberry, raspberry, ferns, moss, trees, shrubs of all sorts dot the landscape. There are patches of forest all along the valleys as well as creeks and waterfalls.
Nestled among the amazing landscape are cottages, hotels, B&B's. We are staying in Kylemore House. A B&B located near Kylemore Abbey. What a great spot! We have a nice sized bathroom, a nice room, and the smells wafting up from the kitchen are amazing. This sweet lady downstairs is making a chicken stew.
Our first day in West Ireland ended in Letterfrack where we ate a wonderful dinner at The Bard's Den. Dinner was delicious and the service was great. It seemed to be a local hang out for a lot of the older youth and young adults, and the atmosphere is great. Oh, and we found out they have a public access wireless network! Score!
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