I got on the road the next morning, which was dry and bright and headed for Westport. At Leenaun I stopped to take some photos of Killary harbour. It’s Ireland only fjord and its very pretty.
Driving out of Connemara the cloven mountains loomed above in the sun and shadow, their deep wounds glistening and gushing after the recent rains. I drove through woodlands past an abandoned cottage in dappled light and soft grass and ferns beside a rushing stream.
The land flattened out and ahead the conical Croagh Patrick on the horizon, a wide grey trail that has carried centuries of worshippers to the top. I had intended to climb it but to worship the view of Clew Bay rather than for any hope of divine assistance. I decided the chances of a view were as slim as getting godly help and carried on to Westport.
Westport is a pretty little town and had featured in the Irish Times only days before as being the best place to live in Ireland. It’s is clean, bright and colourful if a little too far from the sea for me. I stopped off in Nicolas’ Food Emporium right at the entrance to the cheap car park where I dumped the car. It’s a sunny little cafe and not only was the tea good~unusual to get a nice cup of tea outside my own house~but the Panini was generous and delicious presented on the thinnest crispiestbread I have encountered.
It was a beautiful drive all the way through Mayo and into Sligo, dry, sometimes sunny, sometimes overcast, with cowslips nodding in the ditches and the grasses rich and sable like from recent rains.
I didn’t stay long, I hadn’t booked anywhere to sleep that night and I also wanted to stop in Inniscrone in Sligo to try out their seaweed baths. The baths were built a century ago, opening in 1912, and have been in use since. The low building with its chequered tiles and skylit reception is situated on a road that overlooks the sea. I was led to a single room, a large rectangular tiled room, that was vaguely lit by a frosted window.
I had been under the impression I would have to wear a swimsuit but thankfully that’s not necessary. Inside was a cedar wood steam cabinet and an old iron tub filled with hot water and tons of seaweed and a pleasing wooden chair the type one used to find in Bewleys cafe in Dublin, with its double back of curved cane and embossed roundy seat. These are the types of things that please me these days.
I have no idea how long I could have stayed but in the event I lingered an hour or so, jumping in and out of the steam cabinet and bath and shivering under showers of cold Atlantic water. Steaming is an addiction for me and I often swear that if I ever got the money to build my own house I would start by building a steam bath and plunge pools and if I ran out of money after that well I’d just camp out for the rest of my life all pink and happy from my ablutions.
I’m not sure how much good the seaweed can do you in just one session but I do know from sea swimming that seaweed in the water is good for you. It was €25 and there is a discount scheme for regular users.
I drove the coast road through Easky, a surfing mecca on the Sligo coast after which one of our best female surfers, Easky Britton, is named. I had a vague plan of stopping off for a surf but I decided not to as I thought I may be out of my depth in more ways than one. The countryside here is flat to the sea. Stone walls, a castle, rust blotched cows and a wonderful feeling of space in the evening light. It is landscape I wouldn’t mind mooching around in if I had more time.
I continued, passing through Sligo and headed to Rosses Point where I intended to stay due to it’s getting a mention Yeats’ The Stolen Child and because it is the home of the “other” Metal Man. I thought it would be rude not to pay my respects. On arriving I thought better of it. The whole place gave off an air of being a retirement town except it wasn’t even a town.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not mad about rowdy places but I would have like to stay somewhere where I could wander around a bit. There did not seem to be any apparent beach near the “town” and few shops. There was a colourful looking bar, Harry’s, but in the face of a soulless, deserted looking house masquerading as a hostel I decided to move on to Bundoran.