Mafia connections, the Emerald Isle and a Highland Fling travel blog

Burrishoole Abbey remains built in 1470

Rockfleet Castle near Newport - another one of Grace's

One of Grace O'Malley's castles on Achill Island

huge blowhole near coast

Another huge blow hole

Dun Briste

freaky grass pattern I was observing when I almost walked off the...

Children climbing on Circle 1 at Carrowmore

Listoghil - largest monument at Carrowmore, with a diameter of 32 meters

After heading into Westport for some breakfast and souvenir shopping we visited nearby Newport and the ruins of the 1470-built Burrishoole Abbey. As the sky was blue the place didn't look too spooky even though there were lots of old uneven graves and headstones.

Apparently Grace Kelly's (the actress and former Princess of Monaco) ancestral home was near Newport as her Grandfather was Irish.

While driving to Achill Island (Ireland's largest island - there is a bridge to get to it) we learnt about the Pirate Queen Grace O'Malley who was born around 1530 to Owen O'Malley, the chieftain of a clan that ruled the area around Clew Bay on the west coast of Ireland for more than 300 years.

She led a rather unorthodox life sailing the sea as a pirate leader. She is one of the most important figures from Irish history and also a significant character in Irish folklore. An olden day feminist - she certainly wore the pants! We came across a few of her castles including Rockfleet at Carrigahowley where she fought off the English and on Achill Island she had another 15th century tower castle strategically located by the water.

We realised we still needed to head for this county's most photographed site, Dun Briste Sea Stack so made a beeline across the county for it.

The stack looks amazing all 50 meters of it with it's various strata. In 1393, an arch leading to the stack collapsed during a storm so now it sits out there all alone except for the birds that call it home. The coast here has fault lines in parts and the softer rock has been eroded by the constant action of the waves causing some huge blowholes to form quite away from the coastline. While it wasn't that windy the afternoon we visited, I was so absorbed looking at the unsual clumps of grass that covered the whole area I almost walked off the cliff edge and into the Atlantic Ocean. It gave me a real fright.

We had booked into a B&B in Sligo for our last night in Ireland and after having a very busy day out in the fresh air didn't realise we still had over 90 minutes drive to get to our accommodation. By the time we arrived after 7.00pm we were both exhausted. Luckily our host recommended a restaurant that was only a short walk from our B&B and it turned out to be very good. Here we enjoyed are last Guinness - not, neither of us realy like it but thought we should have it anyway.

The next morning our hosts were very friendly and chatty however it was very hard for us to really understand everything they were saying as their accents were quite strong. We wanted to know where to fill the hire car with cheap petrol before but they seemed to confuse us the more they spoke. She actually told us she would catch the bus when her car fuel level was on red, what????? Probably some Irish logic there that we simply weren't grasping. After shaking hands a few more times, we finally left.

Our last visit before our flight was to the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery. One of the largest Stone-Age cemeteries in Europe. It blows my mind to think that these tombs have been here since 3700BCE. One of the tombs actually gets direct sunlight at dawn on Halloween, spooky! The type of monuments here are boulder circles with central dolmens and sometimes rudimentary passages. Originally each of the sites had a raised platform which was up to a meter above the surrounding ground level, sometimes with one or more inner circles of smaller stones.Thirty monuments survive today and there may have been more originally, but some fell victim to quarrying and field clearance during the 18th, 19th and early 20th century.

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