Wonderful is the ultimate description for those who really know what it means to wonder. We can wonder at the most beautiful sights, landscapes and imagery but to be left in the state of mesmerisation that only Connemara could project, was actually trance like – and wonder-filled.
On this recent and cold January day underneath a cloudless sky, I found myself so immensely present in the Connemara landscape that no other thought interfered. It is magical when this happens. Enthralled, the surroundings embedded stillness inside, and nothing is more special than to have the quietness instilled inside my invisible insides, which I call soul. I didn’t seem to have a care in the world. I became a pure observer – almost outside of myself – as the surrounding aqua-blue seascape seemed to befriend the contrasting rugged landscape.
I was fortunate. Tom, a local from Rosscahill and a man who has worked the length and breadth of Connemara was my personal tour guide. We started towards Oughterard, noted for those who take fishing vacations in the west; before we set sail into the real wilderness of the west towards the village of Recess where there was a shop on route (or was it a pub?) – I think it was both – that served a random selection of ‘Beer Books Eggs Marble Wool’ – I’m still smiling!
Continuing along the Wild West, several lakes to our left were complemented by Derryclare Lough on our right with spectacular views of The Twelve Pins. I paused. It was breath-taking.
Yet, I really had to catch my breath as we veered south towards Roundstone. This is where I should have really taken out my camera. There I was on a winter’s day, a sight to behold as the sun gleamed over little white sanded beaches that gently welcomed a cold Atlantic sea. No joke and no word of a lie, the freezing water reflected an aqua-blue and it more than matched the beautiful and Italian Almalfi coast, the only difference was that Roundstone was icy-fresh. But a definite decision was made for me, I would be back there, after all Roundstone is more than good enough to inspire both Bono and Sting.
It seemed there were several moments between moments as we travelled further into wilderness, on the coast road around the peninsula leading to Ballyconneely, I didn’t know where to look with an abundance of lakes, sandy coves, and stone faced houses with charming red or green doors, the high rise of the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. Few words can describe this almost untouched landscape, so sacred and filled with stone rows, holy wells, standing stones and megalithic tombs. I fear my breath was still held when we passed Diamond Hill as it cut magically into the skyline before arriving at Kylemore Abbey – this was definite music for my ears. Here we stopped again.
Like one of those moments when an extremely charismatic, charming and handsome man strikes up conversation with a woman, I was enthralled by the Abbey’s (a former castle) recent history and moreover by its enchanting love story. As someone who mainly writes about love and life, it was inevitable that I spent over two hours walking the grounds of the Abbey, absorbing its romance from the surrounding woods and lake. It was like being in a bowl, sheltered, safe, love-ly, the lake and the abbey at the base protected by the mountains and hills all round. It just seemed to sum up the day.
Being totally absorbed as each magical moment presented itself meant that my only regret later was that I forgot to take my camera out all day. Yet such moments of pure presence are so rare that a photo shoot became the furthest from my mind. It was the experience that overruled. And even though the experience may not be captured through a lens, it is certainly embedded in my heart, a more memorable place for it to remain.
“So, how does it compare to the ring of Kerry?” asks Tom at the end of the day.
“Both beautiful in their own ways,” says I, before I realised I was defending the charm of the south where I was born and lived before my recent return to Ireland. But then I paused. Tom nodded as though he waited for me to continue. A moment of pure honesty flowed. Never being one that is short for words, and after spending a day almost in trance like a star-struck teenager, my mouth then oscillated with increasing speed as I finally expressed my true awe.
I knew he would be sorry he asked – and like the ring we had just toured, there was no end to my talk. But there is nothing that can compare to Connemara and its never ending circles of beauty.