Friday, October 7, 2011

Excursion to Roundstone

For the first time since last Thursday when I arrived here in County Clare I woke yesterday morning to a blue sky and bright sunshine.  Predictably it did not endure; within half an hour a deluge of exceptionally heavy rain was drumming on the roof of the cottage.  A keener photographer than I would have been outside taking photographs of the incredible patterns of light and shade cast by puddles of sun and heavy rain on the tweedy coloured hills opposite but I settled for the dry comfort of the cottage and my morning ‘kick-start’  -coffee and a chocolate chip-cookie.

Within another half hour the sky had cleared, the sun was shining and cotton-wool clouds were being scudded across the sky before a brisk north-westerly wind.  It would be a good day, I reasoned, for a drive to Roundstone, a fishing village on the Galway Bay coast of Connemara that I had put onto my provisional itinerary for several reasons.  One of which was that a friend who knows Ireland well had told me not to miss going there, ‘its a gem of a place’ she had said.  Another was that I knew Roundstone to be the home of author Tim Robinson whose ‘Stones of Aran’ books may, when I first read them back in the early 90s, have planted an early seed of interest in visiting Ireland in my mind; had his Connemara trilogy, the last book of which has only recently been published, been available at that time I may well have made a point of coming here years ago.  But the greatest incentive I had to drive to Roundstone was the prospect of something fishy for lunch at O’Dowd’s.

The weather continued to see-saw rapidly between periods of low visibility, heavy rain and wintry gloom under dark clouds, to bright sunshine and vistas of sparkling mountain and bog under blue skies festooned with all manner of wind-blown scudding clouds. 

That a society of folk blessed with a facility for noticing, admiring and enjoying the beauty of a natural landscape are capable of doing so much to spoil it seems, to me, to be something of a paradox.   Much  of the north shore of Galway Bay, in particular the first stretch of the road leading west from Galway city, has been all but scenically ruined by the imposition of far too many inappropriate buildings; architecturally tedious, extension and conservatory carbunkled boxes in which folk can sit behind huge windows to enjoy the view, not of the beautiful landscape they perhaps hoped to enjoy, but of dwellings at least as architecturally tedious as their own!  What I thought particularly sad was that a few old thatched cottages have survived in more or less good repair.  These buildings, small, low-density, ‘organic’ cottages, built to take advantage of sheltering hollows rather than ‘the view’, illustrate how buildings can, and not so long ago did, enhance, rather than ruin, a landscape. 

At Balllynahown the road turned inland, away from the bungalow-blanketed rocky shore of Galway Bay and into the earthly paradise of mountain, lake, stream and bog that is  recognizably Connemara.  The road narrowed to a twisting undulating single track across the bog and other traffic all but disappeared.

Near Rosmuc Village I stopped to visit the cottage which writer, poet and Irish patriot Patrick Pearse built as a summer retreat.  Here he entertained several of those involved in the 1916 Easter uprising.  He chose a beautiful spot for his summer getaways.  For me, it is difficult to imagine how an armed revolution, careless of bloodshed,  could possibly be considered in such a beautiful, peaceful place.  But Pearse was, along with all irishmen of his day, an oppressed man and, I imagine, to be oppressed is to be desperate for freedom at any price.

Roundstone was the delight I had been promised.  Above a small harbour sheltering several colourful boats, village shops, hostelries and houses are strung along a low cliff overlooking Inishee island.  Prominent among these buildings is O’Dowd’s bar and restaurant.  O’Dowd’s was far less formal than I had expected it to be.  The ‘Seafood Platter’ I ordered there for my lunch, a medley of several kinds of fish and seafood, including generous samplings of noticeably fresh salmon, crab, prawn and mussels, on a crisp mixed green salad, more than confirmed the establishment’s reputation for excellent food.

The accompanying Guiness was . . . .
Well, Guiness, about which, here in Ireland, there is nothing more that needs to be said!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lovely (all of those recent posts since I last visited, having just now made my way back down from Coomhola Bridge to where I left off). Going to Ireland is definitely on my list of plans now.)