Dating from the Pre-Cambrian era, Connemara marble is over 600 million years old. It is found only in a remote area in the West of Ireland. It is a metamorphic rock formed when limestone was heated under pressure, producing a hard granular rock. Its unique green color symbolises Ireland and is caused by the presence of various elements. It is said to bring serenity to those who keep it close. Connemara marble is one of Ireland’s most original products. Geologists estimate this natural green rock quarried at Recess and Streamstown marble quarry, two miles north west of Clifden which is approx. 500 million years old.
Unique to Connemara region, the marble shows twisted and interlocking bands of serpentine, in various shades of light and dark green. It has been used over the centuries as a means of exchange, for features in stately buildings and is recognised for its beautiful colour and resilience, with no two pieces being similar. A broad range of souvenirs and ornamental products are produced from the stone.
The marble factory, showroom and shop, has Ireland’s largest display of Connemara Marble jewellery, fashioned in gold and silver, depicting the shamrock, harp, Celtic cross and The Claddagh ring.
Visitors can enjoy the added attraction of seeing the centre’s craftsmen at work. Moycullen, Co Galway, Tel: +353 (0)91 555746/555102
Once worked for lead and zinc in the mid 1800s, this mine is now open to the public. Situated just west of Oughterard in County Galway, the mine was opened to the public in 1999 after it was rescued from flooding. It’s the only one of its kind in the country. You can see some remaining surface features such as a leat, which runs for about two miles. You can see the remains of a waterwheel pit, and a powder house and Blacksmiths Shop too. The current owners have also built a horse gin. You’ll get the low down on all the minerals that were once mined here in Glengowla. And you’ll find out how the historical use of minerals such as fluoride differs from its use today. Oughterard, Co. Galway Tel: + 353 (0)91 552021
Quiet Man Bridge
The Quiet Man Bridge is located 5 miles passed Oughterard, down the Sky Road, which was the setting for the 1950’s film “The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. The bridge is set in a bit to the left but is visible from the road and is clearly signposted. Leam Bridge, as it is known locally.
This is the bridge where Sean Thornton dreams of his youth in the opening scenes of the movie and hears his dead mother’s voice describing White O’Morn cottage. The film is regarded as one of the top 100 films ever made. 5 miles passed Oughterard on your left.
Quiet Man Cottage
There is a replica of the traditional Irish cottage used in the filming of “The Quiet Man” movie. The Original is in Cong, Co. Mayo. This classic movie was filmed on location in Connemara and starred John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara with, amongst others, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond and Victor McLaglen in supporting rolls. The Quiet Man was directed by John Ford who won an Oscar for best director. Maam Cross, Co. Galway.
Watch the movie here…
The Derryclare Lough stretches along the glaciated valley of Lough Inagh , dividing the Twelve Bens from the Maamturk Mountains. Recess is a well known angling resort and is famous worldwide for its green Connemara Marble quarries. The marble quarries can be found at the lower slopes of the Mountain ranges. The village is situated on the edge of a beautiful fishing lake, Glendalough.
There is an angling centre in this magnificent valley where the Failmorem Bealanabrack and Joyce’s River come together on their way to Lough Corrib. The Kilmeelickin Church at Maam (Maum) houses the stained glass window of St. Brendan (1950)by Dublin born Evie Hone (1894 – 1955).
Maam is a lovely wooded townland beside some great fishing lakes. The ancient woods give the place a magical feel, overshadowed by the Maamturk Mountains with their numerous pre-historic and early historic sites.The Western Way, a long distance walking trail will take you from the southern end of the Maam Valley to the ancient site of Mámean. Mámean (‘The Pass of the Birds’) has been a place of pilgrimage since earliest times. Saint Patrick is thought to have spent a night there in 436. The holy shrine of Mámean is a perfect place to walk for both the beauty surrounding you and the sense of a bygone era.
Towards Leenane you will see a signpost for ‘Leaba Pháirc’ (Patrick’s bed), a rock recess and ‘Tobar Pháraic’ (Patrick’s Well) which mark a place of pilgrimage, the main celebration at St. Patrick’s Well is traditionally visited on the last Sunday of August. There is also a custom of doing the Stations of the Cross there on the afternoon of Good Friday.
The Inagh Valley would have been covered by deciduous and pine forest after the Ice Age. During the Neolithic Age (2,500BC) the first farmers began to clear land so they could build their farms. They cleared the thinner, upland areas and used them as pasture and the hillsides were used for cultivation. Devoid of trees the soils nutrients would have been washed away by rain and this caused the soil to become acidic (leached). The land lower down became waterlogged as a result. By the end of the Bronze Age (500BC) the farmers were forced to clear the lower lands as the uplands were no longer usable. Debris from plants did not decompose in the leached soils and a layer of peat began to build up. Any remaining trees were chocked by the peat, thus forming a ‘Blanket Bog’. A week of turf cutting would provide enough fuel for a family for one year.
A bank is opened up on the bog, and using the sleán, sods are cut and landed on the top of the bog. The wet sods are spread out using a turf-fork or pike. After one week the sods are moved to dry ground and built into small stacks, by standing the sods up on their ends against each other. A sod is placed on top to stabilise the stack. This is called footing the turf. The stacks are left to dry throughout the summer months in the sun and wind. When the sods are dry they are transported to the home and built into a large pile. From here they are used in the home. The Western side of the valley is flanked by the majestic Twelve Bens mountains, the lake itself is widely known for it fishing and businesses along this route would provide the opportunity to experience this. Sheep roam the roads quite freely here so do take care when driving as they can be slow to change their direction…they are well adjusted to the more peaceful pace of life here in the Inagh Valley!
The environs of Leenane have been inhabited by man since prehistory, as evinced by a megalithic tomb on Leenane Hill. Geographically isolated, Leenane is rarely mentioned in records until the 1800s. Killary, providing as it does a good safe harbour, bears mention in shipping records from the 1200s onwards. It was a hideaway of the daring smuggler George O’Malley in the late 1700s, and has sheltered the Royal Fleet, submarines and U-Boats during the 20th .century
The village of Leenane as we know it did not exist until the 1880’s. Prior to this, the village centre was located at the hotel, with two further clusters on Lettirbricaun and Lachan. These have now almost completely disappeared; one through famine and the former through eviction. It was not until some decades after the building of the Leenane Bridge by Nimmo, that the planned village was built. From Cromwellian times onwards, most of the land in the area was owned by Trinity College.
In the 1880s. The hotel flourished and expanded, bringing increasing amounts of money into the area. More importantly, the Congested Districts Board introduced a weaving school and set up a local weaving industry which operated from the hotel. A girls lace-making school was also set up, which was visited by Queen Alexandra on the royal visit of 1903, when King Edward VI toured the area.
The traditional industry of hill sheep farming has been replaced economically by aquaculture and tourism. The farming continues, but to-day every farmer has a “day job”. Salmon and mussel farmers can be seen working on the Killary. Leenane is beautifully located, and the local tourist industry had its seed in the walkers and fishermen of the 1800s who came to the area. Tourism is now probably the biggest local employer.
This part of Connemara would have been badly affected by the famine in the 1840’s and there is evidence of the destitution of this era, ruined buildings, a famine relief road dating back to 1856 which would have been constructed by the local people in return for food. There are amazing walks which take you along this historic road. Nowadays it’s a much happier spot with a lot of industry including mussel farms in the fjord and a chance to taste them locally. You can also pick your own fresh mussels on the shore – delicious
Kylemore and its lakes are steeped in history. The Castle-like Abbey was built in 1860’s by Manchester tycoon Mitchell Henry as a present for his beloved wife. They both fell in love with the area on their honeymoon. The vast sums spent by Henry in building his castle and development of the estate brought employment to the area. Henry’s wife died in 1874 and he built the Gothic Chapel in her memory. Henry had his wife embalmed and her body is buried in the mausoleum next to the Church.
The Neo-Gothic Church and the Victorian Walled Garden at Kylemore have been restored to its former glory in recent years by the Benedictine Nuns. You will notice as you pass the lakes, the hills on the far side are indented with ridges. These would have been planted with potatoes before the famine (1840’s) when locals sought out an existence to feed their families on steep, rocky hillsides. Lake fishing and beautiful walks are synonymous with this area. • Kylemore Abbey • Lake Fishing.
Renvyle Peninsula is steeped in history and archaeological sites. From a Bronze Age Solar Calendar, one of the finest 4,000 year old forests entombed in peat in Europe , the O’Flaherty Castle which was once home to the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley (Grainuaile ). Renvyle House was once home to the Blake Family and then to poet, statesman and surgeon Oliver St. John Gogarty and was a favourite retreat of poet W.B. Yeats at the time.
At Renvyle there are the cleanest of beaches, beautiful walks along quiet country roads and gentle hills. There are lots of things to do in addition to walking whilst on the Renvyle Peninsula and these include archaeological sites consisting of Kanrawer – well of the Seven Daughters, Portal Dolmen at Cashleen, the Church of the Seven Daughters at Cashleen, Ardnagreevagh Chamber Tomb and the Stone Alignment on the road to Derryinver, fishing (fresh water lake & deep sea), golf (9-hole course), safe beaches for swimming or body boarding, scuba diving, horse riding and health and beauty treatments, boat cruises and much more. Much of this area is designated a Special Area of Conservation and is therefore unspoiled by large developments.
In 1849, Quakers, James & Mary Ellis, settled in this coastal village Letterfrack, and set up a shop, school, dispensary and a Temperance Hotel. They also had a lime kiln and a basket factory. In a period just following the Great Famine, the Ellis Family gave much badly needed employment on the improvement of 915 acres of land. James Ellis’s health deteriorated and he sold the property on to a John Hall, an Irish Church Mission supporter. Hall sold on the property again in 1882 and it was purchased through a firm of solicitors by the then Arch Bishop of Tuam.
Between 1886-1888 the Irish Christian Brothers established a reformatory, St. Joseph’s Industrial School for boys. It was granted by Dublin Castle that male children were to be sent under the Act of Parliament of the 31st year of the reign of H.M. Queen Victoria. The building shaped like that of three sides of a square, consisted of school rooms, a refectory, kitchen and band room on the ground floor, dormitories, lavatories and baths on the upper story to accommodate 100 boys. The building was completed and ready for taking in the boys in November 1887. Later in 1895 a recreation hall was added. The Brothers gave training in a number of trades, including farming, carpentry, tailoring, painting, blacksmith, knitting and shoemaking to name but a few with opportunities for occasional band music and theatricals. A church was later built and the first mass being said there on Christmas Day 1925.
That same year, 1925 electricity was introduced to Letterfrack. A hydro-electric plant was run from the rainfall from Diamond Hill behind the school. The water was impounded into a giant reservoir and elevated over the power house where turbines developed a supply into the mains with sufficient power to provide lighting for the village also. The reformatory closed in 1973.
The buildings were purchased by a local development company Connemara West in 1978. Connemara West is now the campus for Letterfrack Furniture College ; school of fine woodworking and design, which has over 170 students and has a number of offices, exhibition area, public library and sports & leisure centre. The furniture college has an exhibition of the students work and is open to members of the public from June to August. The lands surrounding were purchased by the Office of Public Works, later to become Connemara National Park.
For more information on North Connemara check out www.goconnemara.com
Inishbofin (Island of the White Cow) lies seven miles off Galway’s coast. The island is five miles by three. It is estimated that Bofin was inhabited as far back as 8000 – 4000 B.C. The first documented history of the island dates from early Christian times. As you sail around the tower and signal light into the harbour you will notice Cromwell’s 16th Century Barracks. It was used as a prison for catholic priests from all over the country after the English Statute of 1585 declared them guilty of high treason. The first reference of Bofin comes from the seventh century. Again, it has often been related how St. Colman, himself of Connacht origin, defended the Celtic custom of the dating of Easter at the Synod of Whitby in 664. Several safe sandy beaches strewn with shells and with crystal clear water make swimming, snorkeling and diving a joy. For the more adventurous, crystal clear water makes for spectacular diving. Inishbofin is a breeding area for many species of birds. The rarest or most threatened species breeding on the island at present are the Corncrake. The Corncrake have been nesting and breeding on Inishbofin for many years. For the adventurous there are exciting mountain walks, hill climbing and excellent shore angling. Inishbofin has become an important centre for traditional Irish music and song with its own Ceilí band. Inishbofin plays host to many visiting musicians and artists.
From the days of the O’Flaherty Chieftains, to Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen of Connemara, to Humanity Dick Martin, founder of the society for the prevention of cruelty to animals and to H.R.H. the Maharajah Ranjitsinji, also known as the ‘Ranji’, Prince of Cricketeers. Read more: http://www.ballynahinch-castle.com/history
Dan O’Hara Hertiage
According to local history the ruins of a cottage on the farm was once the home of Dan O’ Hara who was famous in song and story. Dan farmed eight acres until he was evicted and forced to emigrate and ended up selling matches in New York. Like most people in Connemara at the time Dan O’Hara did not own the house he lived in or the land. He paid rent to the local landlord. His simple but happy lifestyle came abruptly to an end when he was evicted for non payment of his rent. He had decided to increase the size of the windows in his house and this led to increased rent payments. He was evicted from his home and forced to emigrate. He arrived in New York, a broken man. His wife and three of his children died on the harsh sea journey and penniless and destitute he had to put the remaining children into care. He ended his days selling matches on the street far from his beloved Connemara.
“A Chusla geal mo chroi won’t you buy a box from me and you’ll have the prayers of Dan from Connemara. Sure I’ll sell them cheap and low buy a box before you go from the broken-hearted farmer Dan O’Hara”
Connemara Heritage & History Centre – Dan O’Hara Homestead, Lettershea, Clifden, Tel: 00 353 95 21808