Last Tuesday, July 8th, I went on an excursion to Connemara, Ireland, known for its green hills, mountains, marbles, and its landmark castle, Aughnanure. On my way to Aughnanure Castle, I made a stop at the Connemara Marble shop, where the craftsmen specialize in making small jewelry out of five types of marble: rose red, black, Irish green, blue and white. The varieties of marble that exist in Ireland can all be found concentrated in this region. However, strands of black and white marble can also be found along the shallows of Galway Bay. The black marble is unique for its fossilizing properties, crustaceans and shells have been found in the marble samples, and this “design” makes it very expensive. Here it must said that the black marble dates back from 250,000 years ago. The Connemara Marble shop prides itself on being la crème de la crème marble jewelry maker, in the entire country. Commissions of marble work can be seen all through Ireland and they are the hallmark of historical and cultural buildings.
After enjoying a brief tour of the workshop, I headed down to the historical site of Aughnanure Castle which was one of many fortresses built in the 16th century. The lords of this particular castle were the O’Flahertys, one of the most notable Anglo-Irish families of the region. All that currently remains of the castle are three of the four watchtowers, one dome-shape armory, protective stone walls around the perimeter of the castle’s location, and the front and west façade of the castle itself. Even though Aughnanure castle is one of the smaller fortress found throughout Ireland it is still an impressive sight, and moreover, the castle testifies to the battles that the Irish people fought against invaders, including England. Still, later on, England, under Henry VIII conquered Ireland and overtook the stone castles that stood in defense of the country. Aughnanure was one of the last fortresses to be overtaken by the English forces. Despite the former impregnability of the castle, the stone walls didn’t withstand the onslaught of gunshot and cannon fire. The story of the fall of Aughnanure and its people is one of the tales of Ireland’s past that captivates my imagination and creativity to the point that I didn’t pay attention to a small incline that was right in front of me and I was “overtaken” by the force of gravity. In the last battle of Aughnanure, the people spilt their blood and their morale was broken, as for me, my unfortunate fall wasn’t tragic and epic, it only left me with a split lip and a bruised arm that both have healed up now.
Though this incident was a small shock, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the rest of the day that ended with a visit to the historic village of Leenane and Kylemore Abbey and the Victorian Walled Garden. Leenane was an important place to stop by because one of the plays I’m reading, The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh, is set in the area. As for Kylemore Abbey, I can say that it’s a sight that feels like it belongs in a story book of fairy tales, the castle and the abbey are mirrored in the crystalline waters of the Dawros River below. The stone façade of Kylemore Abbey also seems as if it would jut out from the mountain rock behind it, like a 3D sculpture in relief. On top of this blend of construction work with nature, the beauty and wonder that one encounters at Kylemore Abbey is also a shrine to a love story between the patron of the abbey, Mitchell Henry, and his wife, Margaret. This Irish love story calls to mind the one of the Taj Mahal, a mausoleum built by the third raja (king) of the Indus Valley, early Indian Empire civilization, Shah Jahan. Both, Mitchell Henry and Shah Jahan, at the death of their wives, respectively, built mausoleums in their memory.
My excursion to Connemara was definitely a rewarding one. Here are few photos from the trip.