Friday June 10
It was our first day on the tour and and the first truly wet weather we'd seen, which we could only consider a fortunate coincidence. We didn't even have to load our own luggage- it was all done for us. It was also one of the longest travel days, as the plan was to go to the northernmost point of travel and return down the coast. As we were to find, the trip routine was to drive, have a rest-and-coffee-stop somewhere scenic, proceed to a lunch spot, etc, until we reached our destination. Our first stop of the day was in Cong, which was where John Ford's 1952 film, The Quiet Man, was filmed. Despite the wet, we quite easily spotted numerous 'Quiet Man' themed businesses, cafe, tours, gift shops. Naturally we were soon trying to come up with the most ridiculous possibilities- Quiet Man fudge, Quiet Man port-a-potties, Quiet Man parking garage, etc (needless to say we didn't actually see any of these!).
Cong also features a ruined medieval abbey where Rory O'Connor, the last High King of Ireland spent his last years. The tour having kindly provided umbrellas, we did not let the gentle rain dampen our urge to explore.
Behind the abbey, a footpath led off along the river. We didn't have time to explore more than a bit. My favorite bit was the monk's fishing hut. Clearly they preferred to fish in comfort.
From Cong we wound our way to Foxford, home of Foxford Woollen Mills. Which to my disappointment was not actually a working mill, but rather a gift shop displaying a range of Foxford Mills products. Which, I hasten to add, were lovely. If I'd been a keen shopper, no doubt I'd have gone wild. As it was, I confined my mercantile ambitions to the cafe, which was quite decent. This was the only time on the tour we weren't just cut loose and find our own lunch spot, no doubt for logistical reasons. We did finish up and take a quick turn around the town, enjoying the improving weather.
We also stopped in to a small museum honoring the accomplishments of Admiral William Brown, a local boy who went to sea to seek his fortune, and wound up the commander in chief of the Argentine navy, and an Argentine national hero. It's an amazing story- right up there with the best seafaring adventure tales.
After lunch it was another long drive through showery countryside to Sligo. We frankly dozed. Between drive, our exertions of the prior days and the soporific patter of rain on the bus, it was just the thing to do. It did however clear up in time for us to do a little exploring of Sligo before dinner.
A delightful small city, and very lively. Walked around and got a look at Sligo's own ruined abbey.
We were charmed to notice the Celtic designs on even such mundane items as pipe covers in the street.
We only had time for a quick survey, however before it was time to head back to the hotel for dinner, and our first night of music.
Our guide, Robbie O'Connell played guitar and sang with his sister Alice also playing guitar, and her husband Sean playing fiddle. They were all three excellent. We'd started the day wondering if we were really 'tour' people- we're so used to wandering around on our own. We had already started to appreciate some of the benefits of having someone else do the work of organizing it.