Friday, March 30, 2018

Exploring the Village of Cong in Ireland

The following series of photos were the result of our general exploration of the Village of Cong over a 2 day period.  This was in addition to our visit to the Cong Abbey.

Just as a reminder, this was our bed and breakfast in Cong.  It’s Ryan’s River Lodge and it faces the Cong River. (

The Village of Cong literally sits on the line between County Galway and County Mayo.  This sign is on the bridge to the fish hatchery right across from Ryan’s River Lodge on the Cong River.

Talk about a laid back and peaceful setting…water, water, everywhere!

I’d consulted my map of the area and we decided to follow a path along the river and through the woods.

Much to our surprise and delight, we discovered this stone hut near the Cong Abbey.  Bonnie and Laurie posed next to the monk’s fishing house, which was probably built in the 1400’s or 1500s.  Built on a stone platform over the River Cong, it allows the river to flow underneath it.  There is a trapdoor in the floor which may have allowed the fish to be kept fresh. 

The river flows quickly toward Lough/Lake Corrib and at one point along our path it tumbled over these rapids.

The trees along our pathway were really quite old…and impressive in their height and girth!

We noted these ruins right on the riverbank and we wondered if they were a remnant of an earlier era that was related to the next impressive sight that we encountered…

...and suddenly, as we exited our woodland path, this huge and impressive castle stood before us!  Ashford Castle, a medieval castle dating back to 1228, has been expanded repeatedly over the centuries and it’s now a 5 star luxury hotel on the shore of Lough Corrib.  The castle has had many owners over the years, including the Guinness family.
Our wives initially wanted to stay here…until I told them how much it would cost for our 2 night stay!  Consider the fact that visitors and guests at Ashford Castle include the likes of King George V and Queen Mary, John Lennon, George Harrison, Oscar Wilde, President Ronald Reagan, Ted Kennedy, John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara (while filming “The Quiet Man”), Robin Williams, Brad Pitt, Pierce Brosnan as well as Prince Ranier and Princess Grace.  In April of 2017 professional golfer and Irishman Rory McIlroy was married here. 

If you can afford it, I’m sure that Ashford Castle would be a wonderful place to stay.   At the time I wrote this posting, if you were to go to TripAdvisor or one of the other major discount travel sites, you could have booked a room for two on March 25th for one night for only 1,040E/$1,250 US) We did discuss going to the castle for lunch or tea…but we would have had to change out of our blue jeans and the cost of a very luxurious afternoon tea was 45E/$54.00 US per person.  You can learn more by going to

If you looked at the map of Cong that I published in a previous post, you may have noticed that it was a tourist map for those interested in the John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara movie from 1951 entitled “The Quiet Man”.  Cong is ‘all about’ the movie…with plaques and buildings prominently on display all around the village.  This statue is hard to miss!

The “Quiet Man Cottage Museum” is designed to provide visitors with a total “Quiet Man” experience…as if they were on-set.  The ground floor of the cottage is an exact replica of “White-o’Mornin” Cottage from the movie.  Even if you’re not into the move, it does give visitors a look at a typical Irish cottage of the 1920s.

We’ve never seen the movie and now we’ll just have to find it so we can see what all the fuss is about… In the meantime, I was fascinated by a close-up of the thatched roof on the cottage.

Labor intensive traditional thatched roofs in Ireland are facing extinction.  It’s estimated that only about 1,300 thatched-roof buildings remain in the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.  Thatchers may go out of business if there is further decline and that will spell the end of this type of roofing…

We stopped in Pat Cohan’s Bar in Cong for a pint and to decide if we wanted to have dinner there later.  The bar was featured in The Quiet Man movie.  After experiencing a particularly rude bartender, we unanimously decided that we would not return for dinner!  This bartender was the only negative people experience we had in either Ireland or Scotland.  The bar and restaurant was very attractive…but looks aren’t everything… If you’re interested in giving Pat Cohan’s a try,then go to

I included this photo just to support my theory that every village and small town in Ireland features a butcher shop!  It’s actually called Ryan’s Food Emporium and with a deli and bakery, it’s a lot more than just a butcher shop.  We’re actually lucky that we didn’t go inside the shop.  I gained 5 lbs. just looking at their website!  You can check it out at

This is just a view up the side street next to our bed and breakfast… That red and white cottage is called “The Dying Man House” and it was featured in The Quiet Man movie.

FYI…in today’s dollars, The Quiet Man was a big success grossing $172,200,000!  John Ford, the director, won an Academy award for the film.  I noted that Rotten Tomatoes, (the current rating site that really can make or break a movie), gave the movie a 90% rating!  That’s a good thing…

I included these photos of some of the flowers scattered around Cong just because they were eye catching and they brightened up otherwise mostly cloudy days…

I liked the look of Danagher’s Hotel, Bar and Restaurant so I took a photo.  You can check it out on TripAdvisor (88% Very Good +) at

...water is everywhere around the perimeter of Cong.  Love it!

Someone even built a ‘duck house’ on a platform in the middle of one of the river channels.  A nearby bench provides a place to watch or feed the ducks.

I noticed this one house that is literally built out over the stream and I wondered if there ever is a chance for flooding?  But talk about going to sleep to the sound of running water…wow!

Yet another house right next to the river… Love the colors and the general look of the property. 

Ahh yes… The local pharmacy.  It’s not exactly a Walgreen’s is it?  When my bride was under the weather one evening, our hosts referred me to this pharmacy for a medical solution.  The residing pharmacist ran a one man show and he was very helpful!

I thought that I’d end this long posting with a photo of Cong’s Tourist Office.  It’s located in the old courthouse which was built in 1853.  I visited it while I was walking around town and the fellow on duty was very helpful.
A plaque in front of the building indicated that another movie, this time from 1977, ‘Un Taxi Mauve’ aka. “Purple Taxi”, was filmed at least partly in the vicinity of Cong.  It starred Charlotte Rampling, Peter Ustinov and Fred Astaire.

That’s all for now… I tried not to write too much given all of the photos in this posting.  Just click on any of them to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a tour of Cong Ireland!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Our Bed and Breakfast in Cong Ireland

Our stay in Cong was our last bed and breakfast before returning to Dublin for the flight home. 

This is Ryan’s River Lodge Bed and Breakfast.  I’d given Laurie’s sister Bonnie 2 choices for our 2 night stay in Cong…and given the traditional look of the building we weren’t surprised that she picked Ryan’s!

This was the bed in our room at Ryan’s River Lodge.  We looked out over a one-way street with minimal traffic with a river right across that street.

Our bathroom was small but clean and functional.  There was a window right next to the sink.  We didn’t asked how old the building was but given its obvious age it was well maintained and updated.

There was a small table and desk in our room.  While the rooms at Ryan’s River Lodge weren’t the biggest or grandest of all the bed and breakfast establishments where we stayed at in Scotland and Ireland, this was perhaps our favorite.   Part of the charm was that it was a more traditional (i.e., older) building)

This was the view from our room.  That's actually a salmon fish hatchery right across the way.  Our host Martha set up a short tour of the hatchery for us during one of the feedings…  It was very interesting with nice folks at the hatchery.

This is another view of Ryan’s River Lodge from the other side of the building.  The location was perfect for exploring the village of Cong…with attractions as close as a block away.  The whole village was just an easy walk from here.  I’ll share some photos in an upcoming posting. 

This is a sitting room at Ryan’s River Lodge.  Many fishing and hunting trophies and related materials were displayed.  David, one of our hosts, is a professional fishing and hunting guide and that’s a big part of their business.

Incidentally… During our stay we met a woman who had selected Ryan’s for a month long stay just to relax and decompress.  She was very happy with her choice and she really loved her hosts…

Talk about a hunting trophy!  This red deer was the result of a guiding trip led by David, one of our hosts.  Try counting the points on this buck’s antlers!

Laurie took this photo of Bill, me and Bonnie at the breakfast table one morning… The dining room was very large and comfortable. 

As an aside, our hosts went beyond expectations during our visit.  Directions, touring advice and restaurant recommendations…all appreciated.  More significantly, on our second night Laurie suffered a short bout from some infectious bug…and without getting into the nitty gritty…Martha and David really stepped up to help us out!  (FYI…Laurie was fine the next morning!)

Time for a couple of breakfast photos!  There was a plenitude of toast and nice scones with butter and jam!

Bacon and perfectly prepared eggs with the ubiquitous grilled tomatoes…

Being a true carnivore, I added sausages to my breakfast request…doubling up on the meat!  

These were our wonderful and gracious hosts…David and Martha.  They’re posing in front of the results of another of David’s guiding adventures.  That’s a nice fish!

Not only were our hosts more than accommodating, our surroundings pleasant and the location perfect, so was the price per night!  It was the end of September and I believe it was between fishing and hunting seasons.  Our rooms with breakfast were just 80E/$96.00 US per night!  Our stay was a delight and a bargain to boot… Good choice Bonnie!

Ryan’s River Lodge is on the web at  Check out their website to see a variety of photos as well as to learn about the accommodations and services offered.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, March 26, 2018

On to Our Destination - Cong Ireland!

Cong Ireland, a village that straddles the borders of County Galway and County Mayo, was our final destination before we returned to Dublin and our flight home.  The good news was that we had 2 nights planned to stay in Cong and explore the area…

As we drove along N67 in a general northerly direction toward the city of Galway, we passed through the village of Kinvarra.  We just had to take this photo of the Merriman Hotel as we passed through the village.  This interesting structure easily had the biggest thatched roof of any building we saw in either Scotland or Ireland!  The Merriman Hotel’s website can be found at

On the outskirts of Kinvarra, we passed Dun Guaire Castle, a tower house/castle that dates back to the 1500s.  The castle is named after the Dun (fort) of King Guaire, who was the legendary king of Connacht.  The castle’s 75-foot tower and its defensive walls have been restore and the grounds are open to tourists during the summer. 

·         Dun Guaire Castle was featured in the 1969 Disney movie “Guns in the Heather” featuring Kurt Russell.  It was also the Scottish castle home of the main character in the 1979 film “North Sea Hijack”.  This latter movie featured Roger Moore, James Mason and Anthony Perkins.

As we continued on our rainy day drive to Cong, we passed yet another ancient tower house, this one right beside the highway…  The startling fact is that there are over 200 tower houses in County Galway!  They were mainly built by Gaelic and Anglo-Norman land owning families.

…and of course there were plenty of green fields featuring another plentitude that is evident throughout Ireland…sheep!  FYI…we love rock walls!

…and then we arrived in Cong!  The rain let up a bit so we could enjoy our surroundings.  This is a view across the Cong River, one of the streams that flow on all sides of the center of the village.  That large white building was to be our home for the next couple of nights.  It’s Ryan’s River Lodge.  Check it out at  Much more about on our bed and breakfast stay in my next posting… 

This is a map of Cong.  It shows the rivers that surround the village.  In effect, Cong is an island that is part of the isthmus that connects Loughs (lakes) Corrib and Mask.  


·         Lough Mask to the north of Cong covers 32 square miles.  It reaches a depth of 190 feet and it holds more water than any other lake in the Republic of Ireland.

·         Lough Corrib to the south of the village covers 68 square miles.  It’s the second largest lake in Ireland and it contains an amazing 1,327 islands.

With all of the water surrounding Cong, there is a lot of beauty in any direction that one looks… FYI, Cong in Irish Gaelic is ‘Conga’, from Cunga Fheichin, meaning “Saint Feichin’s narrows”.

I don’t know about you…but water, especially flowing water or waves, relaxes me and just makes me feel calm and happy!

Just a block or so from our bed and breakfast, we ‘discovered’ Cong Abbey.  It’s the ruin of a former Augustinian abbey that, for the most part, dates back to the 1200s.

Cong Abbey has been described as featuring some of the finest examples of medieval ecclesiastical architecture in Ireland.  The first church was built on this site in the early 600s…reportedly by Saint Feichin.  To learn more about his history, go toéchín_of_Fore.

Another church was built here following the original structure but the second building was destroyed by fire in 1114.  Over the 20 years following the fire, Turlough Mor O’Connor, the High King of Ireland, rebuilt the abbey.  Then in 1137 raiders from Munster destroyed the buildings again.  They were rebuilt by King Turlough…

In 1198, King Turlough’s son, (Ruaidri Ua Conchobair), Rory O’Connor, Ireland’s last High King began construction of new buildings.  He actually lived here for the last 15 years of his life and was buried there for a while before his body was relocated.

In the 1200s the abbey was again reconstructed and then it was dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary.  Cong Abbey has had a tough history!  It was suppressed in 1542 during the reign of Henry the III.  Although it was occasionally used by monks after that, it eventually fell into ruins.

The last nominal abbot, the parish priest of Cong from 1795 until his death in 1829, was also the preserver of the Cross of Cong.  This medieval cross and work of art was made ca. 1125 and it’s now on display at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.  

To learn more about the cross, go to  It is a spectacular example of master workmanship!

Laurie took this photo… Those walls look like they would never fall down.  It’s hard to imagine the effort that went into the building and rebuilding of the abbey.

The first restoration of the abbey was started by Benjamin Guinness back in 1855, soon after he purchased nearby Ashford Castle.  FYI, Benjamin was the third son of the second Arthur Guinness and a grandson of the first Arthur Guinness who bought the St. James’s Gate Brewery in 1759.   After Benjamin’s father died, he expanded the business and became the wealthiest person in Ireland. 

The Cong Abbey is now a national monument that is under the care of Ireland’s Commissioners for Public Works.  The fact that it is open to the public and we could just wander around and explore the abbey is still a little mind boggling to me…  

One last photo… Laurie took this photo of the tiny ferns who seem to find a home on so many castle and church ruins in both Scotland and Ireland.  They are a fascinating reminder that, given the chance, Mother Nature will reclaim what is hers!

For much more about Cong Abbey, you can go to

The next posting will be all about our special bed and breakfast stay in Cong…

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave