Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Call of the Claddagh


Petra House B&B, College Rd, Galway
Everything about Petra House B&B is luxurious & spotless!  Frank & Joan were the best of hosts and made us feel so welcome.   The breakfast's are something else!  All served on beautiful bone china crockery.   You've got to try Joan's organic porridge with Bailey's Irish Cream Liquer just once... I wasn't expecting it to be so delicious!
After probably the best breakfast I’ve had so far in Ireland, we set off to explore the city for the day.

Breakfast Room, Petra House B&B, Galway
Our mission this morning was to find Menlo Castle, a once magnificient home of the Blake family,  built in 1569 on the banks of the River Corrib.

Part of the gateway entrance to Menlo castle as it stands today, Menlo, Galway
Swans on the River Corrib, Galway
Fishing on the River Corrib, Galway
Finding Menlo Castle wasn't easy. We attempted to find it from the Menlo side of the city where the Castle is actually situated but there was no access to it unless you donned gumboots & drudged across soggy fields. I knew it was on the banks of the Corrib, so decided to look for a spot on the other side of the river to get a view of it. Passing Galway Cathedral on University Road, we turned right onto Lower Newcastle Street which ran onto Upper Newcastle. At the lights at the intersection of Upper Newcastle & Thomas Hynes Rd we drove straight ahead past the Westwood House Hotel on the left & take the 1st right on to St Anne's Street, opposite Dangan Court. There is a car park just down this driveway into the NUIG [National University Of Ireland, Galway] Hockey Club. Then it's a short walk down to the river's edge across from which is a grand view of the Menlo Castle ruins.
 
Menlo Castle, Galway
 In 1910, Menlo Castle was gutted by fire.  This  article in the Galway Advertiser in 2009 by Tom Kenny tells the tragic details of the fire.

"Those who were resident at the time were Miss Ellen who was an invalid, two servants Anne Browne and Delia Earley, and James Kirwan who was the coachman. Kirwan was sleeping in a room on the first floor over the hall door when he heard the two girls screaming at 5.40am. He jumped up and opened the door of his room, but he was almost blinded by the rush of flames and smoke. He saw that the staircase was impassable, so he burst the sashes on his window and managed to get out and climb down the ivy.
He rushed around to the frontage facing the river and found this portion of the castle enveloped in flames. He then ran around to the south side and was horrified to see the two servant girls on the roof screaming at the top of their voices. The flames were burning fiercely around them and there was a 40 foot drop in front of them. Kirwan managed to get a ladder with the assistance of two locals named Ward and Faherty, but the ladder was about 15 feet short. A rope was thrown to them but they could not reach it. The girls were now in agony, their clothes were beginning to burn. The men placed bundles of hay on the ground and shouted at the girls to jump one at a time. The girls, still screaming in terror, did so. Delia fell on her face and died instantly. She was 25 years old, from Parkaveara and had been in the Blake’s employ for a matter of weeks. Anne landed on her feet but was rendered unconscious for a time. She regained consciousness later and was eventually taken, in some agony, to hospital.
In the meantime, Kirwan got on a horse and galloped to the police barracks in Galway. District Inspector Mercer and a number of his men immediately set off for Menlo on bicycles. The town brigade arrived shortly afterwards, as did another from Renmore barracks with about 50 men. The entire building was now in flames, and the fury of the fire was such that by 7 o’clock, it was gutted. The roof had fallen in. A few of the soldiers made an attempt to rush in looking for Miss Ellen but the heat drove them back. She was apparently cremated in the flames. It was surmised that, as an invalid, she could not save herself and was completely overcome. No trace of her body was ever found".

It's a sad & tragic tale, but one worth telling if you're going to visit Menlo Castle

Rowing regatta on the River Corrib in front of Menlo Castle, Galway

Galway Cathedral, Galway
On the way back to the city centre, we stopped at Galway Cathedral.  The Cathedral of Galway was dedicated on 15 August 1965, and as such is the youngest of Europe's great stone cathedrals.   It certainly gives the feel of a much older building.  It's absolutely stunning inside & was well worth a visit.  It was built on the site of the former county 'gaol' which closed in 1939 and was notorious for its cruel treatment of prisoners.    

Galway Cathedral, Galway
Galway Cathedral, Galway
We drove next to The Claddagh Quay area, said to be the oldest fishing village in Ireland & in ancient times was situated just outside the walls of the city of Galway overlooking Galway Bay. Over time as the walls came down and Galway grew into the modern picturesque city that it is today, this ancient village grew and merged with the rest of the town.

Claddagh Quay, Galway
Throughout the centuries, the Claddagh people kept Galway City supplied with fish, which they sold on the square in front of the Spanish Arch. 
The area has become synonymous with its traditional jewellry, the Claddagh Ring, given as a token of friendship, love or marriage & is worn by people all over the world.  The design and customs associated with the ring originated from this area


Gladdagh Quay, Galway
Dock Street Apartments, Galway


Claddagh Harbour, Galway

Boat graveyard, Claddagh Harbour, Galway
By this stage, my travelling buddy was itching to get back into the main shopping streets for some retail therapy, so we parked the car back at our B&B & walked into the pedestrianised Shop Street where I parked upstairs in Griffins Bakery with my latte & laptop & watched Galway life go by on the street below for an hour.

Latte at Griffin Bakery Cafe, Galway
Taaffes Pub & Griffin's Bakery, Galway
After two lattes & a slice of apple pie, I went out to explore the little  farmers market around the corner in St Nicholas's Church Square & stumbled across the fabulous Sheridan's Cheesemongers Shop  full of Irish farmhouse cheeses piled from floor to ceiling.   I settled for a soft cow's feta & a packet of Irish brown bread crackers to nibble on back at the B&B.

Sheridan's Cheesemongers, Galway
 
Sheridan's Cheesemongers, Galway
 
Eyre Square, Galway

Hotel Meyrick, Eyre Square, Galway

Memorial to the Magdalen Laundry Women, Galway

The Merry Fiddler Pub, Galway
I got back to Petra House just in time to sit back and watch the Ireland vs Scotland rugby match on TV.  With my Celtic heritage strongly in both camps, I didn't much care which team won.  In the end the Irish ended up easy winners with the full time score 32 - 14.

Six Nations 2012: Ireland v Scotland

We're in Galway, so I thought it fitting that I include in this post, one of my most  favourite songs of all time,  sung here by Mundy & accompanied by one of the best accordian players of all time, the shy Sharon Shannon. 





Steve Earle wrote this song, when visiting Ireland & was apparently staying with Sharon Shannon at the time.   Filmed at Dolan's Pub in Limerick several years ago now, I've been known to play this several times in a day.   I just love its atmosphere.  Enjoy!  




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