We quickly settled in at Cheryl’s, and had a wonderful time. We spent three days in her well equipped studio, ate wonderful meals prepared by her cook Sheila, and spent plenty of time enjoying the views, laughing at the antics of her two goats (one full blooded ancient Irish, and her half breed daughter Granuaile, named for the Irish pirate queen Grace O’Malley) and taking walks down to Clew Bay or along the hills. Amy had fun painting, and I spent my studio time working not on beads, but on insects and fuschia flowers, practicing the techniques I’d learned at Penland.
We spent several days afield, enjoying guided tours with our driver, Colum Ginelly of Wild Atlantic Way Travel. He’s full of information and enthusiasm for County Mayo, and his warm and upbeat personality made every trip enjoyable. And we didn’t have to face the challenge of driving on the left and deciphering Irish traffic signs (some of which were downright mysterious), and could just enjoy the views.
Our first trip was to the Sligo area, for a visit to the Eagles Flying raptor center, with a stop on the way to tour the County Life Museum in Turlough Park, just outside Castlebar. The museum was excellent, and I could have spent more time there, but I also wasted a bit of time because I lost my Tilley Hat, and had to retrace my steps to find it. We had a quick lunch in their cafe, and then drove on to the raptor center, as much a petting zoo as a raptor center. Members of the group got to handle a large python, fly several different types of hawks and owls, and Charlotte even rode a pig!
Another day we spent touring the country between Mulranny and Westport, where we spent some time shopping. My favorite was an all day tour of Achill Island, touring church ruins, marveling at the gorgeous protected bays, and soberly exploring the “deserted village”, a town of about 100 stone cottages on the slopes of Slievemore mountain that were abandoned in the 19th century.
It was a wonderful introduction to Ireland, and we’re already talking about when we can arrange our return.