The Gaelic name for Cong, Cunga Feichin, is very informative and revealing. Cung means a narrow strip of land and is situated on a narrow isthmus of cavernous limestone between Lough Mask and Lough Corrib.

A stroll through Cong and its hinterland is a microcosmic trip through the history of Ireland and its people. No trace remains of Feichin's haven by the river but the tranquility, clear water and abundant supply of fish that tempted Feichin to settle in Cong are still there to be savored, enjoyed and appreciated almost 1400 years later.

The majestic monastic remains that adorn Cong today are the relics of a monastery built by the High King of Ireland, Turlach O'Connor in 1120 for the Augustinians. The monastery continued as a site of worship and learning, until it was suppressed in the reign of King Henry VIII. You can stroll around the monastic cloisters and cast your mind back to the psalm chanting monks following the ornate Cross of Cong which is now in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. The Market Cross in the village commemorates two former abbots of the monastery. A walk along the dry canal rekindles memories of the dreaded famine of 1845-1848. The canal was a famine relief scheme that never quite fulfilled its promise in any sense of the word. The concept of a canal that would connect Lough Corrib and Lough Mask was the idea of Lord Ardilaun, son of Sir Benjamin Guinness and owner of nearby Ashford Castle. Due to the limestone nature of the terrain, the water disappeared into the ground like water gushing down the plug hole of a bath. Arthur Guinness (Lord Ardilaun) devoted much of his life and considerable wealth to the development of the castle, the walks, the forest and local historical artefacts.

The village of "Cross" is just a few minutes away. Legend has it that a great battle took place between the Firbolgs and the Tuatha de Danann (ancient tribes of Ireland) on the great plain of Moytura in Cross. They played the first ever hurling match on those plains. The Firbolgs outshone that day, but the battle was eventually won by the Tuatha de Danann (Tuatha is pronounced as Too-ha). You can still see the ruins of St Fura's church from Christian times at Ballymagibbon (7th Century). An interesting relic of this old ruin is now placed in the porch of Cross church, a carved stone having in relief the figure of a child.

If you are staying over in Cross you can relax with a copy of Sir William Wilde's Lough Corrib, or enjoy the works of his son Oscar, who roamed the area as a youth while holidaying in Moytura House.

 

Cong Abbey

Cong Abbey was originally founded in 623AD by Saint Feichin as a monastery and this site was then chosen by Turlough Mór O Connor, High King of Connacht and of Ireland, as the Royal Augustinian Abbey of Cong which was built in 1120AD for the Canons Regular of the Order of St. Augustine. 

The Royal Abbey of Cong is one of the finest examples of early architecture in Ireland. Examples of the wonderful craftsmanship is still very much in evidence today with the Abbey's Gothic windows, Romanesque doors and windows, clustered pillars, arches, standing columns and floral capitals.

About the year 1010 Cong was the seat of a bishopric, and there are still extant the ruins of a very fine abbey dating from the twelfth century. It belonged to the wealthy order of St. Augustine. During the last fifty or sixty years the remains have suffered severely from the depredations of those who considered and used it as a handy quarry. It was famous in early days for wealth and ecclesiastical treasures; of the latter the famous Cross of Cong,is a good example. The Annals of the Four Masters record that in 'A.D. 1150 Muireadhach Ua Dubhthaigh, Archbishop of Connaught, chief senior of all Ireland in wisdom, chastity, in the bestowal of jewels and food, died at Cong in the 75th year of his age.' This man's name is inscribed upon the processional Cross of Cong.

Three thousand cenobites resided within its walls and cloisters. The Abbotts themselves were excellent scholars in History, Poetry, Music, Sculpture and the illumination of books. They were also skilled craftsmen in metal work, engraving, inlaying and designing in bronze, gold, enamel, woodcarving and harp making. The Royal Abbey is one of Cong's most beautifully striking treasures.

The Abbey, which was endowed and supported by royal families of the era, is considered to be one of the finest examples of early architecture in Ireland, and it was here that Rory O'Connor, last high King of Ireland died and was buried in 1198 though his remains were later moved to Clonmacnoise. The Abbey was suppressed in the reign of Henry VIII of England in 1542. It then fell into ruins but was later restored in 1850's by the direction of Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, former owner of nearby Ashford Castle. The Abbey served many purposes over the years, including a hiding place for the O'Connor family, a hospital for the sick, shelter for the poor and starving as well as being a place of learning for thousands of scholars. 

This is the site of an early monastery founded by Domhnall, son of Aedh and nephew of Amirach, King of Ireland, in 624. Saint Feichin is said to have been abbot for some time. It was chosen to be the seat of one of the five bishoprics for Connaught at the Synod of Rathbreasail but the diocese was not recognised at the Synod of Kells and the no bishop's name has been recorded. The church and abbey at Cong were burned in 1114 and again in 1137. The abbey was re-established for the Augustinians in 1134 by Turlough O'Connor, King of Connacht. Comparatively little remains of the church itself, and the fine Romanesque doorway was inserted into the north wall in modern times. There is a fragment of a church with three lancet east windows. A doorway in the south wall leads to a three-storey tower with stairway. There are two fine round-headed windows. Beyond this is a vaulted room with a round-headed window and a round-headed doorway leads out. Like most of the rest of the building, it probably dates to around 1200, though the church was possibly built slightly later.

 

Actor & writer Patrick Walsh brings his award winning show to Cong, Co. Mayo where Oscar Wilde spent many of his childhood vacations. 

You will hear about his fascinating life of wit, wisdom & loves. Patrick will share with you some rare stories of Oscar's travels to America & various European countries. Learn about his comic genius from his early childhood to his tragic downfall on his release from prison. 

Patrick will be performing his show in the charming Quiet Man Museum nestled on the banks of Cong river in the heart of Connemara. The show runs during the months of July & August, Friday Saturday & Sunday at 12.30pm, 3.30pm & 6.30pm.

Patrick is considered to be the foremost authority on the works of Oscar Wilde in Ireland. He was the recipient of the Guinness Living Dublin Award for a highly commended entry on a project he undertook on Oscar Wilde in 2000 for the centenary of his death. 

He produced a book, dvd, poster and bookmarks to mark this event for various colleges and bookshops. He has been on a number of TV & radio shows discussing Oscar Wilde's life and works and these can be seen on You Tube and Facebook. In 2012 he was approached by ITV to appear on the popular TV show "Come Dine with Me", to host an evening with Oscar Wilde which was voted the best Irish episode. 

Patrick is invited as a guest speaker in the American College Dublin, formerly childhood home of Oscar Wilde, for Culture evening each September in Dublin which is opened once a year to the general public. 

You can see various TV clips on YouTube oscarwildegenius and Facebook oscarwildegenius

"I called Jim at Ireland West Tours looking specifically for a day touring around Galway to do photography. The minute I mentioned this to Jim, he started talking about light and times of day and I knew I was on to the right person! I trusted Jim with the places he recommended and he did not let me down!"

Jan M., Drogheda, Ireland

 

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Satisfying the customer 

Over the years we have had several compliments on our drivers from many of our satisfied customers. Click on the link to "Tripadvisor" below to read, in full, the reviews of some of our many happy customers.

"We have travelled quite a bit and taken many tours. This tour is top notch and Jim is a master tour guide. And yes, we fed gorgeous Connemara ponies and adorable donkeys. It's incredible value, makes a great use of your time and is like hanging out with an old friend."

Mfarquar, Massachusetts, USA

 

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