A bright, sunny day dawned on the Monday of the June Irish Bank Holiday, a day whose sunshine I had truly wished I’d had a bit of the day before on Achil. It was time to head south, as my weekend drew to a close. I felt ok after the yomp up Croagh Patrick. I drove towards Connemara on the N59 but soon yearned for another glimpse of Mweelrea, so I soon branched off west onto the L1824 and what an unintended masterstroke it turned out to be. The road led me through the Sheeffry Hills (also a cycle route) over a single-lane mountain pass near Sheeffry Bridge, skirting past Tawnyard Lough before rejoining the R335 I had travelled up on, at Doo Lough. Here the water lay still, providing a perfect reflection of Mweelrea.
Passing through Leenaun and into County Galway once more, I decided to turn off at Lough Fee and explore some minor roads on the southern side of Killary Harbour, following the edge of Killary Bay Little, directly behind Mweelrea, until I reached the quayside at Killary Harbour, where some deep-sea divers were being taken through their paces. Via the southern side of Killary Bay Little, I encountered the Hamlet of Glassilaun and Carrickduff Beach, with views across towards Achil Island and the County Mayo coastline. I went for a walk along this lovely little beach and a number of folk were out, some playing with their kids on the sand. The real bonus in taking this detour however was that this afforded me views across along the coastal end of Mweelrea, which seems infinitely more accessible than does the rather more daunting route from Doo Lough. It looked a doddle by comparison, albeit that I was viewing the topography from some distance.
This choice of route, whenever I do get to tackle this summit in future, seems vindicated by comments I found on-line [here]:
“Mweelrea is a mountain overlooking the Atlantic coast, and as such weather conditions can change very rapidly and this poses particular challenges for climbers who are inexperienced or have limited navigation abilities. From the East the mountain is well protected by outlying ridges and boggy ground as well as a cliff line to the East of the main summit. The easiest ascent is probably by starting on the coast to the west of the mountain and ascending gentle slopes, but even from this side climbers need to navigate carefully as cloud or mist can obscure the summit very rapidly.”
I continued along the Atlantic coast a bit before heading inland through Tullycross back to Letterfrack, location of the Connemara National Park Visitor’s Centre. Heading back through Clifden, I followed the coastline, which turned out to be flat generally, until I reached the village of Roundstone with its beautiful harbour, where “local fishermen prepare and return with the day’s catch, featuring a mix of Lobster, Crab, Shrimp, Mackerel, Cod plus a wide variety of other fish”. I discovered that “the anglicised name is usually considered an error on the part of the British colonial Ordnance Survey who translated the village name; while Cloch certainly means Stone or Rock, Rón means Seal, not Round”.
The village of Roundstone also offers a splendid panorama of the Twelve Bens to the north. It was sunny and folk were about on the promenade and in the pubs, so I stopped for the teetotal option of coffee and cake. Just before rejoining the N59 at Canal Bridge, I had a narrow escape along a relatively a slender section of the R342 near Cashel, when a car travelling in the opposite direction hit a rock low down on the roadside. Though there was no noticeable sense of impact at the time, though the sudden loud bang had alarmed me. I got out and chatted to the other driver, an Italian, though without necessarily exchanging words.
Prior to returning to my base in Shannon, County Clare, I detoured off the N59 to Galway and along the R336 (which in in fact leads to Leenaun from the south-east), to enable me to explore the northern side of Lough Corrib, which is connected to the sea at Galway by the River Corrib. Situated mainly in County Galway, it is the second largest lough in Ireland (after Lough Neagh) and covers 176 km². It is a Ramsar site, a treaty that provides for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands. Sadly, the ecology has been under threat. Cryptosporidium was confirmed to be present in the drinking water of Galway City taken from Lough Corrib, which was likely to have been contaminated by migration of animal and human faeces.
William Wilde, father of Oscar Wilde wrote a book about the lake, first published in 1867. It is popular as a fishing spot and a picture of tranquillity. Homes bordering the lake gave an impression of being fairly up-market, probably a good location if Galway was your business centre. This route led me visit the town of Cong (which had been recommended by Intel colleague Fiona), a village that straddles the borders of County Galway and County Mayo. It was the home of William Wilde. The town is the site of a ruined medieval abbey, Cong Abbey, where Rory O’Connor, the last High King of Ireland from the mid to late 12th century before the Norman invasion, is buried.
Sadly, a remarkably rewarding long weekend had drawn to a close as I reached Shannon around 22h00 but was left with the legacy and assurance of so much more to explore at some future date.
Ben Breen House B&B – website
Socks in the Frying Pan – website
Connemara National Park – website
Connemara Wild Escapes – website
Owenglin Circuit Twelve Bens (23 km) – YouTube
Exquisite panoramic photo of Delphi Valley
Croagh Patrick Lodge B&B – website
Croagh Patrick Mountain – website
Croagh Patrick, sacred island – webpage
Almost Climbing Croagh Patrick – webpage
Gielty’s Pub & Coffee Shop – website
Achill Island Guided Walk – YouTube
This is Achil – a blog [makes good reading]
Climbing Mweelrea – YouTube
Walking Mweelrea – blog (this would be my preferred route)