Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Touring The Wild Atlantic Way (Ireland) Day 20 - 22

Touring The Wild Atlantic Way (Ireland) Day 20 - 22

Monday 5th June 2017 - A Mixed Bag - Wild and windy with some showers and some sunshine!
Croagh Patrick - The Reek

This morning we had a plan - but rather than us changing it, obstacles did!  We left our Safe Camp Ireland Site at the Hy Breasal B&B on the island of Achill and aimed for Croagh Patrick - a mountain that is considered to be the holiest in Ireland.  It's locally known as The Reek and it has a five thousand year old tradition of pilgrimages to it's 764 metre summit  - a practice that still continues to this day. Apparently on Reek Sunday, which is the last Sunday in July, over 25,000 pilgrims, some barefoot, climb the mountain to celebrate Mass in the little chapel at the top - and we thought we might follow in their footsteps, but when we got to the car park entrance it was firmly barred by a 1.9 metre height barrier - so that scuppered the first item on our agenda!

So from there on we went towards Killary Fjord, but in doing so, we had to drive along the gob smackingly spectacular Doo Lough Pass which runs between Mweelrea Mountain and the Sheeffry Hills.  The road was narrowish in places and quite bumpy, so our passage along it was necessarily slow but that gave us more time to take in the magnificence of the barren soaring hills which often had water falls flowing down their sides.

However, along with it's beauty came a very sobering story concerning it's history.  About half way along we came across The Doo Lough Famine Memorial - a stone cross engraved with the words 'Doolough Tragedy 1849'.  The information board at the side told of the atrocity that occurred on 31st March of that year -

 On a bitterly cold day 600 starving people gathered in Louisburgh seeking food or a ticket to the Westport Workhouse.  They were told to apply to the Poor Law officials who were meeting the next day at Delphi - over ten miles away.  Some died overnight.  The rest struggled across the mountains following sheep tracks and wading streams.  When they arrived at Delphi the Poor Law officials rose from lunch, refused to help and told them to return.  No one knows how many died by the wayside of cold, hunger and exhaustion but many were buried where they fell!

The above was obviously part of The Great Famine/Hunger that occurred in Ireland between 1845 and 1847 when over a million people died and another million emigrated because of mass starvation related to the failure of the potato crops due to  blight - or to give it it's proper name - Phytophthora Infestans. It was an airborne fungus that originated in America but travelled to France, the Isle of Wight, Britain and eventually Ireland, and it basically turned the potatoes into an inedible mushy mess. At that time about two thirds of the poorest people in Ireland relied solely on the potato for sustenance, therefore the effects over a 3 year period were devastating.

From there we continued on our way and we soon found ourselves on the shores of Killary Harbour - Ireland's only true glacial fjord that extends from the Atlantic inland for 16 kms and terminates at Aasleagh Falls.  However, just before we got to the falls we paused on a platform high up above the water for lunch - it was another stunningly beautiful dining room for us and T4rdis2 to rest in!

Then once our tomato soup was finished we continued on to the lovely waterfall itself where the Erriff River terminates and meets the the waters of the Fjord in a tumbling torrent.  We paused again for a couple of pics but we didn't linger long because we wanted to get on to our main target for today Connemara National Park.  There we'd planned to spend the night and take the 7 km walk up Diamond Hill which is supposed to provide 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside - but once again we were foiled!  There were no height barriers this time but the parking areas were rammed with bank holiday visitors and there was no room at the inn for T4rdis2.

Therefore, we swallowed a big slice of disappointment and carried on another 10 miles or so to The Clifden Caravan and Camping site which will be home for the next 3 nights.  We settled in, had our cuppa, and then toddled out for a walk along a track that took us to a place from where we could view the Twelve Bens of Connemara - a range of 12 sharp peaks!   Apparently some dedicated hikers and fell runners attempt to conquer them all in a single day but I don't think that's on our 'too do' list!

Tuesday 6th June 2017 - Still windy but with more sunshine

We'd mostly come to the Clifden area because our guide book recommended 3 peninsulas that offered spectacular cycling routes.  Therefore, our original plan was to cycle around one of them today and the 2 shorter ones tomorrow, but owing to the weather forecaster's prediction we did 2 today - and if the promised torrential rain comes  tomorrow I think we'll be staying in!

We left T4rdis2 and first headed for a couple of miles down the main road to get to The Cleggan Loop - a 33 km circuit that follows the coast road around the Aughrus Peninsula.  Early on in the ride we passed through the small fishing village of Cleggan from where the ferry departs to the off shore island of Inishbofin, and where legend tells of the smuggler Captain George O'Malley - a smuggler of Jamaican rum and French Brandy!

The deep inlets and rocky islands were a haven for smugglers - and this chap who was born in 1786 - was the most famous sea dog of all.  Customs men feared to go to Cleggan because of the risk of attack by O'Malley's armed gangs!

From there we continued on our way towards the open Atlantic, and there we found some very pretty coves where the hues of the water just had to be seen to be believed as the incoming tide lapped higher onto the beach - a perfect place to stop for coffee and lemon curd scones

Then once we were around the headland we found a detour for the small island of Omey which is connected to the mainland by a vast area of sand.  However, we didn't cross over  because the tide was rising and twice each day this cuts the island off from the mainland for a few hours.  Instead we sat on the mainland side while we ate our lunch - and despite the lemon curd scones from earlier, this was easily fitted in because by now we'd covered nearly 20 miles - and added to that, it was another perfect tranquil place to sit and rest! But this isn't always the case - while we were there we learnt that every August the tidal sands host the Omey Horse Races - the course is laid out the night before, and then the competition begins the next morning complete with bookmakers and huge crowds of spectators!

But it was while we were resting that we glanced at tomorrows forecast which wasn't good - thus encouraging our decision to continue on and do another of the peninsula loops - this time the 16 km Sky Road Loop.    So, once we could tear ourselves away from our very picturesque spot we left Omey and then it wasn't far to the beginning of our next target - but it isn't called the Sky Road for nothing! Once again we were very glad of our e-bikes as the road rampt up to a view point that provided incredible vistas over the islands, mountains and coastline of this area. We'd worked hard to earn this pleasure but it was well worth it especially as it was beautifully enhanced in the the sunshine.

Finally, all we had to do was ride home, and after our long climb this was mostly downhill so it was hold on tight and weeeee for several miles, but as we went there were still fantastic sights to see - especially the town of Clifden with the backdrop of the 12 Bens behind.

Wednesday 7th June 2017 - Weather as predicted ☔🌧🌧⛈🌧🌧☔

Well, what can I say - we are on the west coast of Ireland so I suppose it's only to be expected!  It rained and the wind howled almost from start to finish, so apart from  giving T4rdis2 a bit of a scrub inside we've enjoyed having a duvet day and watching several other campers come back soaked to the skinπŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Tomorrow we'll move on again so fingers crossed that the weather will improve, but for now it's goodbye from 2 nice warm and lazy campers πŸ˜—πŸ˜—

To see our Irish Camping spots click here