mweelrea famine village

Way out West

posted in: Europe, Hiking in Ireland, Holiday

Departing a very wet Dublin at 7.00am on a bank holiday Saturday, we are really hoping this weather won’t follow us across to the West. Our destination is Mweelrea, sort of, we intend to camp on the northern side of Killary Fjord where Mweelrea mountain drops into the sea. On the ordinance survey maps the area is marked as Gublugnageeragh, Carricklea and Gublea, this is our destination, there is a village there abandoned in famine times that is very remote and we hope is worth the trip!

Kilary Fjord hike
We park up for the weekend, near Leenaun Co. Galway, get out backpacks on. Moving out we eye the sky which is darkening over the mountain, nothing new for this part of Ireland, Mweelrea at 814mt is the highest mountain in Connacht and prone to a wee bit of rain. We move westerly down a small road to meet the track which, hopefully, runs the length of the Fjord. The first feature we encounter is the ruins of a cottage, long abandoned, overgrown in ferns and grass. The ground is rough and the track reflects this, moving through high grass it becomes difficult to see where your feet placement.

hiking in long grasses
As the track progresses it raises and drops, become narrow and hard to follow, then it’s gone! Examining the map closely its clear to see that we will encounter some tricky obstacles on our route. We clamber over small outcrops of rock, sloping grassy banks and even seaweed covered boulders. There is plenty of storm debris from the fishing industry and old road signage that the wind has deposited along the side of the mountain. The views are fantastic, there is so much exposure and a real sense of remoteness – even though the Killary Cruise Boat passes us on its travels on the Fjord.

Killary hike
This was bound to happen – we reach what seems an impassable outcrop, the ground being too steep for contouring and the upward alternative being buried in high grass, brambles and ferns. We go up…. it didn’t take long to manoeuvre through this but we emerge plucking bramble needles and thorns from our fingers, hands, legs and its when these are removed that we can focus on the other knocks the body gets clambering and scrambling up these features. Se we continue on our journey, thankfully we have minimum kits and the backpacks aren’t too heavy as, due to the nature of the route, we are moving at half our normal pace.

steep grond underfoot
We navigate around a spur to see our destination about two kilometers away, there are now more signs of human activity along the track now and we reach a small donkey track leading up from the sea. We follow this track which takes us to the abandoned cottages most of which are sited on the eastern side of a small col, giving some protection to the elements. Every piece of available ground is covered with lazy beds, used to grow potatoes. Even in August as the wind howls in from the sea one can only imagine the hardships faced by the people who lived here.

We set up camp outside a ruined cottage, probably to only bit of flat ground available, and explore the area a bit more. The site is well protected from the wind and one of the cottages has a couple of flat stones on the ground – perfect for cooking at. We are trying a new camping dinner, its light weight and has to be better than quick cook pasta. As we get stuck into our noodle, lentil, soya, tomato, basil curry I’m thinking the pasta may have been a better choice! Anyway it did the job and the Jemeson Whisky washes the taste away 🙂

sunset over the sea
We go for a bit of a walk towards the sea and watch the sunset, which plays along and gives us wonderful views of Inshturk Island out in the Atlantic. There are great views of the Killary Fjord and the scars of the past all over the hills and mountains really stand out. We retire tired looking forward to the next day.
Our intended route out is over Mweelrea Mountain, but we have awoken to wind and rain, with low clouds making the mountain route dangerous. We have climbed Mweelrea a couple of times so don’t see the need today, we decide to return on a similar but slightly higher route to the one we came in on. We encountered some more very steep ground, broken paths and high ferns on our way but also noticed the abundance of decaying wildlife and sheep on the ground. This would no doubt affect the water supply, thankfully we brought enough lovely Dublin tap water with us.
We return to the car safe and sound and I’m thinking about one of my friends who wants to do this walk, I say to myself he can do it by himself!