Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

When sunshine arrived late on the way from Maam Cross to Oughterard

20th December 2022

This is the third of four hiking trip reports from an August 2018 stay in Galway that allowed me to venture on day hikes in the counties of Clare and Galway. The first of the four ventured along part of County Clare’s Atlantic Coast, while the second related reconnaissance wanderings around Connemara. There is also an account of a preceding evening stroll around Galway among my Travel Jottings. The last of the lot will describe a day out on the largest of the Aran Islands.

This account is of a day hike between Maam Cross to Oughterard that used a section of the Western Way for much of its route. The night before had been beset with heavy rain, leaving some of the distance in a waterlogged state. That lay in the future on a dry, overcast morning when I caught a bus from Galway to Maam Cross. From there, I started along the R336 towards Leenaun.

There was motor traffic along the road, but it was not oppressive, and someone stopped to ask if I was a local. Whether it was someone who knew me and I might have known at one time remains unknown to me, but I shared what I was about anyway and continued my hike. You do not want to upset anyone, but the passage of time and my being in numerous places along a life journey can mean that you may not recognise people who you should know. The greying and loss of hair are no help for the recognition of old acquaintances either.

Lackavrea, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland

Like the previous day, low cloud obscured most summits. That limited views and photographic efforts in what would have been a bewitching location in sunshine and under blue skies. A French family were figuring out where they were going at the point where I joined the Western Way and left the R336 behind me. The ground was boggy underfoot, and I soon started along the longest section of boardwalk that I had met in my entire life.

This led me under the slopes of Lackavrea and through a waterlogged forestry plantation. Owning some forestry land myself, I was stunned to see where this state forestry plantation was sited, for it might not have been approved for a private scheme. It also meant that there was a chance of drowning if you fell off the boardwalk, especially with a hefty rucksack on your back. Careful foot placement was in order because there were places where repairs were needed.

The route shadowed the Forlore River that flows from Loughanillaun to Lough Corrib. It was not a boardwalk all the way and I rested at one point, which allowed the French family to ask the way to Lough Corrib, and I showed them using the ViewRanger app on my phone before leaving them to go on their way. That would have passed where the Forlore and Owenree rivers come together, with Lough Corrib nearby.

This was an enticing spot that had me longing for more sunshine and less greyness. On a bright, sunny day, I might have been rooted to the spot for a good while with all the hills that lay all around me. It was a matter of enjoying things as much as I could before joining the quiet single-track road that would carry the rest of the way into Oughterard. There was even a chance of a lunch stop as well, and I got wished Bon Appétit from another French speaker.

Boats on Lough Corrib, Co. Galway, Ireland

Road hiking is never rated highly by many who enjoy countryside walking because of the hard surface and its unforgiving effects on one’s feet. In Ireland, many Waymarked Ways proceed along this type of surface, and it might be said that Irish boreen walking is a unique experience not found anywhere else. At least, that came to mind during a walk on part of the Dingle Way earlier this year.

When sunshine arrived late on the way from Maam Cross to Oughterard

When sunshine arrived late on the way from Maam Cross to Oughterard

All the while, the cloud cover was breaking up over my head to allow for spells of sunshine. The sun was getting through with varying levels of success, and this variation was temporal as well. Still, there were moments you could use for added admiration of the surroundings. An All Ireland Hurling Final in which Galway were playing Limerick was ensuring that there was much quietude. Around Slievenavinnoge, though, some were out picking berries from roadside bushes as I was passing. Not everyone was dedicated to supporting their county team that day.

When sunshine arrived late on the way from Maam Cross to Oughterard

When sunshine arrived late on the way from Maam Cross to Oughterard

There was a side trip to Lough Seecon as well, and quite what made me do this is somewhat lost to me. My guess is that I fancied a little variety, as it was a short break from the road tramping. Timing was on my mind since I did not want to miss a bus connection in Oughterard, with more to walk before I got there. In the end, my fears were completely groundless, as they so often are, and I got the side trip that I fancied.

When sunshine arrived late on the way from Maam Cross to Oughterard

It was quiet around Oughterard when I got there. Galway had lost the game, and Limerick became All-Ireland Hurling Champions for the first time since 1973. They have had a run of such results in recent years, despite or maybe even because of the travails of a global pandemic. After a call to a shop for necessities and some small talk about my walk, I found my way to the banks of the Owenriff River where I enjoyed another food stop, this time in bright sunshine.

After that, the vigil awaiting the next bus to Galway could begin. There was even more time to spend than I could have expected for the Clifden Show traffic was heavy and causing delays. My departure was well late and very full, though I ended up getting a free ride. Someone else missed their intended connection for Dublin and was not best pleased when it left as the Clifden bus was arriving. If this was a Bus Éireann operation, the service to Dublin might have been held, but that is not always the case with private operators who employ drivers born outside of Ireland. Hopefully, she got where she needed to be.

That was left after me as I returned to my hotel following a long day spent in much quietude. Another visit when there is more sunshine would add more delights, but this was a good start. There is a lot around Connemara for a hill wanderer, though trailheads have to be identified and public transport planned. With initial encounters completed, deeper incursions can follow.

Travel Arrangements

Single journeys with Bus Éireann on route 419 from Galway to Maam Cross and with Irish Citylink on route 923 from Oughterard to Galway.

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