After reproaching myself for not doing so for too many years, I set aside some time to explore part of the land of my birth and upbringing. Too often, any such excursions have been fitted in around other activities and needed to cater to the needs of others. It was time for some self-driven explorations of my own and the idea of doing just that on a trip to West Limerick to attend to Irish business affairs. There was a past occasion when the weather had been so fine that I was tempted to stay on a coach heading for Galway rather than disembarking at Shannon Airport as planned. It was to set the scene for what I did on a six day stay this summer. As luck would have, the extraordinarily hot sunny weather was gone and a more usual mix was my fare but I made the best of what I was allotted.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, the city of Galway was my chosen base and its transport connections allowed me to explore a few places beyond its limits. The choices were numerous so some filtering was in order given the time that I had. Of course, I got to strolling around the city too with much that happening on the day of my arrival. An evening of improving weather saw me find the coast near Claddagh and pop out to Mutton Island before venturing as far the perimeter of Salthill. The hills of north Clare lay across Galway Bay and the more extensive sunshine allowed for some photography.
The next day could not be more different and it was tricky to work out what to do given the predicted rain. Nevertheless, I headed to the Cliffs of Moher where I hiked as far south as Signal Tower before returning north again to pass O’Brien’s Tower and continue along the Burren Way as far as Doolin where I got something to eat before going as far as the pier to see where ferries leave for the Aran Islands and boat trips along the Cliff of Moher are offered. Though damp for much of the time from rain, drizzle and ocean spray, it had been a satisfying day out with the return coach journey taking in such sights as Dunguaire Castel near Kinvarra and Black Head near Ballyvaughan. There even was a short stop to take in the view down from near Corkscrew Hill though I suspect it was the action of a canny bus driver to stop people standing on a moving coach to take photos of what lay before them.
Thankfully, the following day stayed dry until evening when heavy rain came. During the dry spell, I headed to Recess in hope of walking to the top of Lisoughter hill. However, the sight of a low cloud base made me reconsider my plans so I instead chose a shorter stroll that still gave the desired views over Lough Inagh and towards what could be seen of the clouded Twelve Bens while passing both Derryclare Lough and Glendollagh Lough. After that, I continued to Clifden where a coastal stroll was enjoyed though skies looked laden with moisture. Dark grey cloud cover had been my lot though there was some sunshine around Oughterard as I returned to Galway where some matters needed my attention.
The predicted heavy rain only lasted a few hours and left the next day completely dry so it was time for some longer hiking. This started from Maam Cross where I started along the R336 to reach the Western Way. Someone in a car stopped to ask if I was local but left me to carry on when he learned of my plan. A French family were milling around as I left the road to cross bogland on a bouncy plastic mat on the way to a Coillte forestry plantation. Then, I was lead along a boardwalk that lasted for kilometres over a sodden landscape under grey skies with hilltops cloaked in cloud; it felt like a repeat of the previous day at this point. Lackavrea lay to my left all of the way to the backs of the Folore River that I would shadow as far as the shore of Lough Corrib. One of the French visitors caught up with me to ask how far it was to the lake in broken English. Maybe I should have tried my French but the required assistance was provided nonetheless. The boardwalk was left after me at the lake shore for a rough gravel track that lead to one with a smoother surface that itself conveyed me to the narrow road that I followed for the rest of the way to Oughterard. Progress along that was punctuated by various food stops, the first of which had me being wished “Bon Appetit” by someone who arrived in a car for a spot of strolling, and a side trip as far as Lough Seecon. Cloud broke and the day grew more sunny to leave a fine weather dawdle around Oughterard before grey cloud cover grew again as I awaited a coach back to Galway.
There was one more full day to use after my trot along the Western Way and that allowed me to spend time wandering around Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands with a coach and ferry combination getting me there and back. Once on the island, I found its quieter southern parts as I walked towards Dún Aonghasa. Light rain showers peppered the morning time before growing less frequent as the day progressed and bright sunshine began to appear so that helped any photographic efforts. The clifftop fort was visited and I could have spent longer there but for my heightened desire to reach my desired ferry connection to the mainland. On the way back along the island’s north shore, I found myself sharing a lane with cyclists and touring minibuses together with horse and trap excursions. As it happened, the horse traffic added odour to the journey courtesy of dung left on the tarmac. The journey had its busy moments but there were quieter stretches too and I had some time to spare before catching the ferry to Rossaveal where I spent some more time before catching the coach back to Galway.
My departure happened the next morning but there are reasons to return to this part of Ireland. Any lack of sunshine would not be the main cause because there remains much more to see. Sunlit walking along the Burren Way between Liscannor and Doolin sounds attractive and there is Black Head itself too. Inishbofin is another island that I would like to visit and then there are the smaller members of the Aran Islands. Other parts of Connemara such as Letterfrack and Leenaun take my fancy while a walk from Recess to Maam Cross could be another possibility. As things stand, only a start has been made in exploring Clare and Galway while Mayo and Donegal are worth doing too. There could be an Irish hill country and island wandering project yet.