It almost doesn’t seem real a lot of the time, the way the landscape in the West of Ireland rolls and changes, is cloaked by fog, then seen through the filter of a rainbow before being drenched again in rain or sun. I’ve said it over and over again, but to me, Connemara is one of the most magical places ever, and heading out there on each trip to Ireland is a priority. This trip to Ireland, before we dined and reclined at Ballynahinch Castle, we did some driving around Connemara and climbed Errisbeg, a mountain right outside the town of Roundstone.
Our original plans included climbing Ben Baun, where my father-in-law grew up, but upon driving West, we saw that a thick fog had taken over the top of the mountain. My FIL knows best when it comes to these mountains, and if he says it’s not safe to climb, we change our plans.
We spent a bit of time driving, taking in the pops of yellow gorse against the green and brown mountain backdrop.
We stopped briefly outside Lough Inagh Lodge for a stretch of the legs and some photo ops as we figured out how we were going to spend the day, now that our original climbing plans were foiled.
It was decided we would picnic at Connemara National Park, then head toward Clifden and then on to Errisbeg, which, from what we could see, was in the clear.
On the way, we passed Kylemore Abbey, a place we have spent many lunches and tea times visiting aunties, enjoying the gardens, and soaking up silence in the Gothic cathedral. We had a mountain to climb, so we didn’t stop at Kylemore this time around.
Instead, we had a quick picnic lunch in the visitor center at Connemara National Park and then, after a short drive, set off to conquer Errisbeg.
The mountains we climb in Connemara often look fairly harmless, even when I am in the best of shape, and I am always horribly wrong when I think the climb will be easy. Where it’s not always a super athletic endeavor, it is one that keeps the mind guessing. We hiked through bog, over stones that were covered in slippery lichen, and teetered on loose rocks and cliffs of earth. It’s a slow and steady wins the race type of effort, and while the seven of us were scattered about the mountain, we never lost sight of each other. A walking stick is an immense help for stability, as is a good pair of wellies. I often found myself over ankle deep in water and mud (and sheep poo!), and my feet stayed completely dry.
Natural beauty isn’t the only thing you’ll observe on some of these hikes. On our way, we passed ridges where potatoes were planted prior to the Great Famine and the ruins of homes where people who depended on the potatoes lived. The homes were literally one room, made out of stones, and while the roofs were gone, the stones were stacked in a way that still keeps water out all these years later.
The rewards for making the trek up a mountain in Connemara are absolutely endless. We were surrounded by sea on several sides, with Dog’s Bay and Rusheen Bay on one side and Roundstone’s harbor on the other. Like I said earlier, it almost doesn’t seem real. It’s a place where you firmly plant your feet, breath deeply, and experience the moment with each of your senses, committing it to memory, imprinting it on your soul.
Throughout our Connemara hike, we had a bunch of laughs, plenty of quiet time, and a fair bit of competition, mostly amongst the boys, who had to go to the very top ridge, while the rest of us were satisfied with stopping at the hill below, thank you very much. It gets chilly and blustery up there, and when the fog and drizzle start to roll in, it’s time to find a cozy pub.
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