Lin & Wendy in Ireland – Part 2

Lin & Wendy in Ireland – Part 2

Lin & Wendy in Ireland – Part 2

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Random Ireland.

So the final blog of our trip!

We are now in County Mayo.

We were hoping to walk the pilgrims route up Croagh Patrick the holy mountain of Ireland. But it was not to be as dogs are banned from the mountain. A word of warning we have found Ireland not to be the most dog friendly country. Many trails have dog bans and there seems not to be a significant network of footpaths.

Thank goodness for the strands and beaches.

We have pitched up at Achill island , the largest island in Ireland and as we are meeting friends from Belfast we are in a camp site at Keel Bay.

Very wild Atlantic

Very reasonable prices, and scenic setting. This is the first campsite we have used on this trip.

Once we crossed the road bridge we had 2 choices to reach the site and if you should come this way take the coastal WAW ,Wild Atlantic Way, very dramatic.

We booked in for 5 nights and sampled the delights of the Amethyst bar for very good fish and chips and of course the Guinness.

A visit to Keem strand(beach) meant, for our friend Una and me, a walk along to Achill island Head and very dramatic sea cliffs.

Achill head

With our walking juices flowing we decided the next day to tackle the mountain Croaghaun and view the highest sea cliffs in Ireland standing at 688m

So beginning our walk at Lough Acorrymore we ascended to the top , unfortunately also into cloud.

So we couldn’t see the remains of a plane ( Handley Page Halifax bomber operated by the RAF and on a routine meteorological survey) which crashed on June 16th 1950.

It had been on a journey over Ireland to the Bay of Biscay , unfortunately the fog descended onto the Irish coast and the crash claimed 8 lives.

In 2017 a Sikorsky helicopter under contract to the Irish coast guard crashed into Black rock whilst supporting a rescue off the Mayo coast.

We descended from the cloud and could then see Black rock out to sea.

On a happier note we could see the isles of Inishkea and Duvillaun and the peninsula ending at

Blacksod and the very dramatic cliffs.

On Achill island is the largest and most recently abandoned of ‘Booley’ settlements …Slievemore.

Booleying, an Irish term, for transhumance, livestock were taken up the mountain during the summer and potatoes would be planted . Come winter the village would harvest the pots, and move the animals and themselves to lower ground.

In this settlement there were 3 villages with 100 houses in each settlement all aligned north /south.

Moving on from Achill, our friends headed for Fermanagh and we headed for Blacksod.

Arriving at Blacksod an unpretentious fishing village situated at the end of the Mullet peninsula with an amazing history.

We came to Blacksod because on my way back from the deserted villages a farmer in his bright green van, whistling to his sheep, stopped to ask if Phin was good with the sheep, negative to that.

I then proceeded to chat to him and learned the history of Blacksod.

So let’s start with the Spanish Armada.

Previous readers of our blog will recall the armada scuttling off around England, Scotland and Ireland after being soundly thrashed.

Seeking shelter in Ireland some were taken in, only to be taken to Galway and hanged,

Others seemingly more fortunate landed and transferred to other Spanish ships setting sail only to come a cropper on more rocks.

The galleon ‘El Gran Grin’ had anchored off of Clare Island( made famous….more…. by the Saw Doctors song.)

They were met by the O’Malley clan, having trading links with Spain, (bit like today) they provided supplies.

Sadly a great gale sprung up ,the galleon broke its anchor and was wrecked.

Interestingly none of the ships have been found.

Of the 150 ships only 65 returned to Lisbon. If only they had heeded the warning of the Duke of Medina Sidonia “Take heed lest you fall upon the island of Ireland for fear of the harm that might befall you upon that coast “ ….didn’t listen did you Boris!

Previous readers of our blogs might remember the Duke!

In 1835 it was proposed to develop Blacksod into a transatlantic port.

Come 1913 announcements were made to develop a railway to the port

Artist impressions were made of the station , on display at the harbour.

Unfortunately along came the Great War….and trans Atlantic journeys speeded up and thus the vision of the Blacksod Bay Railway Terminus never came to pass.

I was told by a local who by his accent hailed from Liverpool, that the railway terminus at Liverpool Lime Street is an exact replica of what might have been.

In 1883 and 1884 11 ships were used for 15 voyages taking 3300 Irish immigrants from North West Mayo to a new life in Quebec and Boston.

This was financed by an English philanthropist Quaker , James Hake Tuke.

He had witnessed the evictions, seizing of crops by Mayo lords in lieu of payment.

Despite efforts to help local people survive, he realised the local resources couldn’t support such a large population.

In 1882 he established the Assisted Emigration Scheme known as the Tuke fund.(Was this the inspiration for the £10 poms?)

Eligibility was dependant on families being engaged in agriculture, have children of working age….12….and an English speaker.

Each family were given a set of clothes, landing money, and introductions to potential employers.

Tuke spent 60 years trying to eradicate poverty in the west of Ireland.

Onward into the 20th Century, World War 2, June 1944.

Operation Overlord long in planning was imminent, the weather critical for its success.

The weather report from Blacksod in June 1944 proved critical.

The DD landings were due to take place on June 5th , however the weather forecast sent by the Attendant lighthouse keeper at Blacksod on the 4th June indicated bad weather.

The landing was delayed till the 6th and the rest is history.

The lighthouse had been built around the 1860’s, pictured with Slieve Mor on Achill island in background

The Attendant Lighthouse keeper at the time of the DD landings was Mr Ted Sweeney, however it has been said that it was Mrs Sweeney who actually phoned in the crucial weather report.

The same Mrs Sweeney is still alive today and is about to celebrate her one hundredth birthday.

Finally for Blacksod it also had a whaling station beginning trading in 1910, this was halted in 1937.

From Blacksod towards outer islands

We intended to try and do some coastal walks on the northern coast of Mayo , only to discover that many do not allow dogs.

So we have come inland to lough Conn, close to the national park Nephin Beg.

Firstly we visited the very good visitor centre at Ballycroy.

Very informative re flora , fauna and the way of life , both in the past and present day.

Videos illustrated the way the peat was dug , the knitting culture, and the culinary details.

However the highlight ,for us, was the story of the ‘Ballroom of Romance’..actual building.

Saturday night meets, boys one side , girls the other. The music starts …..please guess the rest!

Nephin beg is a dark sky area, sadly for us it was cloudy.

It is extremely midge infested!

On our way across from Dublin, we had briefly experienced the Ireland waterways, so we upped sticks bidding a wave to the Wild Atlantic Way and headed east , to be precise County Leitrim , and Leitrim itself.

A delightful little town with an area for vans at the waterway quay.

We had previously purchased a waterways card giving us access to the loos and showers and a “free undisturbed night”

From Lough Erne in Northern Ireland to the mouth of the Shannon in the south the Ireland waterways provides stopping points for primarily boats but recently campervans as well.

We stayed at Leitrim and Ballyconnell for the night.

Before we left Ballyconnell we had observed 3 men climbing into diving gear. Bog snorkelling we thought, no!

On our return from a walk, they were emerging from the water.

So intrigued I asked them what they were doing…bottle collecting..

Of course perfectly normal…..they kindly gave me a bottle !

Our time in Ireland is coming to an end and we promised to visit a friend in Carlingford on the east coast on the border between north and south.

So we decided a visit to the Mourne mountains was for us.

Finding a delightful stop high in the Mourne’s in a farmer’s field . 360 deg view of sea , fields, mountains, and more fields all for a fiver a night and soon to be installed toilets!

As if the toilets weren’t enough incentive to stop here the walks are literally on the doorstep.

I went with Phineas , whilst Lin stayed with the baby dolls….Lola is now very ancient and a short walk is her limit.

We tackled Slieve Binnian and Slieve Lamaagen

View towards Carlingford Lough and over Silent valley from Slieve Binnian

Looking west from Slieve Binnian

Slieve Donald , the highest mountain in Northern Ireland

So to conclude this trip , we will soon be making our way to Dublin and the ferry back to Blighty,

Lastly, I must mention a particular road marking which made us smile.

When the traffic regs require a speed reduction there is a big SLOW on the road, followed quickly by the word SLOWER and on occasions VERY.

Not sure what that car is intending to do !

Bye from Ireland🇨. 🇨🇮 ☘️ 🧙‍♂️