After exploring Yeats Country and Westport, we headed off to our next stop – Croagh Patrick, or in Gaelic “Cruach Phádraig”. Cruach Phádraig, which translates to “Patrick’s Stacks”, is considered to be the holiest mountain in Ireland. Thousands of people from around the world make the pilgrimage here every year. Also in the same area is the National Famine Memorial. This wasn’t a long stop but we figured we would have a wee walk up to the base of Croagh Patrick and then head over to the National Famine Memorial.
We arrived in the village of Murrisk and headed up to the foot of Croagh Patrick, following a path that ran past houses and blooming flowers and gardens.
When we arrived at the base of the mountain and turned around, we were treated to this beautiful view of Clew Bay. With views like these at the foot of the mountain, I can’t imagine the views at the top of Croagh Patrick! Clew Bay is also known for being home of Grace O’Malley or Gráinne Ní Mháille. A fierce, independent and formidable woman, she was also known as “The Sea Queen of Connacht” or simply the “Pirate Queen.” For more on her story, check out this link. She really led an incredible life!
Croagh Patrick has been an important historical site for thousands of years. The pagans were said to have gathered here to celebrate the yearly harvest. It is said that Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, fasted at the summit of Croagh Patrick for 40 days. Since then, people from all over Ireland and the world have made the pilgrimage here to climb to the summit of Croagh Patrick. Most pilgrims visit on Reek Sunday and some even do the climb barefoot.
After spending some time admiring the view from the base of Croagh Patrick, we headed back down to visit the National Famine Memorial.
The Great Famine occurred between 1845 and 1852, during which the potato blight devastated potato crops all over Ireland and Europe. Because of various political, ethnic, religious and social reasons, Ireland was hit particularly hard by this. It is estimated that over 1 million people died as a result of the Great Famine – from starvation, malnutrition related conditions, infectious diseases, fever and others. Furthermore, at least 1 million others emigrated from Ireland, destined for countries like Australia, Canada, United States and Britain.
Besides the cost of human life and drastic decline in the population of Ireland, the Great Famine had great implications on the history of Ireland, eventually contributing to the conflicts between the Britain crown and the Irish people who sought independence and home rule.
The Great Famine also damaged the cultural fabric of Ireland. The western part of Ireland was hardest hit by the Famine. This area was also the cultural heartland of Ireland, where the Gaelic language, customs and traditions had been the norm. So when the Famine decimated the population here in the West, including County Mayo, through death and emigration, Irish culture suffered.
There are Famine memorials across Ireland and across the world. This National Famine Memorial in County Mayo is a poignant one. The “Coffin Ship” tells the story of the thousands who sought to flee Ireland and the Great Famine on these “coffin ships,” only to end up perishing due to the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
We made one more stop before heading into Galway – the Erriff River.
These next two photographs are so moody and atmospheric with the clouds creeping over the mountains, yet calm, still and serene. I don’t think I would ever get tired of views like this – kinda reminds me of Scotland as well and exactly the scenery we were hoping to see this trip!
As we turned back onto the road, we were graced with a beautiful rainbow stretching across the Irish skies. The luck of the Irish would be with us for the rest of our trip!
Arriving into Galway, we got settled in our hostel – Kinlay House Eyre Square Hostel. This was a larger, dormitory style hostel – much different from our quaint little hostel in Ballintoy and our hotel room in Derry. We enjoyed our stay here – Kinlay House has clean rooms and facilities, breakfast in the mornings and was in the heart of Galway city. This would be our home for the next two nights. It was nice to be able to unpack a little, instead of packing up right away the next morning! After picking our roomies for the next two nights, we headed out in search of dinner. After wandering around Eyre Square and we ended up on Eglington Street – at the Cellar Bar. It was a nice restaurant/bar and we had a nice dinner getting to know our new friends.
When we first got to Galway, our guide Dave asked our group whether we would like to join a pub crawl. None of us felt like getting too crazy that night, so Dave was nice enough to organize his own pub crawl for us! First, we hit up the Tigh Fox Trad House where we had our first “Irish Car Bomb” and were treated to some “Trad” music or traditional Irish music. We then hit up the Taaffes Bar and the Quays, the latter of which we would revisit the next day!
Galway is considered by some to be the cultural capital of Ireland and boasts a reputation of producing successful traditional Irish musicians. Much like Dublin, the sounds of trad music and craic (Irish: fun and good times!) spill out of the pubs and onto Galway’s Shop Street. There’s just something about Irish music that makes you want to tap your feet, clap and sing along – even if you have no idea what the words are! (I may or may not be inspired to learn the fiddle now – anyone care to teach me?!!)
After emerging from the packed and heated pub, the cool night air was so refreshing. We made our way back to Eyre Square to our hostel and called it a night. Day 4 of our All Ireland Rocker Tour was going to be a good one – we catch the ferry to explore one of the Aran Islands: Inis Mór. Stay tuned!
From Vancouver with Love,
© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!