August 25 – Connemara National Park
Today was a roaming day with a slight twist. We thought we might get on the bikes again but that plan didn’t happen, so a roaming/rambling/hiking we went instead.
Sunshine greeted us this morning as we hit the road for our Sunday outing. Not wanting to get ourselves too far away from where we need to return to next week, ready to catch the ferry back to the UK, we opted to stay put in Oranmore as a base and have an outing instead, so off we went for our Sunday drive. Our chosen destination was the Connemara National Park.
We set off, past Oranmore Castle, then motored along the road, passing fields and lakes and mountains.
We stopped for elevenses at a pull-in area beside a statue that looked like it must be of some importance, because there were quite a few people around taking photos of the lake, the statue and a nearby monument. Too many people and cars to set up the elevenses photo so a quick selfie had to suffice and then I went to inspect the statue. Was it representing some famous historic figure? No, it wasn’t but it was memorable all the same. The plaque read, ‘This is Connemara (Conn Son of the Sea) Built in 1999 by Joyce’s Craft Shop For No Apparent Reason’. Joyce’s Craft Shop was just across the road, so obviously a purveyor of fine humour as well as fine yarns and threads!
Beside it was a stone monument with a plaque that must be commemorating some significant past event, deed or person. I walked up to the the plaque and…chuckled!
Even the sign on the road looked very official as it directed passing motorists towards these significant memorials to not very much at all!
Well, that was worth a stop! We cruised on beside the lakes and hills and then passed by Kylemore Castle, built between 1867-1871.
On we went, carefully dodging free range sheep along, beside and on the road and then we arrived at the National Park. It turned out it wasn’t the sort of National Park for riding the bikes. They did have some bike routes, but they were all on narrow, winding roads so we decided to give that a miss. Instead, we hit the trails.
There were four looped walking trails, so we set off on one trail that then attached to another, thinking we’d decide as we went, how far we wanted to go. We could keep going and join a new loop or simply loop back to the start if we wanted an exit strategy. The path had a great view across the National Park and the mountains and valleys surrounding it.
We made our way up the path and got to the fork where the longest route joined the path we were on. The long route went up a hill. Actually not a hill, a mountain and it stands 1,460 feet (445m) high. In the distance we could see the tiny dots of people up on the summit. Should we climb it? I was up for it but Steve wasn’t too sure if his Keens would do the job as far as walking shoes went. In the end he said,”Let’s give it a go,” so off we went.
The beginning of the trail was great, just a shale path and duckboards crossing over the sections of bog. Then, as we began to climb, it became rocky steps.
Up we went and the views became more speccy as we climbed. It warmed up, we shed some layers, stopped to take in the views and then one rock at a time, climbed on and climbed up.
It started to get high, I mean really high! I wasn’t looking down and I wasn’t looking up just to make sure the ol’ noggin didn’t start to spin! I kept eyes on the rocks in front and instead of looking down, looked out and around at the distant, sensational views. It was a brilliant walk, which wasn’t so much a walk, as a fair dinkum climb!
As we neared the top, the rock steps became just rocks. Now it was a matter of looking where to put our feet, seeking out the best rock to stand on, the one with the best grip and best stability as we scrambled and stepped and climbed our way to the summit. Thankfully, for the final stretch to the summit, we had some stone steps again to take us to the top, then a gravel path at the very top.
The views were amazing, down to the lakes, across to towns in the distance and more mountains. At the summit it felt as if we were up in the clouds, as we looked across at the low cloud hanging over the peaks beside us. So worth the climb!
Well, that was the uphill…now for the downhill. We edged our way down the rocks and ledges until we hit the rocky steps again and then onto shale paths and duckboards. We even saw some four footed park residents that seemed right at home on the side of a mountain.
Nearer the bottom we were away from the shelter of the hill and the layers went back on as the chill wind picked up and we rambled along the final kilometres to the bottom of the path.
We just climbed a mountain! It was awesome! In all it was just over 9km of walking, scrambling and climbing up, then scrambling, edging and walking back down. We’ve been trying to do some sort of “activity” every day, either a bike ride or a walk somewhere, so we aren’t just confined to the van. When we got to the bottom, we both declared, what we’d just done definitely fell into the category of an “activity”! Steve could also run an ad campaign for Keens, because the sandals held up just fine and didn’t slip and they got him to the top and back down again.
Back to the van we went and then shot off for the two hour drive back to Oranmore.
Another great day, seeing some more fab places and then an amazing experience climbing up that peak. My namesake is the goat girl from the classic story, so maybe there was just a little bit of goat in the legs today, climbing up that slope. We’ve already established that I can hold a conversation with sheep, so maybe I can include goatishness as an added skill too! Mehehehehe…!