After whetting our appetite for hiking in Connemara National Park we set our sights on two more mountains the following day. In the morning we drove to Croagh Patrick, a 2,500 ft tall mountain just north of Connemara.
Every year during the summer solstice thousands of pilgrims ascend this mountain. They come in droves by bus, having left from their town the evening before, and in the middle of the night they begin the arduous climb towards the little white chapel that rests upon its solemn peak. It’s on this peak that St. Patrick is said to have fasted for 40 days before he banished the snakes from Ireland. Though officially discouraged, many of the pilgrims still perform this climb with bare feet.
Well rested and with bellies full of English Breakfast, we charged on up the trail. We were advised by our hostess at the B&B to “at least make it to the statue” before turning back. After a minute or two up the trail we came to a man sitting on a bench at the base of a white statue that is reminiscent of the “Jesus Statue” of Brazil. I wasn’t sure whether I should be offended by the hostess’s assessment of our physical prowess–that we might need encouragement to at least get to this place where I’m pretty sure this old man puttered on up to with his walker, but I decided it best to not think about it.
Much of the trail was just a good workout. It wasn’t until the final climb that I began looking in earnest for the dried blood of pilgrims on the loose, jagged rocks as a sign that maybe this was high enough. It was also around that time that a dreary fog began to settle on what had been a perfectly clear peak just moments before. We reached the top and huddled in an outer recess of the chapel to shield ourselves from the wet snow that had begun to fall.
Time was ticking on our parking meter. We had given ourselves 3 hours to summit, snap some photos of the view from up top, and get back down. We were about ready to give up on the view when it seemed like things might start to clear. Little by little we could see further down the mountain, then some of the houses and fields below began to show, and finally Clew Bay was revealed. After some victory fist pumping and photo snapping, Marvin and I bounded like mountain goats down the trail to make sure the 60 cents we saved on parking didn’t suddenly turn into a 50 euro fine.
Next stop were the Croaghaun Cliffs on the western edge of Achill Island. The Croaghaun Cliffs are the highest cliffs in Ireland and are the third highest sea cliffs in Europe. After having walked along the Cliffs of Moher, we could hardly imagine what it would be like to stand on the edge of a cliff that was more than three times taller.
We parked near Keem Beach and trekked through a valley full of bogs and sheep with the little lambies trailing behind.
To the left were cliffs that gently sloped up before dropping off once they reached the sea. To the right loomed the mountain to the Croaghuan Cliffs. Allison and Eve decided that they had had their fill of climbing for a while and so opted to continue walking through the valley until they reached the other side where we figured you could look up and see the cliff face and wave to us from there. So Marvin and I split off and headed up the mountain.
As we climbed, the cliffs on the other side of the valley which had seemed so high before had now been dwarfed.
Upon reaching the top we were again greeted by fog when moments earlier the peak had been clear. We waited for a while until we began to see the outline of rocks jutting out of the sea and crashing waves hundreds of meters below. As the fog continued to lift, the scene revealed was breathtaking.
The other team did manage to reach their destination at the other end of the valley. Unfortunately, you can’t really make us out waving at the top of the cliffs.
On the way off the island we stopped in at restaurant whose name and a varmint outside it reminded us of home.