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Walking the Western Way

Walking the Western Way

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Posted Wed 27 Nov 2019 12:16 PM
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Mid-September earlier this year I undertook a part of the Western Way. A national waymarked trail running from Oughterard, Co. Galway all the way up to Bunnyconnellan in Co. Mayo. I decided to be relatively modest and planned to limit myself to the Galway part of the route, starting in Oughterard and ending in Leenane, on the shores of Killary Harbour - the only true glacial fjord in Ireland separating Counties Galway and Mayo.

https://d2b4i25io5fq3v.cloudfront.net/27-11-2019/a39b2d15-b814-4c68-a4b1-d5ea.jpg
-Overview of the trail. You can find a bigger and interactive version on the website of thewesternway.ie-

Oughterard is easily reachable out of Galway, taking either the Bus Éireann or Citylink service, a connection taking roughly 40 minutes.

There are some supermarkets and breakfast places in Oughterard for a filling start of the day and stocking up for lunch/dinner. My advice would be to take a taxi to the Western Way trailhead and start your walk from there. 
A bit after Doon Rock, on the shores of Lough Corrib, the trail really starts and you're passing through a remote bog and forest. It's particularly nice walking over the boardwalk section and the little bench opposite a waterfall is a fantastic spot for a lunch break. After about 15kms and a last stretch along the R336, you arrive in Maam Bridge. Said bridge has a lovely grassy pier next to it where I pitched my tent, and a very conveniently located pub opposite, called Keane's Bar.

https://d2b4i25io5fq3v.cloudfront.net/27-11-2019/d474c4e6-fc97-4c85-b41e-bc6f.jpg
-Thatched cottage near the Western Way trailhead-
https://d2b4i25io5fq3v.cloudfront.net/27-11-2019/c78ab136-e695-4434-b2c4-abb3.jpg
-Boardwalk path- 
https://d2b4i25io5fq3v.cloudfront.net/27-11-2019/5a3c4c0f-5636-4e87-b1de-f0c6.jpg
-Keane's Bar-

Next morning I got up early, because the 2nd day of the Western Way was going to be a long one, counting 30kms in total. It starts off spectacularly, crossing a desolate mountain pass towards the pilgrim location of St. Patrick's Chapel at Máméan. Your only companions are the free-roaming sheep and wide-open views. Afterwards, it's a pretty straightforward hike along the Inagh Valley. The whole trail is clearly waymarked with the iconic yellow walker signs and the road is relatively flat. The backdrop is simply stunning, with the ever-present Twelve Bens on your left and the Maumturks on your right, leading you straight to Killary Harbour. If you feel 30kms is too much for one day, there are some B&Bs on the way to break up your journey.

https://d2b4i25io5fq3v.cloudfront.net/27-11-2019/b1ca002c-42ee-4675-976b-b541.jpg
-The second day started off rainy-
https://d2b4i25io5fq3v.cloudfront.net/27-11-2019/b0bf1c90-e185-424d-a7e3-e896.jpg
-Through the Maumturk Pass-
https://d2b4i25io5fq3v.cloudfront.net/27-11-2019/fd8e9da9-76f5-4077-b6a6-cab0.jpg
-Mám Éan-
https://d2b4i25io5fq3v.cloudfront.net/27-11-2019/be771f49-3502-480a-871c-c04a.jpg
-On the other side of the pass, the skies cleared up for some gorgeous views over the Twelve Bens-

Leenane is a great place to pat yourself on the back after a long day's hike, take in a glorious sunset over Killary Harbour or go for a well-deserved soak in one of the seaweed baths in Leenane Hotel to relax those aching joints. It's a great place to sample some of the local Killary mussels as well. They pair really well with a pint of Guinness! Leenane is a small little village, so if you want to spend the night there, I'd recommend booking your accommodation beforehand. 

https://d2b4i25io5fq3v.cloudfront.net/27-11-2019/83012328-bc79-4bd4-917f-f135.jpg

Has anyone here walked any other sections of the Western Way? I'd love to hear about your experiences!


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Posted Fri 29 Nov 2019 1:34 AM
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Wow, and just more WOW.

No, Joris, I've not walked the Western Way but am fairly obsessed with giving it a go after reading your post and seeing your photos!

Walking along that boardwalk path beside the stream looks utterly peaceful.  I can't get over the views of the Maumturk Pass - and the hardy sheep!

I have to ask - what are the Celtic cross markers in the right of the Mám Éan photo? I have a few guesses but am interested to know for sure.

Thanks!

Sionaínn

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Posted Sat 30 Nov 2019 3:13 PM
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Thanks, Sionaínn! I'm glad you liked my post. :)

If you feel at ease with wilderness and the sense of isolation, I can't recommend it enough!

The Celtic crosses you're curious about are Stations of the Cross and are scattered roughly around the pilgrimage site. Here is a picture with some more detail so you can see clearer:

https://d2b4i25io5fq3v.cloudfront.net/30-11-2019/f8f93ce3-822b-45dd-9e39-ca04.jpg

There's a tiny chapel and mass altar on the location as well, where masses are held on special occasions! 

https://d2b4i25io5fq3v.cloudfront.net/30-11-2019/e092f05e-734c-4435-80bb-b373.jpg

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Posted Fri 6 Dec 2019 8:14 PM
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I'm speechless! Or, very nearly speechless, in any case.

Like Sionainn, I haven't had the pleasure of taking this route just yet. After seeing these photos, though, I'll have to make time to do so. This path is gorgeous, it really does show off many of the things that have made me fall completely in love with this beautiful isle.

One of my favourite details is the cottage. I've always loved seeing Irish cottages, it's like taking a step into the past. There's a true art to maintaining them, and I'm tickled pink to see the ladder leaned against the side. Were you able to see the thatch being replaced, Joris?

Thank you so much for sharing!

~Rochelle

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