Finding the perfect fjord view


In the first of a new fortnightly series, BOB MONTGOMERYheads west and discovers an amazing new route near Killary Harbour

IT SEEMS TO me that we all have roads we pass that make us wonder, “Where does that road lead?” Sometimes we find the time to travel these roads, but more often than not they remain unexplored by us. The area surrounding Killary Harbour has always been one of my favourite places, including as it does the high Mweelrea Mountain, the magnificent Doolough and the rugged landscape that falls down to the waters of Killary itself.

As such I know this area and its landscape well and thought it had little left to surprise me. However, an examination of the map during a recent visit there revealed a road running roughly northwest from the N59 (which runs from Leenaun to Clifden) to Rosroe Quay.

For about half its length the road runs on the northern shore of Lough Fee with views across the lake to the mountains named Benchoona (581m), Garraun (598m) and Altnagaighera (543m) to the west. At the head of the lake a narrow strip of land separates Lough Fee from the much smaller Lough Muck before the road comes to a junction, the left hand fork continuing on to Tully Cross. Take the right-hand road that climbs for a distance through a delightful tree-covered section before dropping down once more to water’s edge as it skirts Killary Bay Little. From here the road continues along the edge of the bay before cutting across to the other side of the peninsula and Rosroe Quay.

Rosroe Quay is a small but picturesque quay much used by diving clubs and is attractive in its own right but its appeal lies in the wonderful views it allows of Killary Harbour’s mouth and the fjord as it runs inland to the village of Leenaun. Apart from the short section of road that runs along part of the northern shore of Killary Harbour, this is the only place one can reach by road that allows such magnificent views of this unique feature.

Rosroe Quay has one other claim to fame, as a plaque on the wall of an adjoining house testifies. Here, for a short time in 1948, lived the man described by his mentor Bertrand Russell as “the most perfect example I have ever known of genius as traditionally conceived, passionate, profound, intense and dominating.” Ludwig Wittgenstein is today considered one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century.

Encouraged by Éamon de Valera to come to Ireland to develop his relationship with an emerging set of Irish intellectuals, Wittgenstein chose well when he made his home at Rosroe Quay amid the towering beauty of the mountains surrounding Killary. Sadly, his sojourn at Rosroe Quay was cut short by diagnosis of a cancer that was to prove fatal.

Do take this road, one so easily overlooked in this region, and one that has so many worthy landscapes. Its short distance will reward even the most jaded explorer with new insights into Killary and maybe even into the life of an Austrian philosopher who, however briefly, sought the peace to work here.