The vast bogs that lie just west of Galway city are a difficult place for the mind to grasp. Beyond here is Connemara, a region that – while its borders are vague – at least has a coastline, mountains and villages that give it some sense of structure and definition.
But between Galway and Connemara is an empty and nameless space, where few people ramble. In my adolescence, I would often cycle the mountain road here between Moycullen and Spiddal, and stare into these featureless plains, dumbfounded.
But these spaces have gradually been rationalised and civilised over the years. First by the arrival of forestry – there are big plantations here – and now by the development of wind farms rising on once empty horizons. The wild bog north of Indreabhán is one of the few untouched parts of this peatland, and from the coast road, long boreens stretch high into the bog.
Starting from the coast road between An Spidéal and Indreabhán, I set out to walk one of these tracks at Cor na Rón with two friends on a cool January afternoon. After passing some houses, all settlement recedes behind you and the road roughens as you emerge into the bog.
We followed this track north for a few kilometres, in temperatures worryingly warm for January. In the dead of winter only the yellow gorse was flowering, and as the noon sun rose the sky grew a pale empty blue.
Way ahead you will see a house hiding in a small wood. This is the site of the old Crumlin Lodge, a fishing lodge that burned down in 1997, with the death of its owner Patrick Helmore. Mr Helmore was the father-in-law of Roxy Music singer Brian Ferry, and the artwork for the band's classic album Avalon was photographed here.
Abhainn Chromghlinne, the Crumlin River, flows just to the west here, and its fishery – a chain of lakes and streams stretching deep into the bog – is known for its sea trout. Take the right turn before you near the lodge. Then continue straight, ignoring two right turns. The track swings right by Loch Ugga Mór, then brings you to a T-junction. Go right here and continue past another lake, and back down to the main road.
If you’re pressed for time, you can turn right here (the footpath is across the road, but take care crossing) and walk back to the start point. But for a more interesting route, turn right then immediately left, joining a boreen on the far side of the road, heading down towards Galway Bay.
After passing a few houses, this track winds through a complex of drystone-walled fields and old lanes. As you near the sea the land gets wetter, and the fields become filled with reeds. When we passed here, the track was flooded for a short stretch – wellies or boots would be advised if coming this way. And after lots of rain this section might be best avoided if heavily flooded.
You emerge to the shoreline of Galway Bay, and turn right. There is no shortage of houses here, but the intersection of meadows, wetlands and coastline here is still inspiriting.
You now follow the shore west. Carry on past a cross at an old burial ground for unbaptised children, and take the fourth turn after this (beyond a dwelling with a small caravan-like outhouse, see panel for co-ordinates). Now continue straight up this track to the main road, and your start point is just to the left.
Walks Indreabhán Bog, Co Galway
Map: OSI Discovery Series sheet 45 covers this area, but Google Maps or similar are useful for finding your way.
Start/finish: On the R336, 8km west of An Spideal/Spiddal, there is a right turn just after a white cottage. This is your start point (GPS: 53.239070, -9.424503, grid reference: M 049 219). Some parking on R336 just east of this turn, and at the bottom of this road. Later in the walk, turn right from the shoreline on the track at 53.233704, -9.425731, grid reference: M 048 213, to return to start point.
Effort: 10.5km/2.5 to 3.5 hours
Suitability: Easy flat walking on quiet roads and tracks, with only the odd passing car. You may need boots or wellies if the track to the beach is flooded. Take care on the busy R336.