Walk for the Weekend: Lúibín Mhaírois, Carna, Co Galway

A truly lovely 5km walk through the low undulating granite country of south Connemara

 

Three things work to make an enjoyable walk: the route taken, its stories and of course, the weather. When we came to walk the Lúibín Mhaírois, or Moyrus Loop, in the relaxed company of Padraig Ó Cianain and his fellow local residents, we were blessed on all three counts.

This is a truly lovely 5km walk through the low undulating granite country of south Connemara, a mix of beach and boreen, of dry stone walls and old cottages, of machair meadows of wildflowers and granite shores of storm-tossed boulders.

Sea and islands are one’s near and far companions for over half of this walk, and new vistas of distant Roundstone, the Aran Islands and the iconic mountains of Connemara greet the eye as one progresses anti-clockwise around the Loop.

At its southern end, a granite hilltop and its second World War observation post are a perfect place to relax and take in St Macdara’s Island and the sixth century oratory tucked into its sheltered northeast corner.

And, from the outset at Moyrus Beach CP, our local companions wove their stories and the stories of land and seascape into the tapestry of the route. They told us of the lives and livelihoods of the people of this strong and proud Gaeltacht area, of religions imposed and abandoned, of seafarers and fishermen who never came home and of personal family loss to the sea, still keenly felt although generations old. They described the unfortunate fate of Spanish Armada sailors and soldiers who fell into English hands nearby in September 1588.

They told us of the annual celebration of Mass in July on St Macdara’s Island, of kelp processing for iodine extraction, of shark fishing and of transporting cattle and sheep to offshore islands for grazing; and they described their plans to restore the second World War “EIRE” stone lettering, advisory of our neutrality to combatant aircraft.

And they wove into our conversations rich and beautiful Gaelic terms for the most ordinary of things, like the line of long dried-out seaweed marking the high point of an old and exceptional high tide.

This looped route on any day and in any weather would be a joy to walk, except perhaps when a wild south-westerly storm is visited upon the shore section. We came on an entirely unnatural late-June day of high bright sunshine and a temperature close to 30 degrees just inland of the route. The strong light paled the iconic grey quartzite of the Bens and Maumturks and penetrated deep into the clear calm waters of beach and rocky shore, creating almost tropical hues of green and blue. Hedgerows of fuschia and thorn bush were wilting in the heat and drought and ferns were autumn-like browning at the edges. And as we walked northwards back towards the trailhead, the hot sun beat down upon shade-seeking sheep and upon a parched land long shaped by, and more at home with, wind and rain and flying mist and dark skies.

This year’s Carna Walking Festival is September 7th-9th. See facebook.com/carnawalkingfestival for information

Walk for the Weekend: Lúibín Mhaírois, Carna, Co Galway

Map: Sheet 44 or panel maps at Moyrus Beach CP

Start/Finish: Moyrus Beach CP, about 7km from Carna

Suitability/Effort: Easy to moderate, well way-marked, shore and boreen, 5km, virtually no climbing

Facilities: Plenty of opportunities for refreshments in Carna

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