Friday, 11 September 2015

Achill Island. Croaghaun. 688 metres. County Mayo.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
The main destination for our visit to the Republic of Ireland was the intention to drive from Donegal, through Sligo to Mayo and head for Achill Island in the hire car. Getting up early and driving down the west coast we stopped off for a second breakfast around 11:00 am at the Topaz garage in Castlebar, Co Mayo, which does a great value hot buffet with a selection of sausages, eggs, bacon, chips etc along with petrol and diesel sales. 4 large tasty sausages in a paper bag for around  1:25 Euro. Magic.
This is Bob R on Croaghaun summit ridge, at 688 metres, 2257 feet, the highest sea cliffs not only in the Republic but in the UK and the 3rd highest sea cliffs in all of Europe.
Like Scotland, most of Ireland's mountains start close to sea level so you climb the full height of the mountain but in this instance we had the help of a minor road leading up to Lough Acorrymore and the adjacent dam which saved us a couple of hundred feet off the start. As it was 1:00pm by the time we arrived we immediately booted up and set off.
This is a view of our hill with some nice cliffs on the landward side but the seaward side of Croaghaun falls almost vertically into the Atlantic ocean, over 2000 foot below. If you fell off the cliffs from the summit you wouldn't bounce many times on the way down.
Achill Island is the largest off Ireland and lies on the west coast in mid Mayo. It also has three substantial mountains on it. Croaghaun, the highest and furthest west, Slievemore, at  672 metres, just slightly lower and Barr an Mhionnain at 466, which might be called Menawn or Minaun Heights locally as it didn't have a marked name on our map. It's the one with the minor road up it to the transmission mast and the obvious shrine/ statue on the summit. Three great viewpoints over the extensive and island dotted Clew Bay.
The summit was soon reached and we had a wander along the cliff edge looking out for the Peregrine Falcons that are supposed to frequent this set of cliffs. No sign of them today but the drop down to the sea was impressive. Achill Head below in this photo, the western tip of the island. Next stop America.
Alex being Alex he wandered off to a subsidiary ridge for a better viewpoint. He is always careful in these situations but some folk just have tremendous balance and a great head for heights. I've met a few folk over the years that seemed to appear just as composed walking a plank 1000 feet up in the air as confident and unconcerned as ordinary humans like you and I would feel with it placed six inches off the ground. Cant say I share his ability.
Getting back wasn't so easy but he did it with his usual style.
It was a great ridge walk of sheer cliffs falling into the sea all the way along to the far end where the ridge met the slopes of Slievemore and started to climb again.
Slievemore in the distance at 672 metres.
The Cliffs of Achill Head. We were so high you could hardly hear the roar of the waves pounding this coastline.
An island out to sea. This is Blacksod Bay which has several rugged islands but the neighbouring Clew Bay has scores of drowned drumlins in it, making it a unique archipelago and marine habitat area of special conservation. Fantastic place.
We couldn't see the inner bay from here with all the small sheltered islands in it but this is a view of the outer Clew Bay which was once the home of the notorious Pirate Queen of Connaught, Grace o' Malley.
I looked at a few serious academic accounts of this woman but this link was definitely the funniest and most colourful while still getting the story across. Worth a read. Incredible woman for that time. Some swearing but full of verve. Would not be surprised if she was the main inspiration for Keira K's character in Pirates of the Caribbean and a similar female character in Game of Thrones, which is of course partly filmed in Ireland.
A view off the edge of the sea cliffs.
At one point we came across a narrow section of the ridge where a deep hole ran into the cliff. Bob R also has a great head for heights, especially as he is approaching 70 years of age. Bob on the bad step looking down at 2000 feet of air below.
A spot of unconcerned boulder hopping.
Climbing back up onto the man ridge. Scotland's most active pensioner?
Walking along the sea cliffs.
More sea cliff walking.
Offshore sea stack islands.
Heading back down to the car park beside Lough Acorrymore. What a fantastic Mountain.
I first heard of Clew Bay and its many islands on " Coast" so for those that missed it here it is again.


Linda W. said...

Wow amazing hike! Love those steep cliffs. Your friend is much more daring than I would ever be.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda,
people like Alex just think its normal. I once met someone with an amazing memory who could remember meeting random strangers and everyday conversations word for word 20 years afterwards. Usually they can't understand why the rest of us don't have the same ability.

Carol said...

A lot of that looks bloody scary - especially that place Alex was posing and that horrifying narrow ridge - did you have to come back along it as well? I couldn't make it one way! :-o
P.S. that link about Grace is bloody funny!

blueskyscotland said...

Hello Carol,
Although exposed at the summit it's an easy hill to climb. The bad step was further along the ridge where a large sinkhole had formed, being limestone, and a rocky arete presented itself at the edge of the cliff. It wasn't part of main walking ridge but was good for photos. What can I say... we still like a scramble on a hill.