Hiking The Western Way — Sli an Iarthair

One of my Dad’s favourite things to do is to go for a hike. If you like hiking, you would like my Dad. (Well, I think my Dad is the greatest, so you’d probably like him even if you don’t like hiking!) And you would love his family trips. Each trip involves at least one big hike, and our past few family trips have been planned around a week of hiking. I’m pretty sure that everywhere my Dad has travelled to, he’s hiked there.

The guy who has dragged me out on more hikes than I would have ever thought possible…thanks, Dad!

I am a reluctant hiker. Always have been, and probably always will be. I don’t really have a good reason for this; I enjoy being outside and athletic activities…but ever since I was little we’d set off on family hikes and I’d be cheery for about an hour before I would start asking if we were almost done.  Now that I’m more mature (but just a little bit), I usually let my Dad hike in peace while I walk in a little dreamland and hum tunes to myself and pray that I don’t have to scramble on my hands and knees up a gully (it’s happened before!).

I will admit that it is a fantastic way to experience the natural beauty and local culture of a place, but after 10 kilometers it all kind of starts to blur together. There have been some moments that I’m not very proud of while I’ve been hiking, maybe it doesn’t bring out the best in me — a picture may or may not exist in which I’m flipping off the photographer (my poor Dad); that picture will not be posted!

It almost looks like I’m enjoying myself!

Anyways. A hike once in a while is fine, but when I know five days in a row of the activity are planned I get a little apprehensive. That being said, there were moments on the trails of the Western Way where I felt myself enjoying almost every step….who knows, maybe there is still hope for me as a hiker. I think my Dad hopes that the man I marry will be a hiking addict…

The Western Way, Sli an larthair in Gaelic, is a 179 km trail that runs through County Galway and Mayo in the west of Ireland. We organized our trip with Hill Walk Ireland, which was lovely. Our walks took us from Oughterard, to Maam Cross and Maam Valley, from there to Leenane, then the small town of Drummin and finishing in Ireland’s “tidy town” of Westport. We’d stay at a different B&B each night, and our luggage would be taken to the next one while we were hiking (what service!).  The trails are well marked and with the maps that HillWalk gave us it would have been difficult to get lost.

Taking a quick break off the trail.

It seems redundant to tell you how stunning the Connemara landscapes are. But it is beautiful; stunning and rugged. In a way it reminded me a lot of parts of Canada (Newfoundland!).

The boys hiking the Western Way.

We made friends with sheep! Or we tried to, anyway. I don’t think they were that impressed with us, except for the baby lamb who stole my mum’s heart.

I loved the B&Bs.  Like each town we passed through, our hosts were lovely and each house had it’s own distinctly Irish charm.

Breakfast time at the Old Convent B&B in Leenane.

Wool wool everywhere! At the Sheep&Wool Museum in Leenane.

Soaking tired toes in a steamy seaweed bath…refreshing!

We finished everyday with a delicious meal and a pint;  felt like I had earned that beer…

Post-hike refreshments

Hearty Irish Stew for dinner

They say that the Guinness tastes better in Ireland. Maybe it was because we had walked all day through all kinds of Irish weather, but I can’t imagine it tasting better anywhere else!

The sun sets on Ireland’s only fjord at Killary Bay.

Despite my protestations I’m sure this won’t be my last time on a hiking trail….just keep trekking!

Home Sweet Home

I’m baaaack. Arrived home just in time to start back at my summer job — a two day work week, so very strenuous!

Ireland was great. Learned so much more about the country’s history and we also learned that my mum’s Irish last name derives from the Gaelic for “half leper” or “of the sick”…how lovely!
I can’t imagine that I would ever sign myself up to hike for more than a day (two max!), so I guess I’ve got to thank my Dad for throwing me out on to the trail! I was worried we wouldn’t be left with enough time in Dublin, but we managed to pack a lot in. What a cool city. We had a small window of opportunity when our whole family could travel together, so I’m really glad we had this trip. I’m a lucky gal!

Molly Malone: “The Tart With The Cart” on Grafton Street in Dublin

Now that I’m home I’m really looking forward to catching up with friends this weekend, some tennis in the sun, and celebrating my wonderful mum! Also pretty excited for the spring edition of the Ottawa Locavore Artisan Food Fair.  If you live in Ottawa you have to check this out! I went to their last one around Christmas time and it was great! I’m sure this one will only be more popular.  Stone Soup Foodworks, who I’ve raved about before, will be there as well as many, many other celebrated artisans. What a great first weekend back in  town, hope yours is too!

Hello from County Galway!

We arrived at the Shannon airport bright and early Sunday morning and hopped on a bus to Galway and then off to Oughterard. Since then we’ve been hiking from one B&B to the next, stopping in the little towns we pass through to see the sites, and for tasty dinners at the end of the day (with a pint of Guinness, of course!). The Irish hospitality has been absolutely lovely, and the rugged landscapes are stunning. I decided to travel light, so my laptop is at home and I won’t be able to upload any pictures until we return (the horror!). So, I’ll leave you with this snapshot from my iPhone savvy brother — the best way to soothe tired muscles after a few days of hiking through the Irish countryside? The Connemara Seaweed Baths should do the trick…

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Today was our first full day of sunshine, I’m hoping we can keep it with us for the rest of our rambling! Two more days of hiking and then we’re off to explore Dublin, any suggestions??