This time last week during a weeks holiday to both counties Sligo and Mayo, in the norths west of Ireland, we hiked up Croagh Patrick or “The reek” as locals know of it. This mountain is one of Irelands Highest peeks and is most famous for being climbed by pilgrims on Reek Sunday every year, which is the last Sunday of each July. On this Sunday, thousands of pilgrims climb Croagh Patrick in honor of Saint Patrick who, according to tradition, fasted and prayed on the summit for forty days in the year 441.
It has been a personal aim to walk the peeks of a list of mountains in Ireland for a couple of years and “The Reek” is just one of these mountains to hike in the next couple of years.
The weather on the day was perfect and we started our walk about Midday having driven some 80km to the main car park used to start the hike. The start of the walk is good, being flat for a while and then only slowly rising in level, so you get a little time to warmup before the main slopes higher up the mountain side. Once you hike the first slopes the path levels off for a while until you come to the bottom of the main peek.
I really enjoyed this hike, its hard – no getting away from that fact but when you do finally get to the top the views are amazing, you can see most of county Mayo and well into county Sligo from here. there is a step that surrounds a small chapel that you can sit on to eat and have something to drink. We rested here for about 10 mins before walking around the top of the peek.
As you can see these images below are mostly taken at the top, when I finally go to open my bag and get my camera out. As I said you truly feel on top of the world here, this point is some 764 metres (2,507 ft) above sea level, not the highest mountain in the country by about 250 meters but here you start your walk at sea level so it could well be the highest distance you have to walk to get to the top…..
I will let these images do the rest of the talking for me other than to say , this is one of the most enjoyable walks of my life and I cannot wait to walk more Irish mountains in the months yo come ..
Croagh Patrick, County Mayo, A gallery
My Mountain Ash Tree
Season after season.
I’ve gazed upon you
through my window.
I’ve seen the snow hang low
upon your branches.
With white upon red berries.
I’ve watched the snow melt away
to reveal new buds,
ever so slowly,
to leaves so green.
In early Spring.
I’ve watched all the creatures
hop, climb, and fly among
I’ve watched the birds taste
your blood-red berries.
I’ve seen songbirds…
finches, and chickadees.
Come to the feeders.
That hang from you.
I’ve seen the squirrels steal
seeds from the birds.
As their little paws unlatch
a little hook.
I’ve heard the birds sing among your
I remember when the chickadees
built their nest in you,
and then watched their young fledge.
I remember the year the woodpecker
came knocking at your trunk’s door.
As he drilled his beak into you.
And made a hole.
You were never the same anymore…
I watched your life slowly end.
More dead branches to be severed.
As your story slowly drew to a close.
they chopped down what was left of you.
But I will always remember you.
And I thank the Lord for the joy
of beholding your beauty.
Of watching your story.
You have blessed so many creatures.
Beautiful Mountain Ash tree.
The weather plots his journey
Town to town in dead of night
Fields dead and on a gurney
He comes in to make it right
A rainmaker, people call him
A psuedo-scammer others say
He sells himself as godlike
He comes quick and does not stay
He tells people what they wish for
He beats the storm in to their town
He seeds their minds with his tall stories
He promises more green than brown
Like an evangelistic angel
He beats the weather to the ground
He’s a salesman like no other
He picks their pockets with no sound
A rainmaker, just a scammer
He works the towns where nothing lives
He is an alchemist non-gratta
He always takes and never gives
He sells snake oil and concoctions
He is a shaman in disguise
He promises rain where none has fallen
There is more moisture in the farmers eyes
He takes credit for a rainfall
He promises gold where once was straw
He’s a rumplestiltskin with their feelings
He sells them only what they wish they saw
He may believe in what he tells them
He always puts his name out on a stake
But, can he truly make the skies open
That is a choice the desperate make
On Wednesday I posted some picture showing the results of a Wildfire on the bog lands of Littleton in country Tipperary, having done so I just wanted to share some more images from another Bog land in county Waterford and share some of the history of these amazing places along with some details about the history of turf cutting in Ireland.
The Irish tradition of turf cutting
In the past, Irish people heated their homes and cooked their food using turf taken from from the bog as fuel. Turf was cut from the bog by hand, using a two-sided spade called a sleán. Entire families often helped to save the turf on the bog.
Saving the turf involved turning each sod of turf to ensure the sun and wind could help in the drying process. The turf was then placed upright or ‘footed’ for further drying. Footing the turf was a back-breaking job and involved placing five or six sods of turf upright and leaning against each other. Finally, the turf was brought home and stored in sheds or ricks.
In the midlands and the West of Ireland, the tradition of using turf or peat as fuel has continued in many homes.The turf is mainly cut by machine nowadays, but saving the turf still involves lots of work and requires good weather.
The six week long heatwave that we are experiencing here in Ireland during June and July has brought with it some of the best summer weather many can remember, yet it has also at this stage created water shortages and with the ground being so dry we have also had many forest wild fires along with fires on the open bog lands.
I enjoyed capturing these pictures a lot! as the atmosphere on the bog was amazing, the smell of smoke and the cracking of still burning small fires, with dead wood smoking all around me, nothing but deep ash on the surface.
I took these pictures this morning, they show the results of a large wild fire on the bog lands at littleton, county tipperary. Most of the trees and heather have all been burnt, these fires are mostly just on the surface and when we see the return of some rain the environment will recover very quickly. The question is just when will we see our usual Irish summer return , with its rains at least once or twice a week ?