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Bowled over by last leg of Croagh Patrick trail

Outdoor Living

Walking
Martin Dillane

Part 3
The Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail

Aughagower to Croagh Patrick
Trail Surface: Open moor, farmland, country roads and boreens.
Difficulty: Hard
Distance: 19km
Duration: 4-6 hours
Start: Community center in Aughagower
O/S map: 30

Our walk today features Day 3 of the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail Festival walk, which was held over the St Patrick’s Holiday weekend in March. Today’s stage is the final stage and will bring us from the picturesque village of Aughagower to Murrisk at the base of Croagh Patrick. The bi-annual festival is organised each year by the hard-working Clogher Environmental Group and attracts in the region of 70 to 100 walkers to the area.
The environmental group partners with a worthy charity to help raise funds and increase the profile of the walk. Mayo Roscommon Hospice is the charity for today’s walk, and there are arrangements in place to partner up with Western Care for the autumn walk, starting on September 22 and running until September 24.
The previous two days of walking have claimed a few casualties so our numbers are fewer, but those who remain have acquired a steely look of determination to complete the trail. Departing from Aughagower one imagines that the village is waiting patiently to be discovered. Its many monuments such as ancient graveyards, round tower, mediaeval church and holy wells appear in a concentration not to be found throughout the country.
Aughagower’s Gaelic name, ‘Achadh Ghodhair’, means ‘The Plain of the Springs’, probably due to the fact that it lies in a hollow and all surrounding lands appear more elevated. One of the monuments still in existence is ‘Leaba Phadraig’ (St Patrick’s Bed) where the saint is reputed to have slept. Pilgrims performed stations between the bed and the holy well, Tobair na nDeachan (the well of the deacons), which has now dried up.
Much of today’s walk is on quiet country roads and on a steep hill coming onto the Lankill crossroad, we were treated to the rare sight of David Hughes displaying the art of country lane bowling.
Road bowling is a tradition around Lankill, introduced by workmen from Antrim who built the railway line into Westport. This sport was further strengthened by men from the rebel county who cut down oak woods in the area. Much of this oak was used in the building of the docks in Liverpool. Slate was also quarried in the locality and some of the oldest houses in Westport are roofed using this product. An industrious area indeed!
Lankill is also the site of a seven-foot-tall standing stone. On the west face there is a cross with a V-shaped ornament beneath it, and on the east side is a cross and four concentric circles.
Soon we were passing the famous Boheh Stone or ‘St Patrick’s Chair’ as it is known locally. Here, in 1991, local historian Gerry Bracken discovered a unique event called ‘The Rolling Sun’. During the spring and autumn equinox, from the vantage point of the Boheh Stone, the evening sun appears to roll down the summit of Croagh Patrick as it is setting.
Onward Christian soldiers march, through Brackloon Wood, then Fahburren and up through Deerpark, sharing a short section of the Western Way. From Deerpark to Murrisk, our journey’s end, we are treated to a panoramic view of Clew Bay and its many islands of all shapes and sizes. Westport lies contented where land meets sea.  

Martin Dillane works for South West Mayo Development Company as Rural Recreation Officer. His job includes the design, development and promotion of walking and cycling trails. He can be contacted at living@mayonews.ie. Every month, he will cover a new  section of the 200km Western Way, which starts in Oughterard, Co Galway, and ends in Bonniconlon in north Mayo.

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