Take a backwards glance along Murrisk Loop

Outdoor Living

Martin Dillane

Murrisk Loop Walk
Trail surface: Open hill and boreens
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 6 kilometres
Duration: 2 hours
Start: Car park in Murrisk
O/S maps: 30, 31

In 2015, I was delighted to assist Murrisk Development Association in creating a series of walks in and around the village. These walks became known as the Mountain Loop, Pier Loop and the Abbey Walk, and when combined as a single route they become the Murrisk Loop.
A year on from their launch, I decided to visit them again and see how they have developed in the interim. The loop is around 6k in length, and gives the walker a taste of open hill, country lanes and delightful sea views without requiring a great level of fitness. However, good boots and a walking stick are essential—and there is no shortage of the latter available beside the new map board in the car park.
Murrisk is probably best known as the starting point for the climb to the top of Croagh Patrick. Whilst that is undoubtably true, the village and surrounding area has much more to offer, for scenery lover and history enthusiast alike. The name Murrisk is derived from the old Gaelic and means either ‘Muir-Riasc’, a marsh by the sea, or ‘Muir-Iasc’, the sea monster whom the Pagan Gods used to worship. There are only two or three areas with this place name in all of Ireland.
The beautifully designed map board gives the walker great information on the features that will be encountered on the walk, and to help identification they are numbered accordingly with small black posts dotted throughout.
Among these are features like the ‘Fullacht Fia’, Pairc na bFataí and the Banrach. Fuluacht Fia were cooking places used in the Bronze Age, usually found in boggy land or close to a water supply. Meat or shellfish were cooked in water brought to the boil by rolling in hot stones from a nearby fire. There are four such sites here in the townland of Belletaleen.
Banrach is an enclosure used for storing and drying turf. They were used by most households in the area. Pairc na bFataí is the name given to the lazy beds of potato ridges dotted along the hillside. These date from the great famine of the 1840s.
It is somewhat fitting that this theme is reflected in the National Famine Memorial located near the end of the walk. A poignant bronze sculpture by the artist John Behan, it depicts a ‘coffin ship’ with skeletons woven into the masts, in memory of all those who perished on the voyages to America.
On the final leg of our walk we pass by a pier. It might be difficult to imagine tranquil Murrisk as a fishing village, but this was a very busy place in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, being the centre of a thriving local fishing industry. Today, both working and pleasure boats lie moored in the bay.
And all the while St Patrick keeps a watchful eye on proceedings, from on high.

> 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.