Killary Harbour Coastal Walk – Killary Fjord Famine Trail.
“Famine walk along Killary Fjord in Connemara.”
Killary Harbour Coastal Walk | Killary Fjord is a Famine walk on the southern side of Killary Fjord in Connemara.
Killary Fjord Coastal Walk or “Famine Walk”. Connemara.
Distance: approx. 16Km from Rosroe to Leenaun with option to shorten.
Sitting on the south side of the Killary Fjord in Connemara is one of Ireland’s most scenic and historic flat coastal walks. Also known as Killary harbour coastal walk or the “famine walk” as much of the road on which the trail takes was built as relief work during the Irish famine 1845-52.
The trail is a linear coastal walk along the south side of Killary Fjord, Ireland’s only true Fjord.
About the KIllary harbour coastal walk:
Starting from Rosroe pier the trail travels in an easterly direction towards the small town of Lennaun. You may need to have 2 cars to do this walk as you will need a way to get back to the start. Whether you wish to walk all the way to Leenaun is your decision. You could shorten the walk by having a car parked near the Tullyconor bridge on the N59.
At Rosroe pier you will see a small cottage where Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the most eminent philosophers of the twentieth century stayed for a while during one of his several visits to Ireland. The track passes by an old farm house and gate and eventually out onto a small road or track alongside Killary Fjord Estuary. Across the Fjord is the very impressive Mweelrea mountain, the highest point in Connaught.
Along the trail you may notice the small fields with some potato ridges. These are scars on the landscape where the desperate local population tried to grow potatoes during the famine of the mid- 1800s. They look like long lines of small ridges mainly covered in grass today.
The views are wonderful as you walk along overlooking Killary Fjord and the surrounding coast line. You will notice the shellfish farms in the Fjord with Oysters and mussels. These are the produce of the local shellfish farmers such as Killary Fjords Shellfish. As you make your way along the trail you might even spot a local Connemara pony or see a local farmer with his sheep dog maneuvering his flock on the hills beside you.
In front of you sits Ben Gorm, the Maumturks and Sheffry hills with the 12 Bens to the south of you. The Killary Fjord walk joins a small tarmac road which twist and turns along the coast. The trail eventually moves away from Killary Fjord inland along the Bunowen river. Then you reach the larger road N59 at Tullyconor bridge. Turn left here and walk for approx. 1km before turning right on the far side of the road. Follow this small road for another 500m, this is where the Western way crosses it.
Turn left onto the Western Way and continue on this way-marked trail as it makes its way towards Leenaun.
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Irish Famine – History:
The British Governments response to the ongoing potato blight and famine in Ireland during 1845 – 52 was completely inadequate.
The Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel continued to allow the export of grain from Ireland to England but he did import (corn) maize from North America to try help relieve the starvation during 1845-46.
Then Lord Russell came to power in 1847 and continued some of Peel’s aid but then passed the responsibility to the local (absentee) landowners. Because the local tenants couldn’t afford their rent there wasn’t much money or interest with the local landlords to assist their tenants. Many Irish farmers, families and tradesmen were evicted from their homes.
Under the terms of the harsh 1834 British Poor Law, enacted in 1838 in Ireland, the “able-bodied” were sent to workhouses rather than being given famine relief per se. British assistance was limited to loans, helping to fund soup kitchens, and providing employment on road building and other public works, under which this famine road was built.
Ireland’s population of almost 8.4 million in 1844 had fallen to 6.6 million by 1851 and the number of agricultural laborers and small farm holders greatly declined in the West and South West of Ireland. Many Irish emigrated to Canada, America, England, Australia and other parts of the world. Those who were lucky enough to get passage and survive the journey, would hold bitter resentment for the British Government and its cruel administration.
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Walking and local information:
Map: For this section of Connemara, Killary Fjord and Leenaun, we recommend OSI Sheet 37 map.
The Route is approx. 16km with an 270m ascent, allow 5 hours of walking. This is a linear walk and you will need some form of transport to get back to the start.
Type: The unpredictable weather in this area would make me classify this route as moderate to difficult.
Parking: There is parking available at Leenaun and Rosroe.
Accommodation: You could stay at Leenaun Hotel or PortFinn Lodge.
Food and Drink: Hamilton’s Bar and Gaynors “The Field” Bar. The film “the field” was mainly filmed in this area.