In the last year and a half I’ve only had two short trips home to my native Ireland. I love heading back home and catching up with family and friends but it happens way too seldom. This time around we planned to stay a full two weeks to really make the most of our time there.
Our good friend Alice, who works with Jasmin at the climbing hall, came along with us. So with three climbers travelling together (and an extra bag full of gear) we decided we had to try to go climbing at least once.
But first things first. We arrived in Dublin late at night and took the bus to Issac’s Hostel near BusÁras. In the morning we woke up to glorious sunshine as we said good morning to our sleepy room mates. We headed down stairs to avail of the free breakfast. Although the breakfast was not the most inspiring, we loaded up on white bread and marmalade and a few cups of coffee each before heading out into the city to explore around.
The reason we came back to Ireland this time was to celebrate my Mums 50th birthday. For the first couple of days back at home we spent having family dinners and sitting around with the fire on in the living room. We also had two almighty sessions in Matt Molloys pub, the second of which was attended by 100 of our close friends and family members.
When we weren’t in Matt Molloys we spent some of our time going out for walks. Scrambling around on the rocks at old head beach at low tide was great fun. Wrapped up in jackets as the wind was cold but to look at the turquoise water and the pale sand you may have been convinced you were in a more mediterranean climate.
Croagh Patrick (764m) is the third highest mountain in Mayo but undoubtably the most iconic in the country. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims undertake the climb each year. It is believed that Saint Patick fasted for forty days and forty nights at the top of the mountain. There is now a church at the top to commemorate the saint.
Some of those who climb the mountain do it in their bare feet. To do so is no easy task, the terrain is quite steep and the rock can be very loose in places. The last third of the climb is a very steep scree slope that leads to the top. We decided to keep our shoes on on this occasion. We had beautiful weather and the whole experience was very enjoyable.
At the top we sat and had some food. Our eating aroused the curiosity of an inquisitive sheep named Patrick. He didn’t stay around too long but did agree to pose while I took a few portrait shots of him.
Ailladie, Co Clare
The Burren in Co. Clare is about a two hour drive from my house and Ailladie (one of Ireland finest climbing crags) is an area in The Burren. The climbing at Alladie is done on limestone sea cliffs. The rock, although polished on the most popular routes, gives very good friction and most of the routes follow cracks. Only traditional climbing is practiced in this area although some points of aid are used on a number of routes. This area was discovered in the early 70’s and was pioneered by young climber there after. My dad was one of them and helped put up many routes in the 70’s and 80’s including Ground Control (VS 4c), Kleptomaniac (E3 6a) and Skywalker (E3 5c).
My friend Louis offered to drive us there for the weekend. We all piled into his car, the boot full of gear and the middle back seat stacked with all our stuff. We sat wherever there was space left. Once we got to the crag the weather looked like it was going to turn. We did manage to get a few routes in before the rain came but the last route of the day we all climbed in the wet.
Once it got too wet to climb we pack up all the gear and made the short hike along the cliff top. We looked out to the sea and we were graced with a beautiful performance as a school of about fifteen dolphins, including a young baby, swam and jumped together as they passed us in the distance.
Doolin, Co Clare
We had a hostel booked for the night in the small town of Doolin, ten minutes drive from Alladie. That night we cooked a big meal together and had a few drinks. The following day we drove around and explored a bit of the Doolin Coastline before heading home.
Back home again in Mayo, there was still more exploring to be done. My mum took us on a drive down to Achill Island (assessable by bridge) where we went to the beach. The weather was a bit cold and wet but there was still plenty of fun to be had. Alice and Jasmin tested out the cold Atlantic water with their feet and I found some bouldering at the far north end of the beach.
For our final adventure we met up again with Louis and headed out for an evening sailing on his boat. There wasn’t much wind but that suited us perfectly as we floated along slowly enjoying the sun.
Our two weeks in Ireland came and went pretty fast. Normally by the end I am ready to leave again but this time I could have stayed longer. It was great to have time at home and great that we got to do so much while we were there. I guess you don’t do too much in your country until leave and come back for a holiday. Leaving Ireland this time only made me excited to come back again.