Walk – Boluisce
Time: 3½ – 4 hours
A. Begin at the post Office in Spiddal village and make your way north past the gates and forest of Spiddal House (private), uphill on the Moycullen Road for 1½km or about 20min.
B. Turn left after the Caravan Park and continue uphill on this road for 5km (1 – 1¼hrs), passing Spiddal Waterworks and through the long established townlands of Seanagharráin and Leitir Péic.
C. After a long stretch of road with the Boluisce lake on your left and a small lake on your right, take the road that crosses the top of the Boluisce on the left, passing an old school which was in use up to the start of the 1970s (1½km or 15min).
D. Turn left at the T junction and follow the narrow crooked little road down past ruins of old houses until the tarred road comes to an end (1.6km or 20min).
E. You might need to change your shoes here and put on wellingtons because, although the road is reasonably good at first, shortly it becomes bogland. Walk down straight for 1½km (20-30min), heading for the road on a height right in front of you.
F. When you reach the point where you have a road under your feet again, you only have to walk straight down to the main road (4.35km or 55min). Notice the forest of decidious trees by the shore of the river, a little shelter from the wild winds of Cois Fharraige.
G. When you reach the main road, turn left to return to Spiddal. You will pass Spiddal House again and what would you say now to a lovely pint in one of Spiddal’s fine public houses?
An Spidéal is a busy little village that has grown up on the shores of ‘Loch Lurgan’, as Galway Bay was known in ancient times, where the Boluisce River meets the sea. Tradition tells us that the name originates with the Knights Hopitaller who established a hospice (Ospidéal) in Cré Dhubh for those people returning ill from the Crusades. Ruairí Ó Flatharta, who lived in Páirc, just east of An Spidéal, wrote in 1684 of an abbey established here ‘by the high water mark’; this abbey was later destroyed in the Reformation.
Most traffic to the village in the early days was by sea, the road to Galway being merely a donkey track, but a bridge was built in 1679 over the Boluisce River, an event notable enough to warrant the local people to this day referring to An Spidéal as ‘Baile an Droichid’ – the town of the bridge. It was the Morris family who brought recognition and a certain amount of prosperity to An Spidéal when Martin Morris, the first catholic High Sherriff since the times of the Penal Laws, built Bohoona Lodge here in the early years of the nineteenth century. His son Michael became Lord Chief Justice in 1887, receiving the title Lord Morris the same year and Lord Killannin in 1900. Returning to An Spidéal each year with his wife and family for the sitting of the court, he brought life to the ‘Teach Mór’ (The Big House) where visitors came in plenty, Arthur Balfour and Lady Gregory among them. An influx of population in famine years (perhaps because seafood was the only food freely available) caused hardship in the area, both during the famine and later in the century. When a protestant trade school was established by a proselytising minister in 1853 to train about 100 orphans in weaving and other useful crafts, there were ructions among the catholic clergy and the local population, causing the unfortunate seller of the land to be forced by public opinion to leave the community to make his fortune in Australia. Between the years 1867 and 1871 Michael Morris had the new pier built at a cost of £8,000, providing work for some of the hungry people.
The first school opened in 1844, the same year as a Police Station was established in the village on the site of Tigh Fatharta, known as ‘Peeler Row’, followed a few years later by a Coast Guard Station on the site of the present girls’ school. The striking church of Cill Éinde, designed by William Scott, was built in 1908 at a cost of £6,000, replacing an earlier church behind the present site which in turn replaced a still earlier thatched church on the site of the Bridge House Hotel – this building was said to be so small that a large portion of the church goers had to hear the mass standing in Eoin Neachtain’s kitchen, next door! Bóthar an Rí or The King’s Road out from Galway was finally tarred in 1930 bringing an Spidéal into a pleasant afternoon’s driving distance from Galway city and allowing it to become the popular holiday village it is today.