Walk: Bothúna – Seanamhóinín – Sailechúna
Time: 1½ – 2 hours
Distance: 7km approx
A. Starting from Spiddal Village, travel west 350m (4min) on the right hand footpath over the bridge and past the stone walls and wooded gardens of Spiddal House.
B. Turn right at the crossroads into Bothúna. The name derives from a cottage or ‘bothán’ owned by a lady called Úna or Chúna. Follow this road uphill for 1.8km (22-30min) towards Seanamhóinín.
C. As the road rises you enter into a typical Conamara landscape of small fields bordered by stone walls – you have left the townland of Bothúna and entered Seanamhóinín (this name may be translated as Meadow Grove, Seana meaning a grove and Móinín meaning a grassy patch in a bog). The land to the right runs down to the Boluisce river valley. After the green roofed house in a wooded area bordering the road, take the left turn onto an untarred road and follow this to the T- junction (1.2km or 15min). If you prefer a slightly shorter walk, take the first left turn which will bring you back to the main road just west of Spiddal.
D. From this point, on a clear day, it is possible to see Cnoc Bhréanainn (Mount Brandon) in Kerry, some 130km (80 miles) in the distance. Take the left turn to descend 1.7km (20min) to the main road, passing old cottages in a wooded area – the remains of the former village. On reaching the main road turn left and follow the footpath back to an Spidéal (1.9km or 23min).
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’ 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.