Walk – Clochar na gCon
Walk I – Clochar na gCon
Time: 2 – 2½ hours
Walk II – Seashore Walk
Time: 1¾ – 2 hours
Walk I & II Combined
Time: 3 – 3½ hours
A. Starting from the Poitín Stil pub, walk west 300m and turn to the right at the first road – Clochar na gCon.
B. After 2km (25-30min), passing Loch Chearra on your right, you will come to a V junction. Take the left branch.
C. Half a kilometer up a slight gradient you reach a point 80m above sea level where there is a splendid view of the Twelve Pins and the Maamturk mountains to the north and Co. Clare and the Aran Islands to the south. The road carries on for 2km (about 30min) past Loch Ugga Beag, passing Crumlin fishing lodge, and on to Loch Ugga Mór.
D. Turning left at the junction, the road will bring you south for 2.8 km (35-40min) until you arrive at the main road, where you can return to your starting point (turning left) or, if you still feel energetic, you can make your return journey along the sea shore – see Walk II.
We advise that Walk II be taken as a continuation of Walk I, otherwise both walks will involve a lengthy walk on a busy main road. Alternatively, Walk II may be taken from point ‘a’ along the shore to point ‘f’, and then back again on the same route.
Although any or all of the boreens (from ‘bóithrín,’ meaning small road) leading south from the main road will bring you to the sea shore, the route we recommend is as follows:
From the Poitín Stil travel west on the main road past 9 boreens on your left. Or, from the point at which Walk I connects with the main road, one boreen.
a. Turn left (south) down the semi-tarred road, continue for 300m and then bear right (the continuation south becomes a grass track).
b. Follow the road through the remains of an old abandoned ‘clochán’ or village for 200m.
c. Turn left at the next boreen and continue down to the shore (450m).
d. Turn left (east) and follow the shoreline for 2½km (30-40min), passing the elevated cross of ‘Dumhach na Leanbh’ or children’s burial ground. Unbaptised babies were buried here up to the start of the 20th century, child mortality rates being very high in poverty stricken communities. Continue past the beach at Teach Mór, where you might see seals basking in the sun. You also pass a plaque commemorating the explosion of a mine in 1917, when nine men died after bringing the unknown floating object to shore in a curach, the sole survivor having returned home to attend the birth of a foal after helping his friends.
e. After the plaque commemorating the victims of the mine explosion, walk for 350m (4min) until you see a small grassy track turning up (north) to your left.
f. Follow this idyllic trail for 500m and bear right at the fork. This track will bring you back to the main road and your starting point at the Poitín Stil.
There are indications that the area of Indreabhán in Cois Fharraige has been inhabited for many centuries. A ‘Fulacht Fiadh,’ discovered on the bog here, was used to cook food in ancient times by filling a hole with water and fire-heated stones, thus bringing the water to boiling temperature. The typical horeshoe-shape of a fulacht fiadha comes from the stones being thrown out of the pit onto the ledge. More recently, in 1988, local youths discovered a container of butter buried, as was the custom for preservation, in the bog. The National Museum, where the butter is now kept, estimates its age at over 300 years.
The population of the area increased greatly after Cromwell’s Plantation, bringing an influx of people from more fertile areas further inland: they came from Maigh Cuilin, Uachtar Ard, west of the Corrib and even from as far afield as the Midlands and Mayo, as can be attested by some of the local family names.
These outsiders, remarking on their proximity to the ocean, called the area, unimaginatively, ‘Cois Fharraige,’ meaning ‘Beside the Sea.’ They had no fishing tradition, coming as they did from a farming background, as we can tell from the way they built their houses between the bog and the sea. Some of the old villages were established as much as a few kilometers from the shore, whereas fishing people as a rule build their homes close to the seashore. As recently as a couple of generations ago there was a mistrust and nervousness of the sea, resulting in children being discouraged from going down to the seashore. Few of the older generation know how to swim, nor have any inclination to learn.
Life was difficult for these people, banished to a remote and rugged landscape, but it was not impossible. They had, of course, unlimited stone for the building of solid houses; the sea provided seaweed and sand, fertilizing the ‘lazy beds’ used for growing the staple potatoes; shellfish, dillisc and fish supplemented their plain diet.
Houses were warmed with turf cut from the bog, which could also be traded in Co. Clare and the Aran Islands in exchange for goods and the limestone that was used to enrich the acid soil. This necessary affinity with the earth is evidenced in the way each natural feature, every field or stone has a name, including even the offshore rocks – witness ‘na Matail,’ meaning ‘mantlepiece or ledge,’ off the beach at Teach Mór, now inhabited by a colony of seals. Near here a plaque commemorates the deaths of nine men in a mine explosion in 1917, and close to this spot another plaque remembers Mícheál Breathnach, a renowned local Irish language scholar and writer.
Working on the bog, or in their fields the farmers lived as a close community, helping each other in the fight against adversity. This spirit lives on today in the independent people of Cois Farraige.