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Published: August 25th 2019
Our weekend began at a home named the Westport House, a beautiful home and gardens that was built upon the foundations of one of many castles that belonged to the famous Irish Pirate Queen of Connacht... Grace O’Malley. The original home was built by a great-great granddaughter of O’Malley. I immediately liked the tale of Grace, apparently she didn’t take any “umph“ from anybody and if they didn’t like what she thought she would just “take their head off” literally... LOL. In the home... the front hall was magnificent and included vaulted ceilings, a marble staircase and Waterford cut glass chandeliers. The welcome centerpiece was a marbled mythological Angel, where family tradition was to shake the angel’s hand for good luck upon returning from trips or visiting. What house would be complete without your typical dungeon, or enormous gardens? Right? And let’s throw in the 21st century “Let’s make a buck off our tourist and throw in the swan paddle boats” ... I will have to admit I loved them❤️.
After several hours at the House, we scurried back to the town of Westport for lunch and to prepare for our visit to the mountain of Croagh Patrick. I decided
to stop at a tea house in town and ordered a cup of tea and an Irish Vegetable sandwich. It consisted of two eggs, cheese, beets, a tomato, grainy bread, and a spoon full of sweet potatoes... not what I was expecting... but tasty. The waitress (her name was Laura) who asked me where I was off to, assured me I could climb the Croagh Patrick, she had climbed it barefoot ... pause for a shocking exclamation... it’s full of ROCKS... this mountain is a 2,507 ft mountain and is climbed by pilgrims on Reek Sunday, the last Sunday in July. The pilgrimage honors St. Patrick who in the year of 441, spent 40 days fasting on the mountain.
There were several in our group that were going to the mountain, we divided into two groups: those going for the two hour hike and those tackling the top of the mountain consisting of four hours. Kerry and I began with the intention of getting to the top but we truly didn’t know if that would be accomplished. About 30 minutes into the climb, Kerry told me to continue with Tom, and he would continue at a slower pace. I
continued to follow Tom and Mike, who was in our group, but eventually began to climb solo as we were all going at our own pace. The rocks were quite cumbersome; midges, those small annoying flies became a problem, although I had brought lavender essential oil wipes that helped, and then the rain set in closer to the top...
Along the way, I met new friends from Australia; Mary Lou and her husband Brian, and friend John, were quite encouraging. Mary Lou and Brian had spent six weeks hiking the Camino de Santiago and gave me great hints on getting up this mountain. As the path became steeper and the rocks more grueling these guys pushed me to not stop, and as I ascended other climbers descending were also encouraging with “five more minutes” and “you’re almost there, you can do it!” And finally... I made it to the top!
Peter, one of the members of our group, gets the prize for the best time... he made It up and down the mountain before the rest of us. Kathy, another member, gets my vote for best, methodical hiker... she just kept on keeping on til the top. Tom,
gets a prize for mountain goat hiker... no path nor rock was too much... and Mike gets my appreciation for compassionate hiker - not only a good hiker, but his presence and sure-footedness gave me assurance!
Once we descended the mountain we were welcomed at the pub by Peter (remember ... the fast hiker) AND where there was water .... yep, there was pub water LOL but also real H2O - thank goodness ... since I had left my bottled water back at the hotel and had not a drop to drink since beginning the climb. The other great blessing ... the bus was waiting to take us to the hotel where a hot shower and food was available.
Once we were back at our hotel, I discovered that Kerry had turned around about halfway up Crough Patrick realizing it wasn’t his day to get to the top, but was happy that I had achieved it! We had dinner at the hotel with the rest of our group and then went into the town of Westport for a bit of Irish music. We ended our evening at a pub where a young woman was celebrating her birthday with
a circle of good friends and her family. We went in because of the Irish music being played and stayed a bit longer to hear several of her friends sing with the musicians. It was kinda poignant, you could tell there was a lot of love in the room - like the Irish lyrics “In the lilt of Irish laughter you can hear the angels sing, when Irish hearts are happy all the world seems bright and gay...”
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