Highlights of the Cruise
Our cruise starts at Nancy’s Point, just West of Leenane Village, on the South side of the Killary. From there we set off towards the West and travel for 45 minutes to the mouth of the Fjord, before turning to make our way East back to Nancy’s Point. The total duration is 90 minutes.
The views of the surrounding landscape are lovely – hills rising steeply from the silvery sea, with frequent shifts in light and shadow creating different colours on the peaks and valleys. Deep green fields and occasional stands of trees contrast with heathery bogs.
The cruise offers a great way to take in the dramatic sweep of the landscape, as you pass between the Twelve Bens and the Maam Turk mountains to the South, in County Galway; and the Mweelrea mountains to the North in County Mayo, as well as the views out to the Atlantic at the mouth of the fjord.
The fjord’s sheltered waters are perfect for mussel farming and you will see the ropes at several points on the fjord. You will also see some circular salmon farms, closer to the shore. Sheep dot the hills.
Towards the mouth of the fjord is a small island, which has a Victorian range marker on it. This is the point at which dolphins typically emerge if they are in the vicinity. They like to swim alongside the ship, offering spectacular views.
Whereas the population of this area is now very low and few houses are to be seen, this is very different from the situation in the 1800s when the area was part of the “Congested Districts” which grew up after Catholics had been forced West by Cromwell in the infamous clearances of the 17th century. By the early 1800s the population had risen to over 1.5 million in the province of Connacht – most of these people did not own their land and lived in rough huts, depending heavily on potatoes for food.
Blight struck the potato harvest in 1845, and persisted over the next three years. The result was catastrophic: huge numbers of people either starved or emigrated. The population of Connacht fell sharply and even today is only one third of what it was in the 1840s.
Vertical ridges are still clearly visible on many of the hills resulting from the growing of potatoes as far as possible up the hills.
The area has plenty to interest geologists – the fjord itself is the result of glaciation, and several of the mountains look as if a giant scooped spoonfuls off their tops. This is particularly the case for Mweelrea on the North side – Connemara’s highest mountain (pictured).