(by Gerry Moss, June 2009)
Travelling to a Donegal island and climbing on its perfect granite.
You should take a trip to Owey Island. Highly recommended.
Catch the boat from the little pier below the golf course at the tip of Cruit Island. As you make the ten minute crossing, listen to Dan, the ferryman (a friend of Hugh’s since their schooldays) regale you with tales of life on Owey as boy and man. The simple life: no electricity, no television, no traffic, no time constraints.
Camp by the low stone walls (home to nesting wrens) only a stone’s throw from the mooring in the little cove. Hear the seldom-heard crek-crek of the corncrake and the drumming of the snipe. Let yourself be lulled to sleep by the constant, rhythmic beat of wave on rock.
Wander along the rugged, undulating coastline and marvel at the magnificent cliffs and sea-stacks. Or ramble up through the deserted village and follow the green road to the lake. Bring your headtorch and you can explore something rare, perhaps even unique, in these islands. A lake beneath a lake. A large cavern and underground lake set in a granite formation. Scramble down an increasingly narrow and increasingly darker passage to reach the airy vault at the lake’s edge.
You could, of course, always go climbing. Start at the East side cliffs, only two minutes from the campsite. Here you will find the first climbs to be done on the island, put up by our own Dave Walsh many moons ago, on excellent granite. Or you could visit the North or West cliffs, where the routes are of a longer and more adventurous nature, requiring some experience and mountaineering skills.
Myself and Niamh travelled up early on Friday and got some routes done on Cruit, before pitching the tents. We were joined later by Michael and, later still, by Sile and Dave. We took the ferry over to the island the next morning where Alan Tees of Colmcille Climbers was waiting to welcome us. He then brought us on a tour of the island, pointing out all the different climbing areas. After lunch we split up and went climbing.
Sunday morning was a bit drizzly, so we visited the underground lake, before taking down the tents and heading back to the mainland.
All in all, a great experience.
Talk to Dan, the ferryman, 086 601 3893. You’ll be glad you called.