A journey through the real wild west
There is no break in the empty silence save the whimper of the winds. Not a bird voice is upon the air. Nothing but pasture and sheep and stone walls and the western wind and loneliness." So wrote Michael Bulfin as he passed through Connacht on his famous cycling trip round Ireland in the early days of the 1900s.
Moving forward over 100 years, as I drove through Ballycroy national park in Co Mayo, there was still splendid isolation to be found and the scenery was magnificent yet everywhere there was evidence of a glorious revival in the fortunes of those who now live in the West.
"You can't eat a view" goes the old saying but the tragic days of the potato famine, evictions and forced emigration are now ancient history. EU funding, tourism and local initiatives have brought real prosperity to these places where once even the snipe went hungry.
The promotion of the Wild Atlantic Way has been a huge success as has the Great Western Greenway, a traffic free cycle and walking route following the line of the old Westport to Achill railway.
Driving towards Mulranny on a sunny August day there were cyclists and walkers of all ages out enjoying this new facility.
On reaching the village of Ballycroy, I was close to my destination of Shean Lodge, built in 1865 and where some noted people such as Count John McCormack and the artist, Paul Henry stayed and enjoyed the renowned fishing on the Owenduff river.
While I was there, local farmer and guide at Shean, Michael McManamon caught a specimen 6.5 pound sea trout, a catch of a lifetime which most of us can only dream about.
Despite the abundance of both salmon and sea trout, I of course caught nothing, but that was partially due to laziness and a desire to spend time revisiting Achill and the surrounding countryside.