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Walking the Famine Road of Killary Fjord

Updated: Jun 12, 2022

During the potato famine that began in 1845, there was a road building project whose purpose was to allow people to earn money for food. The roads led nowhere as they had no purpose other than to keep people busy. Unfortunately the work was far too demanding for people facing starvation, so many died. Pay was poor and it’s questionable whether it would have been enough money to help the starving workers.

This afternoon we walked on one of these roads that followed the coastline of Killary Fjord. There is still evidence of the stone work used to widen the road as well as some deserted buildings. Imagine gathering and piling the rocks you see in this image. Even as well fed and fit as I am, I would certainly find this extremely difficult to do day after day.

The scenery is gorgeous. Verdant hills, wildflowers, and sheep, sheep, sheep. Sheep of many colors. Farmers use a lanolin based paint to mark each sheep. The color and location of the paint uniquely identifies the owner of the sheep. Our guide told us that paint is also used to determine whether a sheep has mated. The male is marked with a particular color on his breast. The paint transfers to the ewe’s back during mating. I saw a number of sheep that had a few colors on their back. I guess it means the sheep gets around?

Throughout the fjord I could see the plastic floats used for mussel culture. Ropes hang from the floats, and mussel “seedlings” attach to them. As the mussels grow, the float sinks further into the water which gives a clue as to when to harvest.

We encountered just a bit of rain at the start of the hike and then at the end. It was enough to create a rainbow when we finally reached the our waiting bus to take us back to the ship.

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