I have decided to try a different “Camino” this year. It`s going to be a “Camino” of water. Water is a sign of purification and after walking in 40c heat in southern Spain last year, I need a change.
I picked “Lough Carra” because I have really enjoyed the “Tochar Phadraig`s” (St Patricks way) that start from “Ballintubber” abbey. This is an Irish “Camino” celebrating St Patrick and pays homage to what became known as his mountain after he converted the Celts.
This is a very ancient pilgrimage route pre-dating Christianity and some suggest a pilgrimage has been operating to this mountain, for at least 5.000 years.
This is not an unusual occurrence in the Christian tradition, as the original “Camino de Santiago” in Spain had been known previously, as the “Way of Hermes” or the “Way of Thoth”.
The present route from “Ballintubber” abbey would have originally been part of an ancient stone chariot road from “Rathcruaghan” (the seat of the kings of Connaught) to the sacred “Cruaghan Aille”. This is situated in the present area of “Tulsk” in Co Roscommon, a distance of 90 km or so.
New research in Britain suggests that the Romans rather than building new roads may have inherited an existing stone network. It seems the Celts were far more sophisticated than we give them credit for. History is written by the victors and especially so when you have an oral, myth making tradition.
“Ballintubber abbey” sits on the edge of “Lough Carra” and this lake is steeped in history with ancient castles, abbeys, Neolithic forts, “crannogs” (man-made islands) sunken causeways, abounding it. Then of course there is the fauna and wildlife with many rare and unusual species found here. It is also renowned for its brown trout, though numbers have been falling off recently due to pollution.
It is also a very unusual lake, as the rocks that form it are made of limestone, giving it very white beaches and an alkaline nature. In Irish it has been called “Fionn loch Ceara”, the fair lake of “Ceara”
It is an enigmatic lake as it is very hard to gain access to. It is also very low lying and difficult to see from the N84. Local farms almost completely surround it and its few access points are not easy to find. You do need a little bit of local knowledge.
This is not a bad thing, as it has saved an absolute gem. On a few exploratory trips I have encountered deer, foxes, hare, geese, swans at close hand. I look forward to fully immersing myself in it.
I am going to take my time and I hope you will join me on this adventure.