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Hello and welcome to this weekend’s virtual walk.
We are staying in Connemara this weekend. Let’s go for a summer walk to visit the ancient pilgrimage site of Maumean.
You might recall that two years ago, at the height of the lockdown I dug out some old photos from this location and brought you on a truly virtual walk to this unique place , but now that things are getting back to normal we can re visit this place, so please come along with me for an hour long mountain hike to Maumean – the pass of the birds .
Maumean or Mám Éan – ‘the pass of the birds’ – is located in the heart of Connemara , not far from our quarry. It is one of the two main passes through the Maumturk mountain range, the old boundary between Connemara proper and Joyce Country in Co. Galway. You can find it by following a small by road that leads from the main Galway to Clifden Road, and after about a 10 minute drive we reach a little car park where we can put on our hiking boots and head up the hill.
It’s an amazing day in Connemara – although the clouds can roll in at a moment’s notice the day is mainly fine and dry … off we go !!
Our route brings us along part of the Galway way, it’s a hiking trail that runs through the heart of the county but the path we will take today has been used for centuries as a pilgrim route to the pass itself.
Having passed through the metal gates, up we go and I can tell you a little as we hike upwards .
According to legend, in 441 AD St Patrick was travelling through the Maam Valley, on his return from Croagh Patrick in Co. Mayo, when he climbed up to the top of the pass and blessed the land to the west – Connemara. That night, he slept in a little hole in the hillside known as Patrick’s Bed (Leaba Phádraic) but ventured no further into Connemara.
In time, Maumean became an important place of pilgrimage where locals gathered for an annual ‘pattern’- a day when people prayed (and celebrated) at a holy site – in honour of St Patrick.
After about 25 minutes of hard walking, we reach the pass. In this incredibly remote location we find a tiny chapel, a mass altar, a holy well, a rock known as St. Patrick’s bed, a statue of St. Patrick and the Stations of the Cross scattered roughly around the rocky and boggy site. Two thousand years ago this site would have been an important Celtic shrine and nowadays we can see traces of visitors over the centuries- from stones piled on cairns to medals and tokens left by pilgrims. The tiny church is unlocked so let’s take a peek inside and admire the Connemara marble alter and candle sticks. We can see candles, statues and offerings left by pilgrims, and the stained glass windows reflect the lovely sunshine that has just broken through the clouds.
Take a look at the mass rock . Mám Éan would have been of great importance during the 17th and 18th Centuries when the “Penal Laws” outlawed the Catholic church in Ireland. As a result, the site would have been used as a secret outdoor church known as a “mass rock”, to allow Christians to celebrate mass which was forbidden.
Let’s complete our visit by taking a sip of water from the holy well before we retrace our route downhill.
The first Sunday of August sees a pattern or feast dedicated to the Saint and many hundreds will walk the pilgrim route to attend mass and the stations of the cross. This tradition began hundreds and hundreds of years ago , but during the 1800’s as a result of drunkenness and faction fighting, the Church eventually suppressed the pattern day at Maumean. It was revived as a place of pilgrimage in the 1980s and has since drawn great crowds .
I’m sure your feet are a bit sore after the return hike, but I think that you will agree this is a most amazing place to visit, and I hope that you enjoyed coming with me today and you can catch up on my walks over at www.connemaramarble.com
Take care till next time and all the best,
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