This was done in two stages: Sligo to Westport and then through Connemara to Galway.
The first took Somerville through some of the loneliest lands in the British Isles, for which he needed a guide, for the drover's route that he took southwards went down paths [boreens] that took the driest route through the blanket bogs of West Mayo. I have stood on land to the west of Lough Conn and gazed westwards towards the blue-hazed mountains of Mayo, and they looked beautiful, but they are not easy, for these mountains are difficult and the bogs between them demanding. The blanket bog that arose after climate change in the Bronze Age was so deep that it swallowed up the wonderful dry stone cattle management system of the Ceide Fields, [pronounced cagey] now happily rediscovered and archaeologically excavated. The author avoided the mountain tops, for these are difficult mounts, made of hard, slippery rock with much scree,dangerous places indeed.
He tells of how Irish drovers took the pass through what is known as the Nephin Beg [Little Nephin] Range to deliver cattle from Mayo to the markets of Galway. There were some marvellous feats of endurance, with drovers walking many a long hour, and sometimes having to defend cattle and/or profits from robbers. This route interested me, as my wife Maureen's research into her family history turned up the interesting fact that her maternal grandmother was from a family of cattle dealers, who may well have used that drove road at times.
An ascent of Ireland's sacred mountain, the steep and rocky Croagh Patrick, followed, and Somerville marvelled at those who climb it barefooted. The view from the summit, when it is not too misty with the clouds scudding in from the Atlantic, surveys the island-studded Clew Bay, one of Ireland's unique sites.
Then on to Connemara. I have been to Connemara, whose name means Conn of the Sea, possibly denoting the name of the people who anciently dwelt there. But I have not been often enough, for it is a place with an inexhaustible character. Connemara is a complex symphony of rock, water, bog, moorland and farmland, the farms being small and often struggling, the product of people devoted to dwelling in the land, but finding it hard and often economically unrewarding. But this is the quintessence the Gaeltachdt, the land where Gaelic is still spoken.
Somerville passed between the twelve pins [bens] of Connemara and the smaller Maamturks, but the Maamturks are just as difficult, for they are both hard, unyielding, ancient shield rock dating from the Precambrian epoch, remnants of an primeval continent. To see this landscape stand in its stark, wild beauty after rain has cleared the air of dust and mist is an experience to remember for a lifetime. I will never forget it.
The author draws on his comprehensive grasp of Irish history to link Connemara with the famous rebel. Padraig Pearse, who had a cottage there prior to the 1916 rebelllion, which cost him his life. This is an important quality of the book, that Somerville delves at places into Irish history and literature.