The Great Irish Famine occurred in Ireland between the years of 1845 and 1852. It was undoubtedly a horrific landmark in the history of the Island with approximately one million people perishing from malnutrition and starvation. Two thirds of the population were reliant entirely on the potato to feed themselves, and after a major infection of potato blight spread, there was little affordable food to sustain the nation. Another million Irish emigrated to Canada and the USA to form strong Irish communities that remain in place today. The survival of the nation and success of many emigrants, make The Great Famine a shining example of the Irish ability to persevere under great hardship. As you walk or cycle through Ireland you can visit some of the sites, that commemorate the famine:
Skibbereen Heritage Centre – Wild Atlantic Way West Cork
One of the most compelling and informative exhibitions on The Great Famine can be found at Skibbereen Heritage Centre. Skibbereen itself was hit hard by the famine, and locals have made sure that it’s commemorated appropriately. The exhibition is based entirely on first-hand accounts from the period, and some of the content is haunting.
The Jeanie Johnston – The Wicklow Way
The Jeanie Johnston is an exact replica of a ‘coffin ship’, that is open for tours in Dublin City. These ships were used to transport immigrants from Ireland to the US during the famine, a gruelling journey fraught with danger. As you tour the ship you’ll get a real feel for the deplorable conditions that the passengers endured. Dublin City is also home to the famine memorial statues that pay homage to the struggle of the era, which is are very close to the Jeanie Johnston.
The Tralee Ship Canal – The Dingle Way
Tralee is the first and last stop on The Dingle Way. Unfortunately, this beautiful town in County Kerry was terribly effected by The Great Famine. The Tralee Ship Canal was built in 1846 to allow ships to have direct access to the town. The Jeanie Johnston would have left this port many times during the famine, carrying emigrants to New York, Baltimore and Quebec.
The Mysterious Village of Keem – Achill Island &The Great Western Greenway
Keem Bay on Achill Island is a beautiful secluded slope with a white sandy beach. Overlooking the bay, there is a small derilict pre-famine town, abandoned and forgotten by time. A host of primitive
dwellings are now visible along the green coastal landscape. The people of the remote settlement left no trace of their existence, but it is widely believed that the community was largely wiped out by The Great Famine.
These are just a few of the sites that you’ll encounter on a walking or cycling trip to Ireland, that highlight the stark reality of Irish life during the The Great Famine. The struggle of this era is embedded within Irish culture, a nation known for courage through adversity. After exploring the past, enjoy a pint of Guinness and toast to the future.
For more information about any of our walking and cycling tours please contact one of our Travel Specialists.