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All old posts have transfered, so none have been lost.

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One Day Walks August 13 thru 15

If you would like to join my guided walks next weekend, but not avail of the B&B and dinner choice, you can simply join our small group as a day walker. Here’s the programme.

Friday August 13 –

Meet at 10 am at the carpark in An Ceathrú Thaidhg for the 3 to 4 hr cliff-top loop. (€20)

And / or

Meet at 3 pm at the car park at Glenlara, on the north end of The Mullet, for the 2 to 2 1/2 hr Erris Head cliff-top loop. (€10)

Take part in both Friday walks for € 20 total.

Saturday August 14 –

Meet at Blacksod pier at 10 am for a boat trip out to and guided walk of Iniskea Island. Pier to pier, this will take 5 to 6 hours. (€ 40)

Sunday August 15 –

Meet at 10 am at Tobar Deirbhile (well) at Falmore at the southern tip of The Mullet peninsula, for a 4 hr loop walk, taking in Glosh, Caisleán beach and Aughleam. (€ 20)

For further details and to book your place, please call 086-8318748.

What To Bring When Hiking

So you’ve glanced through what to wear when out hiking in the wilds of west Mayo, below. But what do you need in your rucksack ?

1. Water – No matter what the weather, you’ll need water. Vary the amount, depending on the warmth, but don’t travel with less than 500 ml, while 1 litre would be better. You can always top up in the mountains, but be smart : the higher up the mountain stream you take water from, the cleaner it is going to be. Also, don’t take water from a still pool – it will have gathered peat dust and worse, while stagnant.

2. Food – Again, no matter how short a walk, do bring some food with you. You never know – you might have a problem (twisted ankle, etc.) up the side of a mountain. If you’re packing some chocolate, or energy bar, etc., go without the wrapper. That way, you won’t lose it in a gust of wind. Bring your food in a re-usable plastic container, with a sound tight lid.

3. Whistle – I never go anywhere without a good, loud whistle, in case of emergency. Wear it around your neck, so you have it in case you become separated from your rucksack.

4. Torch plus spare batteries – Nobody knows when the batteries in a torch are going to run out. Always pack spares and ensure they are dry, by wrapping them in a water-tight bag.

5. Mobile phone – The rule, when out in the hills, is certainly to turn your mobile phone off. But have it with you, in case of emergency. Put it in your pocket, not your bag, for the same reason as mentioned above.

6. First aid supplies – While it would be nice to carry a load of first aid stuff around with you, in practice, it’s really not that practical. But do have the 4 essentials – plasters, for cuts on rocks; elastic crepe bandage, for twisted ankles; Leukosilk tape, for keeping said bandage in place; Medicare cold pack, for treatment of swelling, bruising, etc.

And please remember, bring back home what you brought out with you. Do not leave even the slightest remnants of your passage. You know the Leave No Trace maxim :

Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints. With two exceptions. First, do take out rubbish that you did not leave there yourself. You’ll feel good about yourself and help the natural environment. Second, do try to watch out for rare flowers, where you’re stepping. Even footprints in the wrong place can damage.

Enjoy and just get out there !

What To Wear When Hiking

Here is some advice on what you should wear when hiking in the West of Ireland. Note that the main weather characteristics of this corner of the world are that we have a lot of rain, quite a bit of wind, not very hot temperatures and not very extreme conditions either (rarely below 0 Celsius, unless you’re climbing mountains in winter, where you’ll suffer wind chill factor, but rarely any snow worth talking about).

From the point of view of terrain, much of the far west of Ireland (especially west Mayo) is covered in blanket bog, with pools and puddles on the waterlogged ground, much of it hidden under sphagnum moss clumps. Apart from bog, we have (mostly) limestone rocks jutting from the ground all around, perhaps most famously in our scree covered mountain slopes, from about 400 – 500 m altitude up.

So, let’s go from the feet upwards.

1. Hiking boots – This is essential kit. Get ankle high, waterproof hiking boots. Buy a pair that is at least one half to one full size too big for you, so you can wear two pairs of good socks and feel nice, comfortable and secure within. I wear Meindl.

2. Hiking socks – Do not try to wear your regular socks, no matter how thick you might think they are. I have tried and continue to use a wide variety of hiking socks inside my boots. I have absolutely no preference between synthetic and wool, nor between twin- and single-layer. I use all the pairs I have interchangeably. The only criterion for me is that they are thick and comfortable. What I do is wear a relatively short inner pair and an outer pair that are as long as possible, so I can pull them up to my knees if feeling cold, or fold back down as required.

If you have a stronger opinion on socks, I’d love to hear it!

2 bis. Gaitors – Forget about them. I had a pair, but gave up wearing them. They just annoyed me. Mind you, others swear by them.

3. Waterproof pants – I use a pair with a membrane, from The North Face, called HyVent. The pants are 100% nylon on the outside and the inner mesh (membrane) is 100% polyester. They’re brilliant in rain and wind, but truly terrible in dry, warm weather when you’re hiking up a hill, because your thighs get ‘stuck’ with each step. I made that mistake just once. In good weather, I just wear a pair of O’Neill’s GAA tracksuit legs, in 50% polyester, 50% nylon.

4. T-shirts – Definitely do not choose cotton, or indeed polycotton. Why ? They take in your sweat and the rain and hold on to them jealously. Cotton takes much too long to dry out and leaves you cold and wet, especially when the wind strikes. Wear 100% nylon or 100% polyester tees. They dry out quickly. I wear a light Regatta or a heavier O’Neill’s GAA t-shirt, both in 100% polyester.

The trick is to bring more than one t-shirt, perhaps including one that has long sleeves, and to peel them off or put them back on, depending on conditions. Wear the long-sleeved one under the short-sleeved others, if you think you’re going to be cold. That way, you can peel off, without having to go bare chested as you do so.

5. Sleeveless Softshell – I wear a Regatta 100% polyester fleece-type soft shell. As opposed to the boots, earlier, this should be a snug fit, so that when zipped up, it really does give you warmth. It’s sleeveless, because it doesn’t restrict movement and you can always allow for this by bringing along a long-sleeved t-shirt or sports jersey. Personally, I never feel the cold on my arms, so this one is perfect.

6. Waterproof Jacket – Not quite as critical as the boots, but good to have. Getting wet on the chest and back is not as bad as in the feet, in my opinion. Anyway, I have a good 100% nylon outer, 100% polyester inner mesh (membrane) from O’Neill’s. It’s no Berghaus, The North Face or Regatta, but it’s good enough for me.

7. Hats and Gloves – Woolly hats are best for warmth, but they do get wet. Gloves should be able to keep a reasonable amount of water out, but they won’t manage that forever either. I always bring the woolly hat, but don’t bother with gloves unless it’s deep winter and I’m going above, say, 400 m.

In most conditions, I actually prefer a baseball cap. But I never go without a woolly in the rucksack.

8. Rucksack – Mine is a Eurohike, which I think is a brand of Millets outdoor shops, but I can’t find a website for that, so apologies. Anyway, the one I have is a Weekender 35 litre and its most important feature is the rain guard that you can pull over it if the weather gets wet. My advice : start your walk with a half empty rucksack, so it has space to take the layers, as you peel them off.

Your comments are welcome.

Dates Change – Western Ocean Walking Weekend

Please note the slight change in dates for my next Western Ocean Walking Weekend.

The dates are now from Thursday, August 12, thru Sunday, August 15. Come and enjoy a great weekend of walking on cliff-top walks (much higher than the Cliffs of Moher, by the way), on a stunning once-inhabited island and on lovely beaches and low-lying hills on perhaps Ireland’s most interesting peninsula, The Mullet of NW Mayo.

You can be picked up from and dropped back to Castlebar train station.

Just Get Out There

Last evening’s RTE programme Tracks and Trails was a nice ad for Mayo outdoor and active holiday breaks. It’s a pity, however, that they didn’t cover just a little bit more of the terrain than the Cycleway. And did you notice the ridiculous and unattractive fencing along the track, immediately on both sides ? Not exactly pretty.

Anyway, Mayo has what it takes to pass some wonderful outdoors days. Getting out into the fresh (yes, often wet) air does wonders for your mind and body.

Get Out There in Mayo - Clew Bay & Nephin Beg Mountains

Get Out There in Mayo - Clew Bay & Nephin Beg Mountains

If you’re in the area, join me for a guided walk on waymarked ways, hills, cliff-tops and so on. I will show you a Mayo that is off the beaten track. We’ll venture into the remote Nephin Beg Mountains or skip along high ocean cliffs. The important thing is to get out into our wild spots and breathe in that unique Mayo air.

You’ll enjoy the break and re-charge the batteries.                                                                             

But also, check out these local providers of outdoor pursuits and great Mayo fun.

Saoirse na Mara sea kayaking –

Call Ali and book a day out on Clew Bay.

Electric Escapes electric bike hire –

Call Paul.

Clew Bay Bike Hire –

Call Travis.

All Play wind surfing –

Call Cathal.

So, whichever activity you fancy, come to west Mayo for your fix of guided or self-guided walking, cycling, sea kayaking, wind surfing and others like horse riding, sailing, sea fishing, etc.

Up the Mountains with Eleven

I had a gas day last week in the Nephin Begs, with a lovely group of 11.

We left our cars at 10.30 am, I in the knowledge that the walk would take somewhere between 6 and 8 hours, but knowing that we had plenty of time, even if it turned out to be longer.

My fastest time doing the circuit in question was 6 hr 20 and even that time I was dawdling, as it was in the middle of Orchid season. I had been stopping every couple of metres to look at specimen. On the other hand, I had once brought a group of okay, but a little slow, walkers and it had taken 8 hr 30.

Anyway, this lovely group did the horseshoe in 8 hr 10. But the fun we had with the weather !

We enjoyed brilliant sunshine and warm winds from the east / southeast, mixed with loud thunder over our heads and accompanying fork lightning. The man with the camera had a classic West of Ireland opportunity to take pictures of a sky entirely black on the one side and clear blue alongside to the west.

We peeled off layers, only to pull them back on five minutes later. This is the great attraction of hill walking in Ireland’s west. If you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes.

We saw Frogs, Hares, Meadow Pipits, just one singing Skylark, but no Wheatears, Foxes or Grey Herons, which might ordinarily be encountered.

But it was a day to remember for its truly dramatic weather. Clare Island, off to the west, would appear clearly, then disappear entirely soon after. We even had two occasions where the walking had to stop and the group come in close together, as visibility shrunk to 10 metres.

That’s walking in Mayo – brilliant.