Lovely Leitrim Outings

Nuala McNulty runs an eco self-catering apartment near Manorhamilton, north Co. Leitrim. There’s a link to Tawnylust Lodge in the right hand column.

She informs me of the following events during September. The mushroom foraging ones are, I’m sure, run by the wonderful Tina Pommer. Check them out.

Sept 11 & 13 : Green Generation walks.

Sept 19 : Archaeology walk.

Sept 20 & 26 : Nature and foraging walks.

Contact Nuala on 071 – 9820083, or e-mail her via her website.


Some Mayo Mountain Photos

Here are a few photos I took last Saturday, when taking part in the Mighty Mayo Mountain Challenge. The one from Mweelrea is from a previous (successful) climb, just to give you an idea of what that mountain is all about.

Mountain Challenge Done

On Saturday  last, along with around 55 others, I took part in the Mighty Mayo Mountain Challenge (see entry below).

We started off in two buses from Castlebar and began the climb of Nephin, from the north side, after 6 am. The weather was good and the climb without difficulty. Of course it was cold at the top, but any climb of any mountain in Mayo that you come off still dry is a treat. I took exactly 3 hr 00 to complete the climb and felt fine afterwards. My dodgy knees were still good.

We began the Reek after 10 am and, boy, was it packed. Not only was there the huge Gaelforce West event on, but there were also over 100 climbing in aid of Our Lady’s Hospital for Children, plus the usual individuals, couples and families that are on the mountain any given day during summer.

In fact, I found the Gaelforce guys not to be in the way, but very helpful at making me keep up the pace. With a competitor in front and a competitor behind, you actually didn’t have much choice but to keep moving. I completed it in 2 hr 35, which, while not that fast, wasn’t too slow either. Maybe 8 years ago, I once did it in 1 hr 05 up and 48 mins down. Again, it was dry.

After soup and sandwiches in Croagh Patrick’s carpark, it was off to Mweelrea. The rain started to fall before we got there.

I had been climbing for 1 hr 30 when the group organiser, Vincent, called a halt to proceedings. He was right. It was far too rainy, far too windy, far too foggy and far too dangerous to continue. I had reached the end of the boggy terrain and just about to hit the rocky final ascent, around 30 minutes from the top. Visibility was much too poor and, in such circumstances, you must respect the mountain. I descended in another 1 hr 05 and was soaked through long before I even started to some off the mountain.

In 10 years, I have tackled Mweelrea 5 times and only ever reached the summit on one occasion. The mountain is right on the ocean to the west, with the Killary immediately to the south. Cloud rolls in incredibly quickly. Literally you can see the summit clearly one minute and not 10 metres in front of your nose the next.

I want to thank all of you who contributed sponsorship for this event. It was a great day in the mountains of Mayo. And the knees survived.

Mighty Mayo Mountain Challenge

Looking down from the top of Mweelrea, July 2009.

Looking down from the top of Mweelrea, July 2009.

In aid of Cancer Action Mhaigh Eo (registered charity no. CHY 15789) I will tomorrow attempt, as part of a group, to climb all three of Mayo’s highest mountains in the one day.

We will start with Nephin, at 806 m, with the ‘off’ at 6 am. Croagh Patrick (764 m) follows at 10.30 am. Connacht’s highest mountain, Mweelrea, at 814 m, wraps up the day, with a planned assault time of 3 pm. Hopefully, we’ll be down from Mweelrea around 6.30 to 7 pm.

Now I do quite a bit of walking, but most of it is on pretty flat terrain. The reason for this is that I have very bad knees. But I do love climbing mountains and regularly do so. The price I typically pay is a day’s painful knees and an inability to bend them, particularly the right, for a while afterwards.

So spare a thought for my knees tomorrow, but even more the day after …

Leisure Centres Crippling Hotels

An interesting but not surprising article in last week’s Irish Independent describes how many Irish hotels are suffering greatly from the cost of running a leisure centre, incorporating swimming pools and sometimes jacuzzis, saunas and spas.

One example describes an unnamed western hotel with annual bill of € 300,000 for gas and electricity, “with much of the total … accounted for by its leisure centre”.

A businessman involved in the sector tells the reporter how many hotels are owned by builders who, although they knew how much it would cost to build a leisure centre, “didn’t know what it cost to run one”.

Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) chief executive, John Power, describes how leisure centres add hugely to the costs of running a hotel, citing energy as a large cost factor.

Validity is leant to a widely held belief, when the article states that while 8-in-10 people choose a hotel because it has a leisure centre, only 2-in-10 actually use it when they stay there. I’ve always believed that. Whenever I stay in a hotel, I do make sure to take a swim, but am always amazed at how few other guests are there.

Having said that, with a staff of maybe 4 or 5, plus the energy consumed to keep them running, it really makes little difference whether or not guests use the facility. There is no extra revenue anyway. Extra revenue can only be achieved from the local population and club membership fees. That’s a tough ask in the current climate.

Finally, the article mentions another big problem for Irish hotels in 2009. Massive recent building has brought a huge over-capacity to the sector, with an extra 21,000 beds provided in the market since 2002. Occupancy rates have fallen to 52%.

Footnote : I alluded to club membership above. I once joined a nearby hotel’s swimming pool and gymnasium club. The staff were so poorly trained and discourteous that I left and never rejoined. good facilities are one thing – quality staff quite another.

Walking in Mayo in September

Together with Hannah at Léim Siar environmentally friendly guesthouse up on The Mullet peninsula, I will be leading one last walking tour for 2009 this coming September.

The dates are Fri, Sept 11 thru Sun Sept 13. Come and stay B&B at Hannah’s for Fri and Sat nights, with dinner both evenings and packed lunches for the three days’ walks.

Forest track, Sheskin.

Forest track, Sheskin.

Walk through the huge plantation forest at Sheskin, Ireland’s biggest townland. See and experience the vast bogland of Ireland’s West. Follow that up with a beautiful walk on cliff tops at Ceathrú Thaidhg, looking out over the Western Ocean.




Distant Iniskea Islands, from The Mullet.

Distant Iniskea Islands, from The Mullet.

On day two, we will go out onto Iniskea South, an uninhabited island since the 1930’s. Check out the sea life and meander around the remains of houses and other structures.

The final day brings us along sandy beaches and low lying hills, to admire the wonderful panoramic views of The Mullet peninsula and surrounding islands.


If you would like to join us, drop me a line on info [at] tourismpure [dot] com, or call me on 086 – 8318748. The cost is Euro 285 pps twin rooms, or Euro 315 for a single room. Cost includes all food, guiding, boat to island, etc. Be sure to bring good rain gear and waterproof hiking boots. Enjoy !

Also, check out Hannah’s Léim Siar website, at


With all the hullabaloo (fully merited) about the reintroduction to Ireland of our long lost Golden Eagles (Donegal), White Tailed Sea Eagles (Kerry) and Reed Kites (Wicklow), not too many people seem to have noticed the perhaps even more wonderful natural geographic progression and increase in numbers of Buzzards.

Buzzard expansion is one of the real success stories of Irish wildlife these past decades. Once confined to the North East of the country, they appear more and more frequently towards the South and along the East coast. Indeed, some have even been spotted in the West, though this remains rare.

On July 30th, a person reported having seen 3 Buzzards in Ballymote, Sligo. Also in July there was a report of 1 from Corraundulla, Galway. There were additional reports from Sligo in June and Roscommon in April.

Anyway, I found this amazing footage on You Tube. I think it’s from Britain.