Cycleway from Newport to Mulranny

I took a trip out yesterday to check on the progress of the cycleway / walkway from Newport to Mulranny that is currently under construction. The route follows the old Achill railway line for the most part, with only very short stretches not on the disused line.

Its total length is something like 18 km, with hopes that it can be further developed in both directions in the years to come, forward towards Achill and back towards Westport.

The track will be a truly great additon to Mayo’s tourism offer.

The track will take us through the Atlantic blanket bogs of West Mayo, affording stunning views of both Clew Bay’s many little quiet inlets to the West and The Nephin Beg mountains and its lakes to the East. The first stage of the track ends just beyond Mulranny village, at the junction between the roads to Ballycroy and to Achill.

Here are just some photos I took yesterday to give you an idea of what this wonderful new amenity will offer. I’ll be walking its full length before the end of the year and will add new photos here as I do so.

Birds Recently Spotted

Winter can be a great time for bird watching in the West of Ireland. Here are three of the more interesting birds I’ve seen recently.

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

This bird does not ‘belong’ in Ireland, let alone the West. However, as I was driving south through Galway and its terrible floods the other day, a large white bird caught my eye in a flooded field at Kilcolgan. I stopped and observed the Great White Egret for 10 minutes, before continuing on my way. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera, so here is a picture from the UK’s RSPB website.

Barnacle Goose

Barnacle Goose

Barnacle Geese

North West Mayo carries internationally important numbers of this bird during winter, when they migrate south from Greenland. I saw five recently at Blacksod Bay, but, again, didn’t have my camera. The Iniskea Islands hold very large numbers of these during winter. Note the pale white / cream face on an otherwise black upper body head and neck.

Brent Goose

Brent Geese

Brent Geese

Again, the North West of Ireland holds important wintering flocks of Brent Geese. I saw three on the beach at Dromard, Co. Sligo recently. That day, I did have the camera. Click on the picture to increase its size and note the Brent’s distinctive thin white collar, which is visible on the bird on the left.

Get Out & About 2010

Together with Lough Lannagh Lodge holiday accommodation here in Castlebar, I am offering two days of lovely winter walking around west Mayo, for the weekend of January 15, 2010.

This is all about getting ready for a great 2010, letting the power of winter’s natural world blow away your 2009 cobwebs. This is about being exhilarated by nature and preparing for a new year.

Friday : Arrive in Lough Lannagh for dinner at 8 pm and an orientation presentation on what we will be doing over the weekend. A quiet drink in one of the town’s best pubs.

Saturday : Four hours gentle walking around Moore Hall, a ruined ‘big house’ and the adjoining Lough Carra, a gem among the many lakes of County Mayo. This is a wonderfully tranquil and serene place in the middle of the Plains of Mayo.

Sunday : Four hours walk on The Bangor Trail, surely Ireland’s most remote and isolated waymarked way. This trail brings us in to the very heart of rural, wet, wild and mountainous west Mayo. The place is a pure joy, perhaps even more so in winter, where we experience the trail in its full grandeur, battered by the North Atlantic weather, its wind and rain.

The weekend includes 2 x Bed and Breakfast in twin rooms (single supplement applies), 2 x dinners, 2 x packed lunches and a whole lot of outdoor fun. Drinks are not included.

Full use of Lough Lannagh’s gym, sauna and steam room are also included. A drying room is also freely available.

Itinerary : Just arrive at Castlebar by 8 pm on Friday, to enjoy the dinner. Departure is around 4 pm on Sunday.

What to bring : Raingear, to include waterproof jacket and waterproof ankle hiking boots. Changes of clothing. Lots of enthusiasm and a love for the outdoors.

Price : Euro 199 per person sharing, or Euro 219 single supplement.

Places are limited, so to reserve yours, please call me on 094 – 9027797, or 086 – 8318748, or e-mail me on info [at] tourismpure [dot] com.

Just come walking !

Blackbirds in Autumn

I’ve always liked autumn.

I love kicking up the brown, yellow and reddish leaves that cover the ground at this time of year and, let’s face it, doing so reminds me of being a child. But another great thing about autumn time is the way the birds are much more visible simply because of that same falling of leaves.

Blackbird

Blackbird

This morning, I’ve seen robin, wren, chaffinch and the wonderful blackbird. The blackbirds are very common in our garden, as they jump from ash tree branch to whitethorn top. They’ll happily perch on the outermost branches of the whitethorn, most often in pairs, their gorgeous yellow / orange beak and distinctive yellow ring around their eyes clearly visible against the low and pale autumn sun.

The other day, I noticed two in particular, clearly playing with eachother. As one would vacate a certain tree in favour of another, no more than 5 m away, so the second would follow almost immediately. I watched them circumnavigate the garden, in short hops, as if playing ‘follow the leader’ or ‘catch’.

Lough Carra, County Mayo

 

Lough Carra

Lough Carra

Lough Carra is a 1,500 hectare marl / limestone lake, located around 16 km straight south from Castlebar. On its eastern shore lies the ruined Moore Hall, home now to an important population of Lesser Horseshoe Bats.

While the land around Moore Hall is now owned by Coillte, and therefore unfortunately mostly planted with non-native conifers, nevertheless, the area is a pleasant one for walking and is particularly child-friendly, being pretty much flat all around.

Indeed, the on-site car park has recently been tarred, which is no harm either when you have the children along.

You’ll be tempted to walk inwards and away from the lake, along the path which completes a circle around the ruins of the big house. This is a nice walk and you can divert into the middle of the circle to view the house. But I’d rather you turned around at the car park and faced the lake. Walk to the right, across a small bridge on the narrow road and then turn immediately left, over a stile and continue in through this largely broadleaf wood, down to the lake shore. It’s nicer.

For more information on Lough Carra, a truly beautiful spot in Mayo, look here, at a website largely developed by Chris and Linda Huxley, who live down there.