I have written before about Coillte’s native woodland restoration project at Clonbur Wood, on the Galway Mayo border. I’ve been walking down around Cong and Clonbur for maybe 14 years, often lamenting the overly dense conifer plantations on vast tracts of the old Guinness estate.
But with the advent of the woodland project, the area is already beginning to be even more attractive as a walking destination than it already was.
Cong boasts wonderful sights for walkers, including the (in)famous dry canal, a failed 19th Century engineering project. You can walk the ‘bed’ of the canal and take in small roadways between the village and Loughs Corrib and Mask. Find a lime kiln in excellent condition, or the various sinks in the highly porous limestone rock that provides the sponge linking the two lakes.
Good hill climbing in the area includes the formidable Maumtrasna mountain to the north, or the more easy going Benlevy, in between the two, which offers superb views over both huge lakes.
But the special walk here is the entirely off-road linear between Clonbur and Cong. It’s about 8 to 9 km long, but will take you up to 4 hours, at a leisurely pace. This walk, well sign-posted, will bring you through both conifer plantation and new regeneration areas, past the ruined Ballykine Castle, lost in a beech wood, alongside a beautiful little bay of Lough Mask, which Mute Swans share with Mallards, Tufted Duck and others and onto the amazing lakeshore limestone pavement. Visit Pigeon Hole sink and enjoy the wetlands of the Cong River. Here you might see some of the resident Grey Herons, or visiting Cormorants. Emerge into Cong at the Abbey and Monk’s Fishing House.
2010 sees me hosting three-day walking events in Cong and Clonbur, in association with a local B&B.