World Tourism Day 2009

Sunday September 27 is World Tourism Day.

I hope to be passing it on a boat off Kerry on a whale watching trip. Check out www.iwdg.ie if you are ever interested in going out to see what dolphins and whales you might find off Ireland’s west coast. The best season is just now – late Sept and early Oct, as the migrating whales pass Ireland.

This year’s World Tourism Day theme is “Celebrating Diversity”. The diversity of marine life is what I hope to celebrate.

‘Kerry’ and ‘diversity’ also bring to mind the continuing efforts to re-introduce White Tailed Sea Eagles back into Ireland. What a wonderful and beautiful project. I think, to date, over 30 birds have been brought from Norway. This re-introduction project is one arm of Ireland’s attempts to enhance and protect native biodiversity, under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Convention, which dates from 1993, has three objectives :

1. To conserve biological diversity.

2. To use biological diversity in a sustainable manner.

3. To share the benefits of biological diversity fairly and equitably.

Great Weekend in Mayo

What a weekend’s weather we’ve just had in Mayo. We had a really nice group for our walks this weekend, with everybody in the kind of good mood you’ll get with beautiful weather and surroundings.

Take a look at some pictures below. Highlights of the weekend, from a fauna point of view, were around 6 Bottle Nosed Dolphins off the west side of Iniskea South, 9 Grey Seals in ‘Seal Cove’, a Kestrel at Sheskin and, without doubt the highlight for me, 2 Otters at Sheskin also.

I was crouching down on the forest track in Sheskin, looking at the Kestrel that had landed on a nearby conifer, when I heard a “glub, glub” sound coming from the very small, shallow and narrow ditch behind me. I waited for the sound to get just past me, then stood up and saw a beautiful adult otter moving along the ditch. I was able to witness him for a good 10 metres as he pottered along minding his own business, seeing what he could catch for an early dinner. Ten minutes later, another came along in the same direction.

 

Ballycroy National Park

Visitor Centre, Ballycroy National Park.

Visitor Centre, Ballycroy National Park.

Ballycroy National Park has existed for 11 years, pretty much without anybody knowing. However, last month saw the opening of its visitor centre at Ballycroy village, midway between Mulranny and Bangor Erris on the little travelled N59.

Ballycroy is Ireland’s sixth National Park, after Wicklow, Glenveagh, Killarney, Burren and Connemara.

 

Boardwalk through Bog, Ballycroy NP.

Boardwalk through Bog, Ballycroy NP.

The NP has 11,000 hectares of more or less Atlantic blanket bog landscape, with the wonderful Nephin Beg mountain range as its central spine. The Bangor Trail goes in and out of the NP for much of its journey from above Newport to Bangor village.

Animals to be found in the Park include Fox, Badger, Otter, Pine Marten, the invasive Mink, Red Deer and birds, like the White Fronted Goose, Skylark, Merlin and maybe the odd Peregrine Falcon.

The Bangor Trail, which I have walked many times, is a great old highway from northern Mayo down towards Newport and Westport beyond. In days of old, when there was no true road from the Bangor area southwards, this was the only way. Nowadays, it is in mostly poor condition. Some parts are reasonably covered in loose stones and rocks. Much of it is not. The parts which are not are being reclaimed by the bog, particularly the stretches north and south of the bothy / refuge below Corslieve.

To walk the Bangor Trail is a real experience. And that is exactly what I mean – a real experience. It is tough going, but hugely rewarding. Will you get wet ? Definitely.

Visit www.ballycroynationalpark.ie

Some Places to Visit in Ireland’s West

If you’re living in or visiting Ireland’s West, you might like to consider some of these places for a nice walk or some fun out with the family :

1. Moore Hall, near Carnacon, south County Mayo.

Ruined “big house” plus surrounding forests – much of it planted conifers, but also quite a bit of native broadleaves. Nice walks around Lough Carra.

2. Lough Key Forest Park, near Boyle, north Co. Roscommon.

Okay, there’s the paying part, but there is also loads to do without parting with your cash. Kilometres of forest walks, most of it through native and non-native broadleaves, parts also through conifers. Lakeside walks. Feed the swans and ducks. Look at the passing cruisers, etc.

3. The Suck Valley Way, Athleague, south Co. Roscommon.

Head for the lovely Visitor Centre in a former church. Walk along the bank of the River Suck as far as Castlestrange and its La Tene Stone. If you’re up to it, continue to the quaint and pretty riverside village of Castlecoote.

4. Mountbellew Demesne, Mountbellew, north Co. Galway.

Very large and dense conifer plantation has good walks. See its old forge. If you’re lucky, you might spot some deer, or test your skills in finding their footprints.

5. Arigna Mining Experience, near Drumshanbo, mid Co. Leitrim.

Perhaps Ireland’s best paying tourist attraction (in my humble opinion). Visit the old coal mine, guided by the actual miners themselves. If I remember correctly, mining ceased circa 1990 and the guys themselves now bring visitors around. When they’ve retired in the future, I doubt if the experience will ever be the same, so get there soon.

6. Old Head Wood, beyond Westport, west Co. Mayo.

Forget the beach (as pleasant as it is). Walk beyond the beach and discover the amazing, though small, Old Head Wood. Walk through it at a slow pace and take in this tiny piece of old Atlantic Wood. Then exit the far side and walk along the cliff top fields, until you get a clear view of the great Atlantic Ocean and Clare Island in front of you. Spot the Cormorants, Seals, Dolphins, etc. Take note of the poor trees, bent over at 90 degrees eastwards from the fierce and unrelenting Atlantic winds.

Short Walk on Ox Mountains

I had some time to spare yesterday, so I took an admittedly short, but nonetheless very pleasant stroll up the Ox Mountains behind Coolaney.

I must incorporate some parts of the Ox into a future walk, because what you have here is lovely heather covered rolling hills, to around 400 m, with wonderful views out over Sligo Bay to the north and the plains of Mayo to the south.

Not only that, but in the area between the N17 to the east, the N5 to the south and Ballina town to the west, you really have unspoiled land, with quaint little villages that no main road goes through, which would remind you of your youth in the ’60s and ’70s.

And yesterday was just gorgeous, with clear blue skies and temperatures of 18 C. Bliss.

Wild Mayo in May

Friday May 15 thru Sunday May 17 :

Join us on three wonderful days walking in Wild Mayo in Ireland’s West.

Forest track, Sheskin, Mayo

Forest track, Sheskin, Mayo

Friday – A five hour hike through the largest area of land in Ireland with no through road. Discover the vast bogs and enormous conifer plantations of Sheskin, Central Mayo. Try your hand at some red deer tracking, maybe spot some elusive otters or red grouse, stand in total silence and take in the sheer scale of the place.

 

 

Wild weather, Iniskea Islands, Mayo

Wild weather, Iniskea Islands, Mayo

Saturday – Take the boat out to the South Iniskea Island off the west coast of Mayo and Europe and stroll around for the day, taking in the wildlife and seascapes of this beautiful island. Observe the varied marine bird species of this uninhabited spot. Wander around the deserted houses long since abandoned.

 

 

The Mullet Peninsula, Mayo - a great place for walking

The Mullet Peninsula, Mayo - a great place for walking

Sunday – Some nice relaxing walks around the Mullet peninsula, west of Belmullet town, Coastal Mayo, including on the beaches looking west over the wild Atlantic.

Stay two nights in an environmentally friendly bed and breakfast out on the Mullet, heated by geothermal renewable energy and solar panels.

 

This long weekend will bring you back to a place of peace in these turbulent times.

You will need some stamina for the long walks, a genuine sense of adventure and deep love of the outdoors. Bring good hiking boots and layers of clothing for the ever changing weather of Ireland’s West coast. Enjoy. It’ll be great.

Price : Euro 285 per person. Accommodation is in twin bedrooms. Price includes all accommodation, breakfast and full dinner, packed lunches on each day, transport to and from Castlebar, boat to and from islands, full guiding throughout. You just get yourself to Castlebar by 10.00 on Friday, May 15th.

Places are strictly limited to first 11 only.

Call or contact me for further details.

Mayo’s Highest Points

I once stood in the then Bord Fáilte office in Paris and read a letter (that’s how long ago it was), which was enquiring as to the very best spots in Ireland for skiing !

Often, in continental Europe (and perhaps beyond) people think that our country is much more mountainous than is the case. So in a land where the highest point is a mere 1,038 m and, if my memory serves me right, none of the top 20 peaks is in Connacht, here are the top heights in Mayo :

Mweelrea – 814 m

Nephin – 806 m

Croagh Patrick – 764 m

Barrclashcame (Sheeffries) – 762 m

Slieve Carr – 721 m

Corrannabinnia (Nephin Begs) – 711 m

These are our only peaks over 700 m. So far, I’ve only done five of them. Before too long, I hope to attack the last.