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 !


Mayo Adventure 2010

I’m in the middle of planning a new event for 2010. By taking advantage of the new cycleway / walkway between Newport and Mulranny (referred to in a recent posting below) and the bicycles available from my accommodation partner, Hannah at Léim Siar in Blacksod, I’m creating a 5 to 7-day walking and cycling tour of Mayo, which will almost entirely be off-road.

Indeed, even the roads which must be taken will only be minor roads, with extremely little traffic anyway.

Mayo is just a great place for walking and cycling. The northern half of the county is traversed by both The Bangor Trail and The Western Way, with large tracts of both off-road. Then we have the little travelled routes of the western part of the county, around Ballycroy, which have almost no traffic and offer great views of the Atlantic to the west and the Nephin Begs to the east.

Then we have The Mullet peninsula. There’s not much traffic there either and it can boast truly wonderful beaches and views in all directions, including south over the high cliffs of Achill’s Slievemore mountain.

More on this tour later. It will combine cycling and walking, as always at a leisurely pace. We’re not in the racing business.

Email me or post a comment if you’d like to be kept up to date with this new tour for 2010 – The Mayo Adventure.

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.


The Bangor Trail, February 28

The Bangor Trail, Mayo.

The Bangor Trail, Mayo.

I’ll be welcoming in spring 2009 with a long walk on Mayo’s Bangor Trail on Saturday, February 28th. My plan is to leave Castlebar at 7 am to begin walking at 8 am. I plan to walk for around 8 or 9 hours, returning to the same spot. If you would like to join me, I would welcome up to 7 others, for a group of no more than 8. With just two cars, we can car pool out to the starting point. Get in touch if you’d like to come.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You must be ready for wet, windy and wild West Mayo weather and tough conditions underfoot. If you are coming, please do bring good gear, food and liquids, but please do not bring anything that might get lost in nature, like chocolate wrapping, etc. I never leave a mess behind, however small.

When we were in school many moons ago, we learned that spring begins on February 1st. In an Irish context, that’s really slightly bonkers. I’ve also heard contributors to radio nature shows tell how, for them, spring begins on St. Patrick’s Day. That’s a little late. For me, winter lasts for four months, from Nov thru Feb, spring is March, April and May, summer June, July and August and autumn can lay claim to just the two months of Sept and Oct. Certainly in the West of Ireland, that seems to make more sense to me.

A Winter’s Walk on the Bangor Trail

The Bangor Trail, Co. Mayo

The Bangor Trail, Co. Mayo

Would you like to join me on a four-hour walk along Mayo’s magnificent Bangor Trail this winter ?

What, you cry, are you mad ? No, trust me. Winter on Ireland’s most remote, tranquil and wet waymarked way is a great treat. Why ? Because you’re not in charge.

Nowadays, the human is in charge of everything – controls the environment to a worrying degree, if you think about it. Not out here, not in winter.

Let me throw some dates out there.

Anybody for Thursday, December 11th ? We can meet in Castlebar at 8.30 am, get 4 hours walk in and be back by 3.00 pm. Send a comment if you’re interested and indicate your preferred date. If we can get a small group together, we’ll go for it.

What would you need ? A reasonable level of fitness, very good hiking boots, waterproof clothing, courage, some food, a camera, etc. Please don’t bring any unnecessary packaging that might get dropped, mobile phones (they won’t work up there anyway), MP3 players and all that kind of stuff.