Dates Change – Western Ocean Walking Weekend

Please note the slight change in dates for my next Western Ocean Walking Weekend.

The dates are now from Thursday, August 12, thru Sunday, August 15. Come and enjoy a great weekend of walking on cliff-top walks (much higher than the Cliffs of Moher, by the way), on a stunning once-inhabited island and on lovely beaches and low-lying hills on perhaps Ireland’s most interesting peninsula, The Mullet of NW Mayo.

You can be picked up from and dropped back to Castlebar train station.

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Postponement – Get Out & About 2010

Due to the continuing rough weather, myself and Lough Lannagh, my accommodation partner for this event, have decided to postpone next weekend’s planned walking event.

I will announce the altered schedule early this week.

Hiking Up and Around Nephin Beg

Here is a video I made of my hike up and around Nephin Beg mountain and the twin Scardaun Loughs last Saturday.

I hope the video gives you an idea of what this landscape is like.

Section 2 is from on the top of the 627 m mountain, with the camera facing directly west. The result is very strong wind, so you might like to tone down the volume just for that section.

A Winter Hike Up Nephin Beg

On Saturday, I left Castlebar at 7.20 am, to begin a climb of Nephin Beg at 8.20, from its eastern side. I parked the car on The Western Way and took to the hills from the little bridge over the second stream after the Coillte hut.

Nephin Beg summit; Slieve Carr in background.

Nephin Beg summit; Slieve Carr in background.

As I gained ground, I was quite surprised that the terrain was not much wetter than was the case and I made steady enough progress. I made the summit from the southeast ridge, looking across the corrie towards pt 311 m, which forms part of the Letterkeen Loop.

Of course, once I reached the top, I was no longer sheltered and became subjected to fierce wind and some snow coming in from the west. The views were wonderful in all directions, from Blacksod Bay, The Mullet, Duvillaun and Iniskea Islands to the west and northwest, all the way around to Nephin Mór in the east and Corraun and Achill in the west and southwest.

Scardaun Loughs in the shadow of Nephin Beg; Slieve Carr beyond.

Scardaun Loughs in the shadow of Nephin Beg; Slieve Carr beyond.

From the summit, I descended northwards and headed for the northern side of the Scardaun Loughs, passing them to the west. I saw seven geese (too far away to positively identify, but presumably White-Fronted, which over-winter here).

Having passed the twin lakes on my right, I then began to circumnavigate them to the north, underneath Slieve Carr. Swinging, around to the southeast on the far side, I began my descent to The Western Way. This section was by far the wettest on the hike, but was nonetheless easily manageable.

To come around Nephin Beg, I followed the tree line, with long, clear views north across the huge plantation forests to the wind turbines and disused power station at Bellacorrick. East of the Loughs, five additional geese came flying overhead from the NE and did not land on the lakes, rather continuing out to the pond-studded Scardaun bog beyond.

Passing Lough Namroon below me, I dropped down into the valley of its draining stream to rejoin The Western Way after 5 hrs 40 minutes in varying sunshine, snow and heavy rain towards the end.

Six Places to Walk in Mayo

Here is a selection of lovely places to go for a walk in County Mayo. 

The walks vary from hillwalking to ca. 800 m, down to on-road and some are more suited to bringing children than others. 

1. Sheefry Hills (SW Mayo) : 

Straight south from Croagh Patrick and northeast of the famous little village of Leenane lie the Sheefry Hills, culminating in Barrclashcame at 772 m. Wet and cold at this time of the year, but if you’re looking for a reasonably serious walk, go here. There are great views and you’ll know you’re out in the wilds, by the wind and frequent rain. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a view of Mweelrea to the west, Doo Lough below it and the Killary fjord to the south. 

Be sure to bring a proper map with you – Ordnance Survey sheet no. 37. Preferably, do not go alone. Count on 5 hours to do the loop, so leave it til springtime. 

2. Brackloon Wood (near Westport) : 

If climbing the Sheefrys isn’t your thing, then go for a gentle stroll in Brackloon, ca. 4 km south of Westport town. Turn right off the Leenane road where the sign says Drummin. There is a nice loop walk in this mixed oak wood, that will take you 1 hour (more if you have children with you). The mixed trees are attractive and there are some benches where you can take a rest, just breathe in the air and listen to the birds. 

3. Balla Wood (SE of Castlebar) : 

This is another good walk for families. It traverses mainly beech wood and there is a good loop walk that will bring you through part of the wood, past the golf course and back. If entering Balla from Castlebar, take the road to Mayo Abbey at the top of the village and turn right, when still in the village, signposted GAA pitch and golf course. Park your car where there is attractive wooden fencing on your left. The nice easy walk also has a lovely meadow in the middle of the wood, where your kids will like to play ‘hide and seek’ in the long grass during summer. 

4. Nephin Mór (Lahardane) : 

Nephin Mountain (806 m).

Nephin Mountain (806 m).

Back to the mountains. This climb will take between 3 and 4 hours up and down. Get to Lahardane, turn left just before you leave the village in the direction of Crossmolina, drive for ca. 2 km and you’ll see a rough carpark on your right. Park up there and take the forest track on the other side of the road. Keep to the left of the second forest and the wonderful corrie to reach the summit trig pillar. 

As with any mountain, be sure to bring a proper map with you – Ordnance Survey sheet no. 23. Preferably, do not go alone. 

5. Corraun (W Mayo, before Achill) : 

For this on-road walk, turn left just after Mulranny village, down to where you’ll see the church, then continue out towards the sea. Most people will always head to either Achill or Ballycroy from Mulranny, but you will turn to the southern side of Corraun peninsula. Park wherever you can and just walk the little road as far as you like. There are wonderful views of Clew Bay and Clare Island, as well as out to the open ocean. 

6. Downpatrick Head (N Mayo) : 

Coming from Ballina, turn right before Ballycastle village and head out to the Head. See the amazing blow holes and the extraordinary Dún Briste sea stack. Walk along the cliff tops, but be careful not to get too close. Strong gusts can come at any moment. Do not bring children up here. This is the North Atlantic. 

Afterwards, if you like, return to Ballycastle and continue westward along the road and visit the Céide Fields just beyond, or look out over the cliffs from the excellent viewing stand opposite the car park for the Fields.

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 !

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.