Pictures from Cong Lakes Walks

Here are some pictures from our lovely weekend of walking around the shores of Loughs Corrib and Mask last week. We were blessed with the weather, only being subjected to two showers. Both of them hit us when on the first walk and pretty much under trees, so their effect on morale was nil.

Please scroll down below the pictures for upcoming dates of these guided walking events.

Our next Cong Lakes Walks events take place on the following dates :

Thu June 10 thru Sun June 13.

Bank holiday weekend, Fri July 30 thru Mon August 2.

Mon August 9 thru Thu August 12.

Thu September 23 thru Sun September 26.

Thu October 14 thru Sun October 17

A Great Weekend in Cong

I enjoyed the company of a really great group of walkers over the bank holiday weekend around Cong.

We completed three days of walking, with just two showers on the Saturday interrupting an otherwise glorious sun-drenched weekend. Cong was seen in all its splendour, with great séisiúns in both Lydon’s and Danagher’s pubs and many walkers commenting on the spotlessly clean state of the lovely village.

We walked a total of around 6 hours on Saturday, followed by 5 on both Sunday and Monday. I’ll post some pics later on.

The area around Cong and Clonbur villages on the Galway Mayo border is ideal for walking, boasting native and mixed woodland, the two great lakes of Corrib and Mask, limestone pavement, like that of The Burren, a nice small mountain with fabulous views in all directions and possibly the prettiest village in Ireland.

Walking the Clonbur Cong Linear Trail

Here is a video I took a few weeks back of the pleasant linear hiking trail, entirely off-road, between the villages of Clonbur and Cong, on the Galway Mayo border.

This walk, combining native and conifer woodland, as well as caves, ruined castle, wetlands and lakeshore habitats, takes around 3 to 4 hours, at a casual pace.

Why not join me for Cong Lakes Walks, a three-day walking event down in this beautiful and tranquil area.

Coillte and Native Woods – Is It Possible ?

Coillte is the Irish state-owned commercial forestry management entity, controlling around 7% of the national territory. Almost all of the trees planted on the company’s estate are non-native conifers, including Sitka Spruce, Norway Spruce, Lodgepole Pine and others. Many of its sites in the West would be considered near ‘dead zones’ in terms of their very poor species diversity, both flora and fauna. We all know of sites where the sun does not penetrate to the monoculture plantation floor and where birdlife and mammal life is low in diversity.

In a remarkable move, however, Coillte became involved in an EU-Life Natura 2000 project back in 2006, with the aim of restoring small bits of its estate as priority native woodland habitats. This week, I attended the two-day conference, which closed this four-year, € 2.6 m project.

On the second day, attendees visited Clonbur Wood, on the Galway – Mayo border. Various Coillte personnel introduced us to the interesting aspects of the wood, which is associated with limestone pavement. Large scale removal of non-native trees has taken place and native species planted in their place. There is real hope that this site, of almost 300 ha, can return to being a wonderful, diverse native wood.

Native trees present include Ash, Hazel, Birch, with some Oak, Juniper and Yew. Animals present include fox, badger, pine marten, red squirrel, lesser horseshoe bat and otter.

As one part of my three- and five-day walking tours in Mayo, I bring small groups on to Coillte managed lands. In 2010, I will be adding this wonderful new amenity at Clonbur, where walkers can see first hand this impressive project to re-establish a native limestone pavement woodland in this part of the West of Ireland.

See here for information on Clonbur Wood.

For the EU website on the LIFE Project, see here.

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.

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.

Tree Identification and Lore

Tree Identification and Lore

Tree Identification and Lore

I am currently in the process of developing a multi-evening course, entitled “Tree Identification and Lore”.

The course, which will be run in the West of Ireland, will concentrate on  showing how to identify Ireland’s native and main non-native trees, by studying leaves, bark, fruit, habitat, etc. It will be complemented by plenty of ‘treelore’, or tree related folklore.

Our native trees include Oak, Ash, Scots Pine, Yew and so on. The main non-natives of Sitka Spruce, Horse Chestnut, Sycamore, etc., will be discussed also.

Sounds great already, don’t you think ? My aim is to roll it out during March and maybe for eight weeks, to include at least one evening spent out in the woods. I’ll be holding it in MO, RN or G.

Register your interest right now, by emailing me on info at tourismpure dot com. I will be trying to locate it according to where attendees are from. Alternatively, just reply here by posting a comment.