Just Get Out There

Last evening’s RTE programme Tracks and Trails was a nice ad for Mayo outdoor and active holiday breaks. It’s a pity, however, that they didn’t cover just a little bit more of the terrain than the Cycleway. And did you notice the ridiculous and unattractive fencing along the track, immediately on both sides ? Not exactly pretty.

Anyway, Mayo has what it takes to pass some wonderful outdoors days. Getting out into the fresh (yes, often wet) air does wonders for your mind and body.

Get Out There in Mayo - Clew Bay & Nephin Beg Mountains

Get Out There in Mayo - Clew Bay & Nephin Beg Mountains

If you’re in the area, join me for a guided walk on waymarked ways, hills, cliff-tops and so on. I will show you a Mayo that is off the beaten track. We’ll venture into the remote Nephin Beg Mountains or skip along high ocean cliffs. The important thing is to get out into our wild spots and breathe in that unique Mayo air.

You’ll enjoy the break and re-charge the batteries.                                                                             

But also, check out these local providers of outdoor pursuits and great Mayo fun.

Saoirse na Mara sea kayaking –

Call Ali and book a day out on Clew Bay.

http://www.irelandwestseakayaking.com/

Electric Escapes electric bike hire –

Call Paul. http://www.electricescapes.ie/

Clew Bay Bike Hire –

Call Travis. http://www.clewbayoutdoors.com/

All Play wind surfing –

Call Cathal. http://www.allplay.ie/

So, whichever activity you fancy, come to west Mayo for your fix of guided or self-guided walking, cycling, sea kayaking, wind surfing and others like horse riding, sailing, sea fishing, etc.

Up the Mountains with Eleven

I had a gas day last week in the Nephin Begs, with a lovely group of 11.

We left our cars at 10.30 am, I in the knowledge that the walk would take somewhere between 6 and 8 hours, but knowing that we had plenty of time, even if it turned out to be longer.

My fastest time doing the circuit in question was 6 hr 20 and even that time I was dawdling, as it was in the middle of Orchid season. I had been stopping every couple of metres to look at specimen. On the other hand, I had once brought a group of okay, but a little slow, walkers and it had taken 8 hr 30.

Anyway, this lovely group did the horseshoe in 8 hr 10. But the fun we had with the weather !

We enjoyed brilliant sunshine and warm winds from the east / southeast, mixed with loud thunder over our heads and accompanying fork lightning. The man with the camera had a classic West of Ireland opportunity to take pictures of a sky entirely black on the one side and clear blue alongside to the west.

We peeled off layers, only to pull them back on five minutes later. This is the great attraction of hill walking in Ireland’s west. If you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes.

We saw Frogs, Hares, Meadow Pipits, just one singing Skylark, but no Wheatears, Foxes or Grey Herons, which might ordinarily be encountered.

But it was a day to remember for its truly dramatic weather. Clare Island, off to the west, would appear clearly, then disappear entirely soon after. We even had two occasions where the walking had to stop and the group come in close together, as visibility shrunk to 10 metres.

That’s walking in Mayo – brilliant.

10HD – Mayo Outdoors Event

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

10HD is an active day out, combining cycling and walking, pencilled in for Saturday, June 26.

Based out of the lovely little village of Newport, west County Mayo, 10HD will have you on a bicycle or your feet for the whole day – more or less 10 hours.

10HD is most definitely not a race.

This is a relaxed event to see some of the wonderful views Mayo has to offer. Get on your bike in Newport and ramble towards the Nephin Beg mountains, which stretch out above the northern shore of Clew Bay. Take in Loughs Furnace and Feeagh. After around 90 minutes, dismount and hike part of The Bangor Trail, surely Ireland’s most isolated waymarked walking trail. Then hill walk up Nephin Beag itself, at 627 m, to get great views out over the vast blanket bogs and scenic coastline of North Mayo, towards Croagh Patrick, Clew Bay, Achill Island, Blacksod Bay, The Mullet peninsula and the Iniskea Islands beyond (extent of views is weather and visibility dependant).

10HD comprises approx. 90 minutes on the bike, followed by 6 hours hiking, followed by another 90 minutes return to Newport via a different route on the bike, with breaks along the way.

The cost of this10 Hour Day active day out is Euro 50 each and the number of places is strictly limited. Packed lunch, bike hire and full guiding throughout are included. We leave Newport at 9 am sharp and will be back at around 7 pm. Newport offers various accommodation alternatives, should you wish to overnight.

Clew Bay, County Mayo

Clew Bay is a well sheltered glacier-formed mass of water between Louisburgh and Corraun, in west Mayo. Famed for its ‘365’ islands (there are closer to 85 in reality), it is a quiet spot, with its best parts hidden from general view, west of the Westport to Newport road.

Clare Island stands at Clew Bay’s mouth and, with her many drumlin island friends, she keeps the bay’s waters remarkably calm for the West of Ireland. Well, most of the time anyway.

Boasting great placenames, like Rosmoney, Rosmindle, Roscahill, Rostoohy, Rosnakilly, Rosdogaun, Rosbeg, Roslaher, Rossow, Rossantubble, Rossanrubble, Rosgibbileen and Rosclave, how could you not want to visit ?

And while you’re there, go in for a pint to Fitz’s Buckfield Inn.

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.

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.

Cycleway from Newport to Mulranny

I took a trip out yesterday to check on the progress of the cycleway / walkway from Newport to Mulranny that is currently under construction. The route follows the old Achill railway line for the most part, with only very short stretches not on the disused line.

Its total length is something like 18 km, with hopes that it can be further developed in both directions in the years to come, forward towards Achill and back towards Westport.

The track will be a truly great additon to Mayo’s tourism offer.

The track will take us through the Atlantic blanket bogs of West Mayo, affording stunning views of both Clew Bay’s many little quiet inlets to the West and The Nephin Beg mountains and its lakes to the East. The first stage of the track ends just beyond Mulranny village, at the junction between the roads to Ballycroy and to Achill.

Here are just some photos I took yesterday to give you an idea of what this wonderful new amenity will offer. I’ll be walking its full length before the end of the year and will add new photos here as I do so.