Hiking Blog

Tourism Pure Walking Holidays

Guided Walking Holidays in Mayo & Connemara, Ireland

 

follow us ...

@tourismpure

 

Blog

Spring Wildflowers of Mayo

Perhaps the most lovely thing about getting out for a walk at this particular time of year is the renewed colour all around as the spring wildflowers of Mayo come out and begin to dominate our forests, hedges and fields. But nor do you have to go far – simply enjoy those in your uncut garden or hedge.

The white of Wild Garlic carpets the forest floor, which it shares with the beautiful drooping Bluebell. Get down on your hands and knees and breathe in the powerful aroma of the Wild Garlic – one of the great experiences of Ireland’s springtime.

The bright cream Primrose is visible in tight bunches along the hedgerow, while the especially excellent Marsh Marigold stands bright yellow along the damp water’s edge, often with its feet wet.

The small white flowers of Wild Strawberry is a hedge neighbour for the discreet blue-purple Dog-Violet. We hope we’ll see the fruit of the Wild Strawberry later in the summer, while the Violet will soon fade away.

Some green is supplied by the carpet-forming Opposite-Leaved Golden Saxifrage on stream banks, along with Lords and Ladies in the hedges and the fabulous tall and erect shoots of Yellow Iris on damp ground, although neither of these is yet in bloom.

In the unmowed garden, Daisies, Dandelions and Cuckooflower already dominate the grass. Herb Robert trails along the borders, while if you go exploring a little, you might find glorious Early Purple Orchids in nearby fields.

So get out and enjoy the outdoors, ever more interesting with the arrival of spring wildflowers. For all you need to know about Ireland’s wildflowers, visit Zoe Devlin’s superb website, at http://www.wildflowersofireland.net/ and don’t leave home without the Collins “Complete Irish Wildlife” book, with its introduction by Derek Mooney. The latter also contains Ireland’s mammals, trees, birds, insects, etc.

Spring Wildflowers of Mayo – what to see

Posted in General nature | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Croaghmoyle Booster Station Walk

Although not particularly impressive, this Croaghmoyle booster station walk is a pleasant 8km stroll near Castlebar that includes an easy climb on tarmac. I do it a few times each year in spring, just to get some km into the legs before hiking season.

The track/roadway up to the TV booster station begins along the road out of Castlebar towards Glenisland. There is ample room here to park 6 cars. From there, we head through mostly unlovely conifer plantations towards the upland bogs beyond (although, thankfully, some of the trees along this lower section are larch).

Along the way, we encounter a typical West of Ireland scene. A small stream cuts through one little area of level land, walled out into tiny fields by past dwellers. A ruined cottage, now virtually swallowed up by the plantation, stands to one side where, once, a family eked out an existence from this little oasis of almost fertile ground.

From this miniature ‘valley’ begins the long slog to the booster station. Strangely, the road surface improves from here, becoming to all intents a proper roadway all the way to the top.

Croaghmoyle Booster Station walk

View from Croaghmoyle

At various points along this walk, we can enjoy nice views westwards towards the Nephin Begs, Corraun, Clare Island, Inisturk and Croagh Patrick, with Clew Bay in the centre of this fine arc. By the time we get to the top, however, we need to jump up onto the bog itself to regain such views, as the road is somewhat sunken beneath the level of the surrounding turf. The sort-of-conical summit of Birreencorragh to the NW grabs my attention, reminding me that it’s been a while since I last climbed her.

Pushing a  short distance beyond the booster station and out onto the bog proper brings us to the trig pillar, with views of Nephin mountain now joining the others already enjoyed.

As I turn for home, the unmistakable sound of a calling Red Grouse accompanies me, reminding me that this is, after all, West of Ireland upland bog, booster station or not …

Croaghmoyle Booster Station Walk

Length (total) 8 km; Climb 400m; Time 2 hours.

Posted in Walking in the West of Ireland | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Daly’s Hotel Castlebar Must be Saved

Standing on the beautiful Mall, a treasure any town would desire, is the terribly dilapidated Daly’s Hotel Castlebar.

The Mall is Castlebar’s jewel, a lovely small park that was once the cricket ground of the then landlord of the town, Lord Lucan (Bingham). Boasting the County Council HQ, Library, Garda station, 1798 Memorial, John Moore’s grave, Wesleyan Church, Church of Ireland and a magnificent courthouse, this is the centre of power, past and present in the county town. On one side, sadly neglected, lies Daly’s Hotel (aka Imperial Hotel), one of the most important buildings in the entire country.

Daly's Hotel Castlebar
Following the establishment of its predecessor, the Mayo Tenants’ Defence Association in 1878, the Land League of Mayo was founded in Daly’s Hotel Castlebar, on August 16, 1879. James Daly became Vice-President, while Michael Davitt wrote the core objectives, namely to defend tenants’ rights and to bring about the conversion of tenants into owners of their land. Along with CS Parnell and others, both Davitt and Daly were then involved in the formation of the Irish National Land League, in Dublin, later that same year.

That one of the most important movements in Irish history can be traced back to a meeting held in Daly’s Hotel Castlebar is without question. The Land League and its demand for the “Three Fs” of fixity of tenure, far rent and freedom to sell would lead directly to the abolition of landlordism in Ireland and, eventually, to Irish independence. The origins of this State can be traced straight back to this abandoned building.

Daly's Hotel Castlebar memorial
When I came to live in Castlebar in the late 1990s, Daly’s (then called the Imperial Hotel) was past its prime but very much still alive. Friday evening drinks in the bar were a frequent occurrence and I even used the meeting rooms upstairs on multiple occasions. It was quaint and in need of some TLC, but there was no doubting the sense of hugely important history within its walls.

That this building has not yet been saved is a terrible shame and an indictment of the State’s apparent disinterest in our nation’s history. From time to time, there is talk of saving the military barracks in Castlebar and I’m all for that. But to save those buildings, legacies of a foreign imperial power that controlled our country for far too long, rather than Daly’s Hotel Castlebar, which represents the great and noble struggle of 19th Century Ireland, would be a huge mistake.

Saving Daly’s Hotel Castlebar

It’s 2017 and I call on the government and Mayo County Council to secure the future of this important building and to bring it back to life.

Ideas?

Rather than looking at the building as one unit (it will never become a hotel again), this building in a prime town centre location could be divided between the various services located on the Mall. Parts could be allocated to the Motor Tax Office, Courthouse, County Council itself, Library and maybe even the boxing club. Other sections could become low-rent business units and hot desks for start-ups under the management of the Local Enterprise Office and/or GMIT’s Innovation Hubs. One room should be retained as a museum to Davitt, Daly and the Land League.

Whatever can be done, must be done.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Importance of Connecting with Nature

Are we and our kids spending too much time indoors?

While today’s electronic devices bring many great advantages of connectivity and learning, they are contributing to a serious diminishing of our connection with the outdoors. There can be little doubt about the importance of connecting with nature, yet, as a society, we seem to be turning our backs. Taking a regular walk in nature is good for the heart, body and soul and it is vital that we pass this message on to the next generation.

As somebody who goes hiking often, I know there’s something powerful and uplifting in getting my hands dirty in the bogs, wet in the cold rivers, or simply feeling the roughness of mountain rocks on my palms. Watching a Kestrel hover, as I did just yesterday, enjoying frolicking Foxes playing through the fields, or listening to the roar of the Red Deer during the rut are important life experiences to me.

Then there’s the extra special treat of strolling among trees. More than simply walking, being within a forest brings great joy, peace and perspective. It brings disconnection from the humdrum of the daily chore and replaces it with the importance of connecting with nature. There’s something wondrous about being a little short-lived human among giant trees, much bigger and older than you will ever achieve. It’s in some way liberating.

Importance of Connecting with Nature

Do you know the difference between Whitethorn and Blackthorn?

So, get down to the sea on a windy winter’s day and feel the power of nature blow the cobwebs off your face, to the soundtrack of crashing waves. Visit a tranquil lake on a balmy summer’s afternoon and absorb the cacophony of bird and insect life, all under the whiff of blossoming wildflowers.

Ultimately, our disconnection with nature doesn’t just mean we’ve lost touch with the outdoors and our fellow inhabitants of Planet Earth. It also leads to ignorance and disinterest. Why should we care about habitat loss and species extinction if we no longer have a connection?

Therein lies the problem and the challenge.

Recognising the importance of connecting with nature brings joy and loads of energy. Seeing how ‘nature’ and ‘us’ are so deeply interconnected can lead to only one conclusion. We are nature. There is no ‘them’ and ‘us’. There is no separation. We must understand that we humans are part of life on this planet, just like the beetles, bats and birds.

Importance of Connecting with Nature – Resources

The most obvious and useful resources to reconnect with nature are your feet, public transport, bike or car. Just get out there, find a nice spot like a forest, bog, local park or beach and go walk. Or discover one of our National Parks.

Other than that, join some organised events run by organisations like Birdwatch Ireland and many others.

Get dirty, wet and enjoy!

Posted in Blog, General nature | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Ox Mountains – Doomore to Crockavreen, a Sligo Slog

Ox Mountains – Doomore to Crockavreen

What a slog that was. Having consulted Bing Maps online and my own paper OSI 1:50,000, I reckoned this eastern Ox Mountains ramble would take me maybe 5 hours. After all, the successive points to be hiked would be only 272 m, 250 m and 283 m high.

It took 7.

Beginning at Glenwood, near Coolaney, I strolled along the 1.5 km forest track, meeting 4 seemingly wild horses along the way. Then a small path leads up the hillside towards the cliffy northern face of Doomore (272 m). Here was my first encounter with what was to dominate the day – long, deep and thick grass, heather and bracken. This hike would quickly turn into an exhausting trudge.

From Doomore, with its impressive (though damaged) cairn and trig pillar, I headed west towards Doobeg (250 m), admiring the fine ruin of a  caiseal below to the north, then onward towards Crockavreen (283 m). Along the way, I fell more often than ever before, my ankles lassoed by the grabby vegetation or having fallen into one of many, many little bog holes. A very nice ‘family’ of 6 wild goats kept a watch on me from afar.

Mind you, between the heavy showers, the views out across Sligo Bay to Knocknarea, Benbulben and Slieve League beyond are gorgeous.

Doomore Ox Mountains Sligo Bay

Caiseal below Doobeg. Knocknarea and Belbulben in background.

Descending the far side of Crockavreen, I made the kind of mistake the tired mind makes. I decided to follow a forest track north of the hills, then eastwards, reckoning I could skirt along underneath Doobeg and Doomore back to the original track, while visiting the caiseal along the way. I did so without consulting my map, however, as it was lashing rain and I didn’t fancy getting it out. Much to my frustration, the forest track evidently exited the mountains to the south rather than the north and I ended up at its end in the middle of the conifer plantation. Nothing for it but to plough through some 400 m of dense forestry to regain height.

Doomore ox mountains

Doomore from Doobeg

Eventually, having re-climbed Doobeg, the visit to the casieal was abandoned and I focused instead on Doomore. I recovered the path and its horses, shattered from the physical effort of wading through such thick vegetation for hours on end.

Ox Mountains, Doomore to Crockavreen and back :

12 km; 7 hrs; total climb 500 m.

Posted in Blog, Walking in the West of Ireland | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Mweelrea – Hiking Mayo’s Magical Mountain

Mweelrea

Connacht’s highest mountain, Mweelrea offers a great day’s hiking. The finest mountain in the West of Ireland, Mweelrea can be tackled along a number of routes, my favourite being anti-clockwise from the southern end of Doo Lough over the mountain to Delphi Mountain Resort. This is a serious 8-hour hike and is for experienced hillwalkers only *.

Parking the car at Doo Lough, we cross the river at a weir/sluice immediately at the south end of the lake. Do not climb here, but rather follow a fence for some hundred metres southwards, to a point where it turns sharp left and descends close to the river. Here, we leave it and ascend via a gully to the first flattish part, before driving on towards the top and the cliff edge leading north-westwards across to point 760m. On the way up, turn around and take in the fab views of the Sheeffrys and Ben Gorm behind, as well as Croagh Patrick sticking its conical head up.

Now we circle above the great NE corrie, taking in points 790m, 803m and 790m, all the while enjoying this magnificent coum and its cliffs below. Along with the ocean views later, this is one of the two wonderful highlights of this fantastic hiking day.

Mweelrea corrie

Walls of the great NE corrie.

A walk westwards across the gently sloping hillside beneath point 795m brings us to the col below Mweelrea’s summit, before an easy enough drag up to its 814m top. The top of this great mountain is a little disappointing, just a flat boggy mess (like many of Mayo’s mountains), but the views are tremendous. Enjoy all the lovely islands and rocks of the west coast (including, most notably, Inisturk), the splendid beaches of Mayo and Galway, the Killary fjord and Benchoonas, Twelve Bens and Maumturk mountains to the south.

Mweelrea Ben Lugmore

Looking back towards points 790m, 803m, 790 m.

 

Mweelrea summit

Mweelrea summit, with Lough Bellawaum below.

We descend south then southeast towards point 495m, but without climbing it. Instead, we keep our tired legs to its north and head for the little Sruhaunbunatrench River exiting Lough Lugaloughan. Follow its banks towards the plantation forest above Delphi and exit on one of its various tracks down to the road. Walk 3km back to your car.

Mweelrea descent

The descent, with Lough Lugaloughan. Killary fjord in the background.

Mweelrea mountain hike

19 km; ascent 950 m; approx. 8 hrs.

* Note :

Mweelrea is among Ireland’s most dangerous mountains, with numerous tragedies over recent years, often involving experienced hillwalkers. Under no circumstances should you hike this mountain without a compass and waterproof map and the knowledge of how to use them. Do not venture into this mountain alone and always bring a fully-charged mobile phone, plus mobile charging device. No matter what the weather forecast says or how the sky looks at the time of your ascent, be prepared for low clouds to descend at any moment, leading to almost zero visibility at times. Respect the mountain.

Alternative Routes up Mweelrea

There are various other routes up this great mountain, most notably the more challenging “Ramp Route” from the north end of Doo Lough and the less challenging “Coastal Route” from the west.

Posted in Walking in the West of Ireland | Tagged , , | Leave a comment