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Tourism Pure Walking Holidays

Guided Walking Holidays in Mayo & Connemara, Ireland

 

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Ecotourism

Wildlife Tour Poland 2015 – Trip Report

What a great week we had on our Wildlife Tour Poland during May. Wow, how time flies and I only writing up my report now! For me, the highlight was unquestionably on the double. First, we had Marsh Harriers passing food while flying above a little rushy marshland. Then, a few days later, we were treated to the extraordinary sight of 7 White Tailed Eagles fishing on a relatively small lake and in full sight of local farmers just going about their business, in wonderful harmony with these magnificent birds of prey. Farmers of Ireland, take note!

Wildlife Tour Poland

Lake holding White Tailed Eagles

And it was so fascinating to meet two border guards on the Polish-Belarussian border and listen to them recount their story of the time they decided to patrol along the border on foot for a while, only to return to find their trusted German Shepherd surrounded by three wolves! That same day, we had come across wolf tracks ourselves. Fantastic!

After six days of enthralling wildlife watching, we had accumulated a grand total of 103 bird species (either seen or heard), plus 8 mammals, including Bison, Elk, Stone Marten and Beaver. We came upon fresh Wolf tracks. Simply a great week spent in awe of the wildlife that thrives in this far eastern corner of Poland. I could list all the bird species, but that would almost spoil it. Let’s just mention a few – Golden Oriole, Bittern, Crane, Corncrake (excellent viewing), White & Black Stork, Pygmy Owl, Woodpeckers x 4, Warblers x 10, Ortolan Bunting, Penduline Tit (plus its amazing nest), Hoopoe, Thrush Nightingale, etc, etc.

Wildlife Tour Poland 2015

Pygmy Owl through the viewing scope

Accommodation was lovely as always and the food is really good too. Great company and a few beverages thrown in makes for a week to remember. And getting up really early one morning to go looking for the grazing Bison is a special moment also. Not to mention an evening boat trip in search of Beavers!

If you would like to join our 2017 renewal of this really enjoyable week spent in two separate Polish National Parks, do get in touch on 086-8318748 or by email to info [at] tourismpurewalking.com. If you’re into your wildlife and some nice strolls in broad river valleys and stupendous primeval forests, then this trip is most definitely for you.

Wildlife Tour Poland 2015 Reviewed on “Mooney Goes Wild”

Listen back to what Éanna and Richard from “Mooney Goes Wild” on RTÉ Radio 1 had to say about this year’s trip.

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Exposing the “Wild Nephin” Charade

Wild Nephin, states Coillte, would “involve taking 4,400 hectares out of … commercial forest operation and rewilding this land, improving habitat and landscape quality over a 15 year period. The eventual intention … protecting a landscape of scale with functioning ecosystems while providing an authentic ‘wilderness experience’ for those that visit.”

Minister Jimmy Deenihan TD, commented at the time that this project would “protect a large landscape from human artefacts”.

You can read this March 2013 press release.

The Wild Nephin area consists essentially of densely afforested and blanket bog Coillte lands to the East of Nephin Beg and Slieve Carr mountains in Mayo. These are huge non-native conifer plantations, typical of Coillte’s West of Ireland holdings.

Note that, contrary to Mr. Deenihan’s point, the Wild Nephin project team and associates have built human artefacts where previously there were none.

Wild Nephin steps

Steps in the forest : It doesn’t come any wilder than that !

This week I visited the area for the first time since last October. On my previous visit, I had not been surprised to see that felling of trees was ongoing and I was anxious to see if this was still the case in spring 2015.

Not only is tree felling still happening, but new non-native conifers (Lodgepole Pine) are still being planted. In addition, new fencing is being erected where previously there was none. Would you call this “re-wilding”? Does this sound like a true effort to develop an authentic wilderness experience?

Wild Nephin conifers

Bags of Lodgepole Pine waiting to be planted in Wild Nephin

Wild Nephin fencing

New fencing recently erected in Wild Nephin

Timber extraction machinery is also still on site.

Now, I never for a moment believed that Coillte was in some way going to simply abandon this site. The truth, I suspect, is that not the entire plantation is of such poor quality as to be uneconomical to extract. So it seems to me that they will continue to extract the parts they deem worthy of the work, while abandoning only the worst of it. But this week’s visit also suggests that they will, in fact, re-plant those areas that are capable of delivering a reasonable crop over future years.

Wild Nephin is, in my opinion, just a cynical PR exercise by Coillte. As somebody who’s hiked this area for 20 years, I can tell you that, in addition to the active forestry that has been going on for decades, the signs of human influence on this environment are in fact on the increase, rather than the other way around. There are now invasive huts and other structures, where previously there were none. Forest tracks for heavy machinery have been widened and strengthened over the last year.

Wild Nephin Beg Mountains

Our beautiful Nephin Beg Mountains have always been wild, but are now less so than before this project was devised. And the forestry operations continue. The European Wilderness Society, if it is serious, should review its ‘endorsement’ of what is going on here. [June 2016 Update : All references to this project have indeed been removed from the website of the European Wilderness Society.]

Read my previous post about Wild Nephin.

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Poland Wildlife Tour, April 2018

I’m delighted to announce my Poland wildlife tour for April 2018 to the truly magnificent National Parks of Biebrza and Bialowieza, in eastern Poland.

Dates : April 23 – 30, 2018
Price : Euro 850 pps (excluding flights)
Interested ? Email info[at]tourismpurewalking.com or call 086-8318748

These two wonderful National Parks boast magnificent wildlife, much of which we will see, while some of which, like Wolf and Lynx, is just too elusive. Wildlife observation here is a truly magical delight, in a part of Europe that remains deeply rural and beautiful.

Our itinerary is as follows :

Day 1 : Fly Dublin to Warsaw and transfer to Biebrza National Park.

Poland wildlife tour - Elk

Elk in Biebrza National Park

Days 2, 3, 4, 5 : Birds and wildlife spotting in Biebrza NP. The Park is home to Elk, Red Deer, Beaver, Wolf, Lynx and birds, such as Lesser Spotted Eagle, Crane, Black and White Stork, Hen, Marsh and Montagu’s Harrier, various Woodpeckers, Golden Oriole, Penduline Tit, Ortolan Bunting and so much more. Biebrza (‘beaver’ in Polish) NP is based around the river basin of the same name and is a spectacular area of river marsh and wetland woodlands. Beautiful forest tracks are perfect for exploring the woodland and marsh areas. We’ll go on an evening boat trip to look for Beaver!

Transfer to Bialowieza NP.

Day 6, 7 : Wildlife spotting in Bialowieza NP, home to Bison, Deer, Wolf, Lynx, various species of Woodpecker and many other fabulous birds, including Pygmy Owl. Bialowieza NP is based around the primeval forest of the same name – one of the very last tracts of such beautiful and serene forest in central and eastern Europe. An iconic location for lovers of nature and Europe’s exceptional biodiversity, memories of your visit to Bialowieza will never leave you.

Day 8 : Return to Ireland.

Poland wildlife tour

Biebrza NP, Poland

We stay in shared rooms in lovely traditional Polish ‘pensions’ (sort of B&Bs). Meals, transport within Poland and full guiding with our wonderful local expert are all included. The flights are not included and should not be booked until the group is confirmed. Instead, please indicate your interest in travelling by emailing me on info [at] tourismpurewalking.com.

The cost of this great Poland walking trip, based on per person sharing, is Euro 850. This does not include your flight.

I cannot recommend this trip highly enough. Our local guide is so good, he’s written the guide book to the nature and biodiversity of Biebrza National Park. We are accompanied throughout both by our principal guide and additional guides as required.

Poland wildlife tour Biebrza

Wildlife spotting in Poland

Walking is easy, on forest tracks, with no hills of any note. This is a wildlife spotting trip rather than a walking trip. It is a very lovely and relaxing trip into the vast nature of Poland, mostly in glorious native woodlands. This is a trip where walking is stop-start and not a lot of km are covered on foot, as we pause to observe so much fascinating wildlife all around.

And don’t worry. There’s an after-spotting beer to be had!

See pictures of this trip in previous years, by visiting here.

Watch a YouTube slideshow of a past group, set to music by Poland’s great composer, Chopin, here.

Poland Wildlife Tour Reviewed on “Mooney Goes Wild” :

Listen back to what Éanna Ní Lamhna and Richard Collins from “Mooney Goes Wild” on RTÉ Radio 1 had to say about this trip.

Poland Wildlife Tour, April 2018

If you would like to join our small group for this delightful Poland wildlife tour during April 2018, please get in touch, via e-mail to info [at] tourismpurewalking.com or phone, on 086-8318748, and reserve your place. Note that travel insurance is a prerequisite for this trip, as my walking guide insurance does not cover overseas trips. Also, accommodation is in shared double or twin rooms, with a supplement due for those who would prefer a single room (where available).

Email me on info[at]tourismpurewalking.com

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Heritage Week 2013

Heritage Week 2013 runs from August 17th to 25th. I’d like to draw your attention to just two events that are happening here in Mayo.

Old Irish Goat Society (OIGS)

On Friday evening the 23rd, there will be a talk in Mulranny Park Hotel on the origin of Ireland’s Native Goat. This event relates to a transnational collaboration of several institutions across the UK and Ireland, including the Smurfit Genetic Institute in Trinity College, who have done ground-breaking work in the study of this animal.

The results of the study are fascinating, not only relating to the origins of the Irish Goat and the genetic heritage conservation value of those remaining, but also through insights into historic human migration. This latter facet lends even greater weight to the heritage value of the Old Irish Goat.

There will then be a guided walk on Saturday morning, the 24th, where people will get to see some of the Old Irish Goat’s defining features.

Learn more here : OIGS

Doon Peninsula

Saturday the 24th will also see a guided nature walk of Doon Peninsula at Lough Carra, led by Chris Huxley, ecologist. Chris’ knowledge of Lough Carra is profound and this talk promises to be both informative and educational.

Learn more here : Doon Walk 2013

There are, indeed, many more events happening throughout Mayo during Heritage Week 2013, including walks and talks on various subjects, such as archaeology and nature, from Ballycroy to Bangor Erris to Downpatrick Head and Westport. Here is the website for Heritage Week 2013, complete with events around the country. Do take a browse through the site and find one or two events for yourself and your family to enjoy. Get out and about, as the summer draws to a close.

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Shared Rooms Only, is it Possible ?

I’ve been wondering about this for quite a while now. Could I offer a walking holiday with shared rooms only ?

We’ve all heard about ‘production orientation’ versus ‘customer orientation’, right ? The former is where a business puts production values before customer ‘wants’. The latter is where a business puts the customer’s ‘wants’ at the centre of all decisions. The former is generally deemed bad, while the latter good. And yet …

Shared rooms on walking holidays

The Mullet Peninsula

One of the pillars of ecotourism / green tourism / sustainable tourism / rural tourism (whatever you’re having yourself) is the notion of supporting local communities and their tourism providers.

So here’s the conundrum. Up in far-flung Erris, out on the Mullet Peninsula, there are only a small number of B&Bs. Each has only a limited number of rooms. Now, I try to support them by bringing some walkers out there each year (not enough, but that’s another story). Anyway, my issue is that it bothers me greatly when I ask them for single bookings, because I know I’m occupying their very limited rooms while not maximising their income.

Shared Rooms on a Walking Holiday

In this case, is it really that bad to be somewhat ‘production-oriented’, by offering walkers shared rooms only for this walking holiday experience ? Does this mean I’m unduly favouring the product over the customer ? I think not. I hope you think not too.

Shared rooms

B&B Partner, Léim Siar

In my heart, I know it’s a lovely walking holiday product that’s being offered. I believe that walkers will agree to this perhaps unusual ‘condition’. So, for the 2013 version of my popular Western Ocean Walking Weekend, taking place over the August bank holiday weekend, I’ll only be offering shared accommodation. Let’s see how this one pans out.

Cick on the link to book your room-sharing place on this lovely guided walking weekend.

Visit Léim Siar B&B and Brú Chlann Lir B&B.

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Ten Great Short Mayo Walks, Part Two

I want to share with you 10 beautiful, but short, Mayo walks. These are places to go for a short, easy stroll and admire the surroundings. Bring the kids. I’ve chosen 10 places that you can easily reach in your car or, preferably, on your bike. No need for hiking boots to get to any of these spots, each of which is wonderfully representative of Mayo!

Part One, with 5 places, is here. Now for the remaining five spots to go visit.

These are places you will not need hiking boots to reach and, while most are more or less by the road, all are within a short, flat walk of one.

6 Causeway at Mulranny
7  Newport River leaving Beltra Lough
8  Limestone Pavement at Clonbur Wood
9  Erris Head Look Out Post, Belmullet
10  Minaun, Achill Island

 6. Causeway at Mulranny

When the railway (now The Greenway cycle and walking track) came to Mulranny in the late 1890’s, a hotel (now The Mulranny Park Hotel) was built. Down from the hotel, and in order to reach the nearby beach in greater comfort, a causeway was built across the saltmarshes. Park your car or bike at the hotel, descend the steps across the road, walk the causeway, take in the beautiful views all around and suck in the sea air. Then return for a beverage in the hotel’s bar, overlooking Clew Bay (certainly one of the nicest views any Mayo bar can offer). Total walking time from car or bike, up to one hour (beware traffic when crossing the road).

I can’t seem to locate my picture of this, so will have to go take a new one and insert later !

7. Newport River leaving Beltra Lough

Mayo walks - Newport River

The Newport River

The most remote spot on my list is located in the middle of a Castlebar – Westport – Newport triangle in west Mayo, at the southern end of Beltra Lough, in the middle of nowhere. It’s a wonderful mix of native woodland, reed beds, river, lake and bog. This is inland Mayo at its wild best, with the beautiful mountains of Nephin Mór and Birreencorragh as backdrops to the north. Total walking time from car or bike, maybe 45 minutes (off-road).

 

8. Limestone Pavement at Clonbur Wood

Mayo walks - Clonbur Wood

Clonbur limestone pavement

Our ‘mini Burren’ is a beautiful area of exposed limestone, with dwarfed trees and prostrate shrubs eking out an existence in any tiny piece of soil they can find. A magical place of grykes and clints on the shores of Lough Mask. You’ll have to walk from the carpark at Clonbur village to reach this, but on forest tracks, runners will do fine. Total walking time, a good hour (off-road).

(psst, this is actually just inside Galway, but don’t tell anyone…)

9. Erris Head Look Out Post

Mayo walks - Erris Head

Erris Head

At the very tip of the wild and wonderful Mullet peninsula, out beyond Belmullet town in NW Mayo, lies Erris Head with its fantastic ocean views. Walk for 40 minutes from the carpark at Glenlara to reach an excellent example of Ireland’s World War II marine and coastguard service Look Out Posts that were dotted all along neutral Ireland’s coast. This is ocean coastline at its finest. Total walking time approx. 1.5 hours (off-road).

10. Minaun, Achill Island

Mayo Walks - Minaun Heights

Minaun Heights

If your car can handle it, drive on up towards the mast atop Minaun and look west, across Keel Strand and Keem Bay to the top of Croaghan beyond. This amazing view is one of the finest in Mayo. The winds are strong too. Stunning is too weak a word for it. Total time walking around in the wind, as long as you like (off-road).

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list and get out to some of these spots, whether rural or urban. Just relax, take it all in and experience Mayo walks.

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