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Guided Walking Holidays in Mayo & Connemara, Ireland

 

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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.

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Hiking Inisturk – The Most Beautiful of Mayo Islands

When I think of wonderful little Inisturk, I’m reminded of the sweet opening verse from Nancy Spain, the popular ballad most famously sung by Christy Moore, “Of all the stars that ever shone, Not one does twinkle like your pale blue eyes. Like golden corn at harvest time, your hair. Sailing in my boat the wind gently blows and fills my sail. Your sweet-scented breath is everywhere”. On the boat out from Roonagh to go hiking Inisturk, I can’t stop muttering it to myself.

Lying 15 km off Mayo’s wild west coast, Inisturk is the county’s most beautiful and striking island. From its little sheltered harbour on the east side, the island rises to a maximum height of some 190m in the middle before reaching its zenith at wonderful western sea cliffs.

hiking Inisturk

From the Signal Tower towards Achill Island.

While the marked walking trail up from the harbour turns left after the lake and swings back down by the surprising GAA pitch etched into the rocky landscape, we turn right. Up the small steep hill we wander, to the ruined Napoleonic Tower on top. The views from this early 19th Century signal tower are to die for. The great thing about Inisturk (Inishturk) is that it is at the centre of the string of fabulous islands and magnificent mainland coastline that marks out Mayo’s coastline from other parts of the Wild Atlantic Way.

From up at the ruined tower, you can look out at (N to S) Achill, Corraun, Clare Island, Nephin Beg mountains, Clew Bay, Croagh Patrick, Caher Island, the Sheeffry mountains, Mweelrea, Killary Harbour, Benchoona, Tully mountain, Inishbofin and Inishark. Arguably the finest view in Ireland.

If there is a heaven, then this is it.

We descend from this summit westwards, with the beautiful cliffs at the end of the island as our target. Bring your binoculars, as the views of all kinds of seabird, from Fulmar and Puffin to Razorbill, Guillemot and Peregrine Falcon are wonderful.

Continuing along the coast, then turning inland, we follow a long stone wall before re-joining the trail we had earlier quit. From the pitch, we visit the tiny natural cove at Port an Dún and its virtually no-longer-distinguishable caiseal remains, before rambling along the narrow road back to the Community Club. Dinner and a beverage are enjoyed, while we discuss one of the great Mayo experiences that is hiking Inisturk.

hiking inisturk 2

Looking back towards Croagh Patrick

Inisturk (Inishturk) boasts three B&Bs, which can be found on the local tourism website.

Hiking Inisturk

13 km; 5 hours with plenty of stops for birdwatching and taking it all in. Paradise!

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Bellacorick Bog Loop

Bellacorick Bog Loop – 13kms of flat, easy walking

While the first and last 1km is uninspiring, passing along a stony track shared by times with heavy machinery involved in the installation of a new wind farm, the recently designated Bellacorick Bog Loop both surprises and delights by the wild beauty of its inner 11km.

This loop walk follows now disused bog railway tracks through post-production peat cutting fields off the Crossmolina to Belmullet road, just east of the turn towards Castlebar. Having negotiated the not-very-pretty first stretch (and, by the way, having walked over the new gasline coming down from Bellanaboy), the loop leaves the new trackway to head off into the vast bog on mostly grassy tracks with Birdsfoot Trefoil beneath our feet.

Bellacorick bog loop

During May and June, we walk among beautiful wildlfowers in bloom, including Red and White Clover, Bog Cotton, Eyebright, Milkwort, Butterwort, Sundew, Tormentil, Silverweed, Yellow Iris and others.

Bellacorick Bog Loop offers great views over Nephin, Birreencorragh, Slieve Carr and Nephin Beg to the south, with Benmore and Slieve Feeagh rising above the seemingly endless bogs to the north. At various stages, we walk alongside the Oweninny River and its small tributaries. Long stretches are very pleasant indeed, although do take note that it tends to be windy up here in Ireland’s little “Big Sky Country”. Further along, we come in close proximity to the huge wind turbines being ‘planted’ all around, while five female Red Deer run away, having heard, smelled us or both.

Bellacorick bog loop - bog cotton

Birds encountered include Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Northern Wheatear and Sand Martin, while Kestrels have been seen on previous visits. This is Fox, Otter and Pine Marten country too, although none are spotted today.

While an inland flat walk like the Bellacroick Bog Loop cannot compare with, say, Mayo’s fabulous cliff-top trails, it is nevertheless a very pleasant stroll at this time of year, with lovely wildflowers all along. The loop also boasts two nice picnic tables, made of recycled plastic. Go and discover – you’ll enjoy!

Bellacorick Bog Loop walk : 13 km; 3.5 hours, plus stops.

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Enjoy 90 Seconds of a Windy Lough Adanacleeveen

Lough Adanacleeveen is a very lovely corrie lake below Slieve Carr, the highest peak in the Nephin Beg mountains of Mayo.

Get your hiking boots on some day and wander up to this very remote part of these mountains. Just pick a rock, sit down, switch off and take it all in.

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Review : Wild Nephin Map from EastWest Mapping

2015 saw the publication of its Wild Nephin Map by EastWest Mapping, employing a 1:25,000 scale to give greater detail than the 1:50,000 scale of OSI’s Discovery Series. So as a Christmas present to myself, I went out and bought it here in the Castle Book Shop. To be honest, I was disappointed.

OK, so what’s good about the map? The amount of work that must have gone into its production must be acknowledged. The naming of the most obscure little features, like tiny streams and flanks of low hills is outstanding. Also, I guess having just one map to cover the area is better than the three OSIs required (Sheets 23, 30, 31). But even that’s not quite true, as this map omits a large section of Birreencorragh, a major mountain of the Nephin Beg range. The space allocated to the furthest west 2 km on the Mulranny side of the map could instead have been devoted to Birreencorragh and its satelite Knockaffertagh. [In fairness, it should be admitted that Birreencorragh doesn’t strictly come within the “Wild Nephin” designated area]

Greater scale is generally a plus in any map you might like to use while out hiking, so the detail regarding forest tracks, bridges and the like can certainly be useful to visitors unfamiliar with the area.

The problems with this map, however, are essentially twofold : colouring and feature naming.

The colouring of this Wild Nephin map is not optimal, with too much dark toning, making the deciphering of many feature names unnecessarily difficult. The green representing Coillte plantation forestry and the blue for water are too dark, resulting in identification lettering being surrounded by a pale ‘shadow’ in an unsuccessful attempt to make them more easily readable. Indeed, the lettering is the same colour as water background. Compare the two photos below, with the OSI on the right hand side. I think it’s safe to say the OSI is significantly easier to read, although obviously much less detailed.

 wild nephin map

But the real issue of this Wild Nephin map is the naming of major features. For example, Glennamong mountain has been labeled “Mamer Dougher”,but also “Curranyarry” and “Glannamu Mountain”. The aforementioned Birreencorragh has become Birreen Corrough on the map itself and Birreen Corr, where given as an example on the Grid Reference System. Tirkslieve has morphed into Tirclieu, etc., etc.

Wild Nephin Map

Anyways, the detail in this map is excellent and I will carry it with me when out in these wonderful mountains and you should too. Just ignore the major feature names employed. You can buy online from East West Mapping.

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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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