Tourism Pure Walking Holidays

Guided Walking Holidays in Mayo & Connemara, Ireland

 

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Walking in the West of Ireland

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.

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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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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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Round Towers of County Mayo

Of the 60-odd Irish round towers remaining, in various states of repair, 5 are to be found in County Mayo. Round towers are believed to have been built around the 8th to 12th Centuries and were most probably bell towers associated with the church that would have stood alongside. Famously, they have a doorway set several metres above ground level and a few window slits inserted into the stone walls higher up. Window slits tend to be dispersed one per floor, with four at the top floor, in under the conical roof. The top floor windows tend to be larger than the others on the way up, presumably to let the sound of the bell be better heard and are generally (more or less) set in the cardinal directions.

Round Tower Killala

Killala Round Tower

Magnificent relics of medieval Christian Ireland, our round towers are superb examples of medieval stone masonry. Perhaps they are the architectural structures that most symbolise Ireland?

While presumably primarily for bell ringing, I can easily imagine these early medieval monks spending time alone in one of the tiny upper floors, crouched beside the single window slit to one side, a lit candle to the other, perhaps reading scripture or working on a new codex. I admit I can less easily imagine the towers being used as hideaways, in case of attack.

Round Towers of County Mayo

Mayo’s round towers are at Aughagower, Balla, Killala, Meelick and Turlough.

Aughagower : Standing 16m high, this partial tower had a second door cut into it at ground level in recent centuries, allowing the visitor to access it and look up into its interior. It is roofless. Extensive ecclesiastical ruins adjoin this tower.

Round Tower Aughagower

Inside the Round Tower at Aughagower

Balla : The smallest remnant in Mayo, the remaining stub of this tower is just 10m high and, again, features a later second door at ground level. What appears to be the original door is a whopping 8m off the ground. I’m still dismayed at how the new community hall was allowed to be erected so close to it.

Killala : Mayo’s finest extant tower stands 26m high and occupies a site bang in the middle of this medieval North Mayo fishing village. Its (repaired) conical top remains.

Meelick : Despite being without its roof, but at 21m high, this remains an impressive tower in a lovely rural setting. There is a very fine inscribed cross slab at its base.

Round Tower Meelick

Meelick Round Tower

Turlough : This 23m high tower, near the excellent National Museum – Country Life, gives an impression of being unusually short and still boasts its roof (repaired).

Round Tower Turlough

Turlough Round Tower by night

Of Mayo’s round towers, only Aughagower and Turlough still have their churches alongside, although both are ruined.

Visit this excellent website that describes all of Ireland’s remaining round towers.

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