Walking in the West of Ireland

Tourism Pure Walking Holidays

Guided Walking Holidays in Mayo & Connemara, Ireland

 

follow us ...

@tourismpure

 

Walking in the West of Ireland

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.

Posted in Blog, Walking in the West of Ireland | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Farbreiga – A Hill with a Strange Name

Sixteen km north of Castlebar stands the modest but pleasant hill of Farbreiga. Though only reaching 395m high, a hike up this oddly-named hill offers wonderful views in all directions, especially eastwards over Loughs Conn and Cullin – two of our great western lakes.

‘Fear Bréige’ translates into English as something like ‘false man’, ‘fake man’, or indeed ‘scarecrow’! Wouldn’t you love to know how a hill could have acquired such a name? There may, perhaps, be a clue in its quite distinct conical top. Maybe, from a particular angle, it looks like a head. I’ll have to investigate further …

Farbreiga hill

Birreencorragh (l) and Nephin from Farbreiga

Leaving a side road at Derreens, north of Castlebar, the walk takes us onto part of the old Foxford Way *, heading north to the east of the hill. When a relatively high point is reached, we swing westward and make for the trig pillar on top of Farbreiga. Note that these early, low stretches of bog are absolutely covered in bog myrtle. Very nice indeed. Later, having reached the top, the views are really splendid and it is worth moving along the ridge to the north so the best views of Nephin beyond can be enjoyed. Don’t forget to glance back in the direction from which you’ve come. You’ll see the outlines of long-abandoned fields, with their distinctive parallel lines formed by hedges or walls no longer maintained. The relentless bog now blankets everything. The descent is then eastwards back down to the same track as before.

Farbreiga

Loughs Conn (l) and Cullin from Farbreiga.

Farbreiga Hike :

Distance 7.0 km; ascent 500 m; time 2h45.

Hike times on this website always include pauses.

* Note : The Foxford Way, as it used to be, seems no longer to be a waymarked way and there is no reference to it on any website that I could find.

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

Maumturks & Bens Weekend

Join our small group hiking the Maumturk and Twelve Bens mountains of Connemara this May bank holiday weekend.

The Inagh Valley in Connemara is a wonderful spot for hiking, with the Maumturk mountains to one side and the Twelve Bens to the other. Beautiful Lough Inagh dominates the valley between these quartzite ranges. The Western Way traces its way along the valley floor on its way to Killary fjord and Leenane village to the north.

Maumturks walking weekend

Maumturk mountains of Connemara

Our small group will spend three nights in a lovely B&B, with evening dinners in a nearby hotel.

Friday, Apr 29, 2016 : Guests should arrive at our B&B around 7 pm, for dinner together at 8 pm.

Saturday, Apr 30, 2016 : Maumturks and Máméan pilgrimage site. We will be walking for 5 – 6 hours, with a total ascent of approx 800m. Level : Moderate / tough.

Sunday, May 1, 2016 : The Western Way and Killary Fjord. We will be walking for 6 – 7 hours, with a total ascent of 300m. Level : Easy.

Monday, May 2, 2016 : Derryclare and Bencorr in the Twelve Bens. We will be walking for 6 – 7 hours, with a total ascent of 900m. Level : Moderate / tough.

Please note that walking times are approximate and depend on the level of the group. Our route on Monday may be altered in function of the ability of the group, as will have been gauged on Saturday.

Price :

Euro 325 pps.

This package includes the following –

3 nights B&B accommodation in shared rooms

3 evening dinners in hotel (3 course meals, plus tea/coffee)

3 packed lunches

3 days guided hill walking

This package does not include the following –

Getting to Inagh valley.

Beverages and other miscellaneous spend.

What you need to bring :

Good waterproof ankle-protecting hiking boots.

Hiking wear (including layers, rainproof top and legs).

Sunglasses, sun cream, insect repellent.

Enthusiasm for three days of outdoor fun in the mountains of the West of Ireland.

Please do not bring :

Jeans, ponchos or umbrellas on the walks.

Maumturk and Twelve Ben Mountains of Connemara

The Maumturks culminate at Binn Idir an Dá Log, at 702 m, while across the valley, the Twelve Bens have their highest point at Benbaun (729 m).

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

North Mayo Cliffs with Ravens and Choughs

Walking the spectacular North Mayo cliffs is an exhilarating but tough 2-day hike. From the tiny village of Belderg, heading west, this is an area you will have all to yourself. Apart, that is, from the entertaining Ravens and Choughs.

The cliffs around here are just extraordinary. These are not the sloping cliffs of certain parts of the west coast of Ireland, but sheer vertiginous drops into the wild Atlantic foam below. The beginning of the walk, westward from Belderg over Glinsk, reveals stunning little coves far below, hidden in inaccessible nooks of the seemingly never-ending cliffs. This majestic first section is without question the highlight of the entire 36km hike. Take a detour to see the remains of Glinsk’s Napoleonic Tower, from the early 19th Century.

North Mayo Cliffs

Hidden beach beneath the North Mayo cliffs

Far from being a flat hike, the 20 km from just outside Belderg to Portacloy requires a staggering 2700m climbing, as you wander up and down the various hills. While these hills slope gently away into the North Mayo blanket bogs to the south, to the north they have been eroded away by millennia of unrelenting North Atlantic waves smashing into them. In places, the cliffs plunge 270m, then 230m, then 210m into the ocean, with plenty of ups and downs in between. By the time you’re done, you’ll have felt it in your legs.

In comparison to the first stretch into Porturlin, the middle section onwards to Portacloy is less enthralling, though still utterly beautiful. Enjoy the views out toward the schist rocks of the Stags of Broadhaven and southward, across the vast bogs, towards the Nephin Beg Mountains. Dancing and playing Ravens and Choughs will keep you amused, as they play ‘hide and seek’ with each other over the wild bogs. The honks of the former, yelps of the latter and the crashing waves below are the only soundtrack to this wonderful walk.

North Mayo Cliffs cove

The sun struggles to reach the north-facing coves

Note that the only accommodation along this North Mayo cliffs route is here, at Stag View B&B. Note also that if this one-day A to B route is preferred to the two-day marathon, then an enjoyable 19-km cycle back to Belderg is easily achieved, with virtually no traffic to contend with on narrow tarmac tracks that meander between the conifer plantations slightly inland from the coast.

Leaving Portacloy westwards towards Benwee Head (250 m cliffs) and on to Rinroe Point and Carrowteige (An Ceathrú Thaidhg), the terrain regains some of the magnificence of the earlier part of day one. This hike is rounded off by beautiful views across Broadhaven Bay towards Erris Head. Again, if you’ve left a bicycle at Carrowteige, enjoy the cycle back to Belderg. You’ll have it done in 1.5 hours or less.

To view a video of this hike, please visit YouTube.

North Mayo Cliffs : Belderg to Portacloy

20 km; 8 hrs; total ascent 2700 m.

North Mayo Cliffs : Portacloy to Carrowteige

16 km; 6 hrs; total ascent 700 m.

Posted in Blog, Walking in the West of Ireland | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Aasleagh Falls to Drummin Village

Aasleagh Falls is a tiny but celebrated waterfall at the head of the Killary, Ireland’s only true fjord, in south County Mayo. The very beautiful Erriff River tumbles down the couple of metres, before babbling over rocks and into the sea just beyond.

Aasleagh Falls

Aasleagh Falls near Killary Fjord, Mayo

Come to Aasleagh around the summer solstice to witness wonderful Salmon and Sea Trout, as they make their way back into the river system from the sea. It’s a magnificent sight.

Beginning at Aasleagh Falls, I walked 20 km of The Western Way to Drummin, a tiny village south of Westport. This is a varied walk, with the first 6 km along the banks of this lovely river, among fertile fields filled with sheep. Sharing the banks with the fly fishermen, the beginning is a far cry from the blanket bog covered stretches that await me later on.

From Houston Bridge, where we leave the river behind, the walk turns northwards through 4 km of the plantation forest at Tawnyard. I cross the small Owenduff River at a fish counting and measuring station, before emerging on to the small road from where the best views of the brooding Tawnyard Lough are to be enjoyed. While I usually avoid walking on tarmac, I don’t really have a choice here and over the 3 km stretch, I don’t meet a single vehicle on the Sheeffry Pass road.

My attention now turns to tackling the climb to the col between Tawny Rower (510 M) and the Sheeffry Hills, which reach 772 m several km to the west. The col itself, at 450 m, is welcome after the trudge up its grassy, boggy southern slope. Under its impressive northern cliffs lies remote Lough Lugacolliwee, an unusually large corrie lake.

Western Way - Lough Lugacolliwee

Lough Lugacolliwee on The Western Way

I skirt the shore of this fine lake, before turning away to cross over a km of pure, unadulterated bog. Emerging on to a little lane, I then follow the small road to Drummin, jump on my bike and cycle back to Aasleagh, where I had left my car earlier.

Aasleagh Falls to Drummin, along The Western Way

Distance 20.4 km; total ascent approx. 600 m; time 6.5 hrs.

Cycle back to car (along minor roads) : 20.2 km; 1.5 hrs.

Read about a very different experience on The Western Way.

Discover Western Way maps on Irish Trails.

Posted in Blog, Walking in the West of Ireland | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Bangor Erris to Slieve Carr

Rather than simply moving along The Bangor Trail and then veering left, while out for a hike last week, I decided to leave the village of Bangor Erris, cross over the modest summits of Knocklettercuss and Maumykelly and head for the peak of wonderful Slieve Carr beyond.

This was a fine 23 km hike that took me 8h30, to and from the mountain.

Leaving Bangor Erris, I headed straight up the grassy, heather-filled northern slopes of Knocklettercuss. This modest hill of three bumps rises to 370 m and boasts a trig pillar. From there, I skipped E then S to avoid the deep blanket bog, with Maumykelly as my next goal. This hill, again unimpressive at 364 m high, does nevertheless know how to burn the thighs, with a fairly steep incline on its N side. The stretch here is lovely, dotted with small blanket bog lakes and bogpools, as well as the embryonic Tarsaghaunmore River.

From there, I was able to zone in on Slieve Carr itself (721 m), one of Mayo’s finest mountains and said by many to be Ireland’s most remote. I really love this area, with its excellent corrie lakes like Loughs Drumderg and Adanacleveen, its rocky approach and the sheer vastness of the bog that surrounds it.

Slieve Carr near Bangor Erris

The final pull up to Slieve Carr

As yet another lesson in how quickly the weather can change in our lovely West of Ireland, I was on my hands and knees studying some St. Patrick’s Cabbage and Bilberry for maybe 2 minutes while at the top. When I lifted my head, the mist had descended and it was time to exit stage left, pronto.

Bilberry in bloom, Bangor Erris

Bilberry in bloom at the top of Slieve Carr

I returned to Bangor by the same route, taking more time than I had on the outward leg of the hike to enjoy the wildflowers of the blanket bog. The area is dominated by Lousewort, Milkwort, Orchids, Bog Cotton, Bilberry and Tormentil, with Bogbean in the bog pools and both St. Patrick’s Cabbage and Fir Clubmoss higher up along the rocky top of Slieve Carr. I saw my first ever white variety of the more typically blue Milkwort. Very pretty.

Bogbean near Bangor Erris

Bogbean in a blanket bog pool below Slieve Carr

Bangor Erris to Slieve Carr and back

22.7 km; 8.5 hours; total ascent = 1200 m approx.

Visit the website of Ballycroy National Park.

Posted in Walking in the West of Ireland | Tagged , , | 2 Comments