Keenagh Loop Walk
If you’re looking for a walk that represents west Mayo well, without the extra effort of climbing a mountain, then Keenagh Loop Walk may fit the bill. Be sure to bring along at least one walking pole to test the ground’s solidity in front of you as you go, as some sections can be extremely wet.
The trailhead for Keenagh Loop Walk is located on the left hand side along the R312 from Castlebar towards Bellacorick, approximately 7km after the left turn to Newport (R317) and immediately before the right turn for Crossmolina (R316), at grid ref G 067 067.
By no means the most spectacular location the county has to offer, nevertheless this loop walk brings you into (or, more accurately, beneath) Mayo’s Nephin Beg mountain range, with the added attraction of a very pretty mountain river along one section.
To begin, I’d suggest you walk the route in an anti-clockwise direction rather than that which the signage and Mayo County Council’s mayowalks.ie website invite you to. In this way, you get the bit of a pull up to the highpoint of 250m over and done with early on. This is also the least inspiring section of the loop, apart from the wonderful display of wildflowers along the laneway during the summer months. Enjoy Purple Loosestrife, St. John’s Wort, Selfheal, Dandelion, Herb Robert and more.
Once up and over the highpoint, we descend to the very lovely Glendorragha River and begin to admire the excellent Birreencorragh Mountain to the right, which has now come into view beyond the scree-covered southwestern face of its satellite, Knockaffertagh. At the head of the valley, this is one of Mayo’s finest mountains to climb, so you can come back another day and tackle that.
But the main attraction of the Keenagh Loop Walk is the stretch along the banks of the river. Descending the valley from our right, the little river tumbles down various small waterfalls and over boulders in its journey as a tributary to the Newport River. Watch a Dipper, as it follows the river downstream, jumping from rock to rock, with its feet in the water, before diving under the surface in search of insect larvae. He’s very amusing, sometimes even choosing to float along awhile.
There are also Otter, Pine Martin and Heron around these parts, along with the occasional Goat among the Sheep. And guess what? There are even some Oak trees along the banks, a rare sight indeed around west Mayo.
Leaving the river bank, we cross the wettest of the numerous boggy stretches on this walk, before meeting an seanbhóthar from Derreen to Newport, where we turn left for home. On arrival, your feet might be wet, but you’ll have enjoyed this hidden corner of wild Mayo.
Keenagh Loop Walk
12 km; 4.5 hours; climb 150m; watch out for very boggy parts.
As you should everywhere you encounter it, do avoid walking through the bracken on the higher sections. It might just contain ticks that you really don’t want on your body. It’s better to leave the track when you see large swathes of the plant and find your own way around.