There is something about being up in the uplands – actually, that’s a word I never use. I prefer to call them mountains, even if around these parts they’re not particularly high. In Mayo, we have few peaks above 700 m, but quite a few more over 600 m.
Anyway, I love going up there, no matter what the weather. There is an excitement and anticipation about heading up into the hills, most especially the remote ones in the Nephin Beg Range. You never know what you might see. More to the point, the fact that’s it’s by no means easy to see the likes of Red Deer, Otter, White-Fronted Geese, Peregrine or whatever works even better.
But quite apart from spotting some iconic mammals and birds, it is the sheer isolation of the place which pulls me back. Standing on the summit of Slieve Carr or Birreencorragh, you know you’re away from it all. If there’s the usual fierce wind blowing in off the great North Atlantic, even better! Rain adds to the experience and should not be seen as a bother. Rain is this place.
Trudging through blanket bog and upwards towards the more rocky summits can be physically tough, but the reward is wonderful. Gaze down over the vast north and west Mayo bog landscape and out towards the rocky, heavily indented western coastline. Spot Achill, The Mullet, offshore islands like Duvillaun, Iniskea, Inisbiggle, Annagh and places barely clinging to the mainland, like Corraun and Doohoma. On a super clear day, you can see Blackrock lighthouse, far to the west.
But thoughts always return to the splendid isolation offered by the mountains. Crouch down behind a tuft of bog for the shelter, or stand brave with your face in the strong winds. But there is definitely something about the ‘uplands’ of Mayo.