Achill

Tourism Pure Walking Holidays

Guided Walking Holidays in Mayo & Connemara, Ireland

 

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Achill Island Promontory Fort at Dun Bunnafahy

Achill Island Promontory Fort at Bun na Faiche (Dun Bunnafahy)

A quick overview of my coastal Discovery Series maps of the County Mayo coastline * reveals 54 marked promontory forts. Doubtless, this is fewer than there are actually are, as I doubt if they’ve all been recorded or transmitted to the mapping authority. One excellent example is the Achill Island promontory fort of Dun Bunnafahy (Dún Bun na Faiche, the fort at the bottom of the field), situated just south of the Wild Atlantic Way discovery point carpark at Ashleam Bay near Dooega.

Promontory Forts date from the Iron Age and are mostly found in Ireland, Cornwall, Orkney Islands, Isle of Man and Brittany. Not really ‘forts’, in the military sense, they are more likely to have been defensive structures, perhaps farmsteads, which made use of more or less narrow slivers of land jutting out into the sea. In that way, they were naturally protected on three sides by sea cliffs, meaning only one side needed to be reinforced with a defensive wall and ditch combination. MacAlister (1928) described them as ‘sites where a ditch and bank complex was constructed across the narrow isthmus of a natural headland’.

Achill Island Promontory Fort side view

Dún Bun na Faiche

At this Achill Island promontory fort, the ditch and wall remain clearly evident, with the latter reaching a height of approx 6 metres from the bottom of the ditch. At the centre of the ditch, there appears to be a type of leveling off, as if a less deep entry passage.

Achill Island Promontory Fort view of wall

View of defensive wall

Within the wall, immediately above this ‘bridge’, there are a number of standing stones still extant. Archaeologists consider these to mark the location of a cist. Indeed, it was suggested by Westropp (1914) that perhaps a child sacrifice may have been offered at the building of such a ‘fort’. I would have thought they’re more likely to be some kind of defended entry passage through the wall, not unlike what is seen at caiseals.

Achill Island Promontory Fort

* Marked Promontory Forts of Mayo by OSI Discovery Sheets, excluding duplication (northeast to southwest) :

Sheet 24 – 1

Sheet 23 – 6

Sheet 22 – 30

Sheet 30 – 15

Sheet 31 – 0

Sheet 37 – 2

Total = 54

By the way, if you like this sort of thing, then you might also enjoy reading about Lios na Gaoithe ringfort. And here is a website that discusses Irish promontory forts in general.

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Corraun Peninsula – Between Island and Mainland

Corraun is kept attached to the Irish mainland by rocky boggy land to its east, barely 800 m wide. Off its western shore, meanwhile, a channel just 150 m wide holds Achill Island at bay.

The Corraun peninsula, 99% surrounded by water, may as well be an island in its own right. Indeed, with only a single road running around its waters’ edge, the inner Corraun can only be discovered on foot. Luckily, a hike is well worth the effort.

Corraun boasts two small mountains, Knockletragh (452 m) to the north and the more impressive Corraun Hill (541 m) to the south. If you are driving around Corraun along its southern shore, don’t let the harmless looking southern slopes of Corraun Hill fool you. This mountain has excellent cliffs and wonderful corries on its northern flank.

Corraun Mayo lakes

A glimpse of the lakes on Corraun

Although its raw, barren beauty has been somewhat lessened by plantation forests, the valley that lies between the two mountains remains a gem. A close inspection of the map reveals about 14 lakes of varying sizes, including the 3 lovely corrie Loughs Knockacorraun, Cullydoo and Cullylea.

I recently hiked Corraun from east to west, then cycled back along the northern road and parts of the Greenway. Note that the Greenway is not all off-road on the stretch from Mulranny towards Achill and I would not recommend this section for families with children.

Hiking Corraun Ireland

Looking towards Achill Island from Corraun

The hike requires a long 2 – 3 km stretch in from the road, across boggy terrain, before an ascent onto Corraun itself can be commenced. While there is no entirely satisfactory route to take, I would recommend one that goes roughly NE – SW, so that the views down towards Mulranny and Clew Bay beyond can be enjoyed.

The initial drag is worth it, though, as the views across Clew Bay are spectacular and those of the hidden valley to the north are very pleasant too. I descended towards Achill Sound, past Loughaun, the largest of the lakes, changed my footwear and cycled off back to my start point just outside Mulranny. A great day.

Corraun is ranked 14th among Mayo mountains.

Corraun Hike

Hike : 13.5 km; 4h45; ascent 700 m.

Cycle : 13.0 km; 0h45.

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Achill Island Walking Weekend 2014

Join us for our Achill Island Walking Weekend, from October 3rd to 5th, 2014.

Our small group will be based at Keel village, from where we can discover the best of the island on foot, with no need for long transfers from our B&B. Our walking weekend will take us to Slievemore and Croaghaun mountains, the famous Deserted Village, a Napoleonic Tower and much more. We will enjoy the superb ocean views that this island offers the visitor. From Slievemore, we can look across lovely Blacksod Bay towards the Mullet Peninsula and the Iniskea Islands. From Croaghaun, boasting Ireland’s highest cliffs, we gaze out west into the vast Atlantic, or south towards Clare Island, Inisturk and Inisbofin beyond.

Achill Island Walking Weekend, Mayo, Ireland

Croaghaun mountain, Achill Island

This is tough hiking, with Slievemore at 671 m and Croaghaun at 688 m. The schedule is as follows :

Friday :

Arrive at Westport train station Friday evening. There’s no need to bring the car to Mayo. Jump on a train from Heuston at 12.45, relax and arrive in Westport at 15.55. Transfer to Achill for dinner and a gentle stroll on the wonderful Keel beach, just a short walk from our B&B.

Saturday :

We will hike Slievemore, taking in the famous Deserted Village and archaeological features of this northern part of the island (approx. 6 hours).

Sunday :

A superb hike up to Croaghaun and to its exquisite corrie lake. Our descent brings us past old booley (transhumance) houses to the iconic beach at Keem Bay (approx. 6 hours), before departing on the 17.45 train that gets in to Dublin at 21.10.

As always, accommodation on this Achill Island walking weekend is full board, with dinner in Keel and packed lunches for the walks. This is an ocean weekend, with views of the deep blue all around.

Achill Island Walking Weekend – Bookings

The cost of this weekend is Euro 250 per person sharing.
For single bookings, please add Euro 20 = Euro 270.
To book, please call 086 8318748, or email info [at] tourismpurewalking.com.

To learn more about the island, visit Achill Tourism and Love Achill.

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I Love Bog Pools on Walking Holidays

Bog pools, large and small, dot the peat covered terrain of Mayo, from down in the valleys to the very top of our 700m+ mountains. I love them. They are a regular feature of our walking holidays and are especially evocative when you can see the sea from standing by one.

Bog pools catch the light unlike any other feature of the landscape. Full of peat dust and mosses, they can turn from deep rusty red, through a sort of mossy green, to beautiful rich blue, as the clouds drift by and the sun peaks out.

From as little as 2 m2 up to over 400 m2, bog pools tend to form where water can remain stagnant on the lowland bog or hilltop plateau. Perhaps older bog pools were formed where there was a natural depression in the subsoil as the bog grew. They then grow outward, creating a patterned landscape of pools surrounded by open bog, some of which can be reasonably dry, with other parts, particularly between pools, very wet. The very borders of pools, however, are often among the drier parts.

Interestingly, a Scottish research project from 10 years ago found that, as they grew bigger, bog pools became more elongated and convoluted in shape. The study concluded that, while wind and pool waves play a role in bog pool expansion, ground slope is more important a factor.

Next time you’re on the mountain, out on the open bog, or on one of my walking holidays, stop for a while and admire the lovely bog pools. Mind you, don’t step in them or the sphagnum moss all around !

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Hillwalking on Achill Island

Achill Island, off Mayo’s west coast, offers excellent hillwalking, with fantastic ocean views all around. First, however, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way, so we can concentrate on what is magnificent about Achill.

Hillwalking Achill Mayo Ireland

Slievemore

The island has suffered badly from the ‘Celtic Tiger’ period, with numerous hideous developments – both finished and unfinished – blighting its otherwise fabulous landscape. There are the incomprehensible holiday home parks on the slopes of both Slievemore and Croaghaun, with the latter taking the biscuit for inappropriateness. There is the black hole that was (apparently) to be a hotel in Keel village. Then there’s Achillhenge …

However, the hillwalking is truly wonderful.

From the top of Slievemore (671 m), you have superb views of the Mullet peninsula beyond, with the Iniskea and Duvillaun islands to its south and west. A long and rewarding walk westwards brings you past the Napoleonic tower and towards Annagh, one of the most extraordinary places in Ireland, with its lake perched perilously above the ocean, waiting to be one day consumed by the crashing waves.

Hillwalking on Slievemore can be combined with a visit to the famous deserted village below.

A loop walk to the summit of Croaghaun, with Ireland’s tallest cliffs at 688m, takes in both Acorrymore Lake and the stunning corrie lake that is Lough Bunnafreva West, with superb views out to Saddle Head beyond. This is really great hillwalking, where the slightly lower SW top of Croaghaun steals the show, thanks to its sheer smooth rock wall and views along the spine of Achill Head.

Hillwalking Ireland Mayo Achill

Looking towards Croaghaun SW Top, with Achill Head beyond.

Indeed, just hillwalking from Keem Bay out to Achill Head along the cliffs at Benmore and descending down into the valley with its abandoned booley houses, without ever reaching the dizzy heights of Croaghaun’s cliffs, is a rewarding hike in itself.

The lovely cliff-top walk from Minaun down towards Dooega, hidden away on the island’s south coast, can be combined with a vist to promontory forts further along this rock strewn part of the island’s shoreline. From the top, by the booster station, enjoy lovely views over Keel strand directly below and of Slievemore and Croaghaun in the distance.

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Ten Great Short Mayo Walks, Part Two

I want to share with you 10 beautiful, but short, Mayo walks. These are places to go for a short, easy stroll and admire the surroundings. Bring the kids. I’ve chosen 10 places that you can easily reach in your car or, preferably, on your bike. No need for hiking boots to get to any of these spots, each of which is wonderfully representative of Mayo!

Part One, with 5 places, is here. Now for the remaining five spots to go visit.

These are places you will not need hiking boots to reach and, while most are more or less by the road, all are within a short, flat walk of one.

6 Causeway at Mulranny
7  Newport River leaving Beltra Lough
8  Limestone Pavement at Clonbur Wood
9  Erris Head Look Out Post, Belmullet
10  Minaun, Achill Island

 6. Causeway at Mulranny

When the railway (now The Greenway cycle and walking track) came to Mulranny in the late 1890’s, a hotel (now The Mulranny Park Hotel) was built. Down from the hotel, and in order to reach the nearby beach in greater comfort, a causeway was built across the saltmarshes. Park your car or bike at the hotel, descend the steps across the road, walk the causeway, take in the beautiful views all around and suck in the sea air. Then return for a beverage in the hotel’s bar, overlooking Clew Bay (certainly one of the nicest views any Mayo bar can offer). Total walking time from car or bike, up to one hour (beware traffic when crossing the road).

I can’t seem to locate my picture of this, so will have to go take a new one and insert later !

7. Newport River leaving Beltra Lough

Mayo walks - Newport River

The Newport River

The most remote spot on my list is located in the middle of a Castlebar – Westport – Newport triangle in west Mayo, at the southern end of Beltra Lough, in the middle of nowhere. It’s a wonderful mix of native woodland, reed beds, river, lake and bog. This is inland Mayo at its wild best, with the beautiful mountains of Nephin Mór and Birreencorragh as backdrops to the north. Total walking time from car or bike, maybe 45 minutes (off-road).

 

8. Limestone Pavement at Clonbur Wood

Mayo walks - Clonbur Wood

Clonbur limestone pavement

Our ‘mini Burren’ is a beautiful area of exposed limestone, with dwarfed trees and prostrate shrubs eking out an existence in any tiny piece of soil they can find. A magical place of grykes and clints on the shores of Lough Mask. You’ll have to walk from the carpark at Clonbur village to reach this, but on forest tracks, runners will do fine. Total walking time, a good hour (off-road).

(psst, this is actually just inside Galway, but don’t tell anyone…)

9. Erris Head Look Out Post

Mayo walks - Erris Head

Erris Head

At the very tip of the wild and wonderful Mullet peninsula, out beyond Belmullet town in NW Mayo, lies Erris Head with its fantastic ocean views. Walk for 40 minutes from the carpark at Glenlara to reach an excellent example of Ireland’s World War II marine and coastguard service Look Out Posts that were dotted all along neutral Ireland’s coast. This is ocean coastline at its finest. Total walking time approx. 1.5 hours (off-road).

10. Minaun, Achill Island

Mayo Walks - Minaun Heights

Minaun Heights

If your car can handle it, drive on up towards the mast atop Minaun and look west, across Keel Strand and Keem Bay to the top of Croaghan beyond. This amazing view is one of the finest in Mayo. The winds are strong too. Stunning is too weak a word for it. Total time walking around in the wind, as long as you like (off-road).

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list and get out to some of these spots, whether rural or urban. Just relax, take it all in and experience Mayo walks.

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