Bangor Trail

Posts tagged with: 'Bangor Trail'

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.

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Lough Avoher – What’s in a Name ?

To the south of Nephin Beg mountain and just east of The Bangor Trail (though barely visible from it and missed by many walkers, I would guess) lies the small Lough Avoher.

You might think I should have added “and irrelevant” to my description. This is not a Lough Feeagh, Furnace or Carrowmore, greater lakes of this part of boggy, rocky west Mayo. But to do so would have been an error, for irrelevant this little body of water most certainly is not. In its very name lies a clue to the lives of our ancestors, men and women who passed this place in harder times. Much harder.

Lough Avoher by the Bangor Trail

Lough Avoher by the Bangor Trail

The anglicised form of the name of this little lake, you see, reveals its original name as gaeilge, “Loch an Bhóthair”, meaning ‘lake of the road’. Therein we discover a beautiful and important testimony to the history of this place and the age of The Bangor Trail. A drover’s path from the outlying areas of north Mayo when that bog-saturated land was still roadless, the Trail witnessed many people bringing their animals down to market in the towns to the south. Perhaps they stopped for refreshment at Lough Avoher. They may even have passed the night by its shores.

I’ve known about Lough Avoher since I first laid eyes on it while reading Joe McDermott’s excellent little guidebook to the Trail, back in the mid 1990s. From that same time I’ve known that the lake is incorrectly named “Lough Aroher” on Ordnance Survey Ireland’s Discovery Series maps (sheets 23 & 31 ; grid ref. F94 07). Unfortunately, I now realise, I did nothing about it at the time. I should have picked up the phone and let OSI know about the error and to have it corrected. I could have done it, I now know, because I finally did a few weeks ago. I received OSI’s agreement and was helpfully told that it will be changed in the next version of the map.

Except …

Over the intervening years, a walking trail has been developed nearby the lake (as a loop off the Bangor Trail) and a mountain bothy structure has been put in place, both employing the incorrect name for the lake. Happily, I’ve been assured that the bothy mistake is to be rectified this winter. I’m appreciative of that.

The problem here is a lack of cultural awareness for what people are dealing with. Loch an Bhóthair stands as a witness in the bog, the rain and the wind to the very history of this part of the world. To a people who tried to eke out a miserable existence, without today’s fancy waterproof hiking boots or jackets to shield them from the elements of west Mayo.

A quick glance at McDermott’s book, or an attempt to involve members of the local hillwalking community would have avoided these mistakes being made. Either myself or Joe, and presumably plenty of others also, would have put the authors of the walking trail or builders of the bothy straight.

There is a general carelessness about Irish language place names creeping in that bothers me. Just a short distance away from Lough Avoher, out past the wonderful ringfort at Lios na Gaoithe, lies a lake whose county council signpost declares it ‘Lough Bunaveela’ in English and ‘Loch Bunaveela’ as gaeilge. In other words, no attempt whatsoever was made to identify its true name in Irish. Lazy.

Before I end, I should admit that my own Irish is very poor. However, I like to think I have an appreciation of our history, our heritage and what the French call our “patrimoine”. Lough Aroher is dead; long live Lough Avoher.

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The Western Way in Winter

I love winter.

OK, I prefer a dry, crisp, fresh winter to a sodden, rainy, mucky winter. But since we have far more of the latter than the former, I make do with it.

Today, I went on a 7-hour cycle and hike along The Western Way, through Ireland’s largest tract of land with no through road. It rained good and proper for the entire duration, with not a single minute’s reprieve. But not just any old rain, oh no. Blown by strong winds, this was the “wonderful” almost horizontal Irish variety. On the journey out, this was fine, as it blew into my back. But on the journey back, another story …

Western Way Mayo

The Western Way, Mayo, in winter

In this area, The Western Way is a forest track through Coillte land, with one section of around 2,100 m of boardwalk in the wettest part – a seriously slippy boardwalk in this weather. [Note to those responsible : You might have considered studding it] In all, it’s about 26 km of entirely off-road hiking and cycling, although I couldn’t manage that in these short winter days.

With the rain coming down, I cycled more in water than on terra firma, as the rain run-off likes to utilise the track bed as the path of least resistance in its relentless search for a river course. Between my outward journey and the return, all rivers and streams had impressively increased the volume of water they were carrying. On the drive home afterwards, there was flooding aplenty in the fields and bogs along the road. A lot of water fell in north Mayo today.

Western Way, Mayo, Ireland

Boardwalk on The Western Way

The wildlife count was poor today, as is to be expected in heavy rain. No deer and no raptors. Just four hares and one pheasant of note. Mind you, deep into the plantation forest, very large deer tracks are all around. I saw fox, otter and pine marten droppings, as well as those of the deer.

If you want a place to gather your thoughts and be utterly immersed in and subjected to the West of Ireland outdoors, this is a good place. Coillte likes to call it Ireland’s ‘big sky country’. With the conifers all around, I’m not so sure about that description, but you know what they’re trying to say. If it’s views you’re after, better choose elsewhere.

I made a video of this day which you can watch here.

You can view the entire Western Way on Irish Trails, both the Mayo section and that in Galway.

Western Way Gear Review

Despite 7 hours of continuous rain, my Meindl Vakuum GTX feet were bone dry, as always. My Helly Hansen Helly Tech head and torso ditto. I was particularly impressed that not a drop of water went down my back or even onto my neck. My North Face trousers could not withstand the rain, but, in fairness, that was mainly because I was cycling most of the time, so pumping thighs and a wet saddle didn’t help. My LifeVenture TiV vacuum flask disappointed. Billed as keeping water hot above 60 C for up to 12 hours, it didn’t deliver for even 6.

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Ballycroy National Park

Visitor Centre, Ballycroy National Park.

Visitor Centre, Ballycroy National Park.

Ballycroy National Park has existed for 11 years, pretty much without anybody knowing. However, last month saw the opening of its visitor centre at Ballycroy village, midway between Mulranny and Bangor Erris on the little travelled N59.

Ballycroy is Ireland’s sixth National Park, after Wicklow, Glenveagh, Killarney, Burren and Connemara.


Boardwalk through Bog, Ballycroy NP.

Boardwalk through Bog, Ballycroy NP.

The NP has 11,000 hectares of more or less Atlantic blanket bog landscape, with the wonderful Nephin Beg mountain range as its central spine. The Bangor Trail goes in and out of the NP for much of its journey from above Newport to Bangor village.

Animals to be found in the Park include Fox, Badger, Otter, Pine Marten, the invasive Mink, Red Deer and birds, like the White Fronted Goose, Skylark, Merlin and maybe the odd Peregrine Falcon.

The Bangor Trail, which I have walked many times, is a great old highway from northern Mayo down towards Newport and Westport beyond. In days of old, when there was no true road from the Bangor area southwards, this was the only way. Nowadays, it is in mostly poor condition. Some parts are reasonably covered in loose stones and rocks. Much of it is not. The parts which are not are being reclaimed by the bog, particularly the stretches north and south of the bothy / refuge below Corslieve.

To walk the Bangor Trail is a real experience. And that is exactly what I mean – a real experience. It is tough going, but hugely rewarding. Will you get wet ? Definitely.


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The Bangor Trail – Remote Hiking Trail in Mayo

The Bangor Trail sinews its way from Bangor Erris in the north to Newport in the south, running for some 26 km* through the relentless Atlantic blanket bog of north Mayo.

Winter on Ireland’s most remote, tranquil and wet walking route is a great treat. Why ? Because you’re not in charge. Nowadays, the human is in charge of almost everything. He controls the environment to a worrying degree, if you think about it. Not out here, not in winter, not anytime.


Bangor Trail Mayo

The Bangor Trail in the Nephin Beg Mountains


The Bangor Trail is Ireland’s outstanding ancient trail. For centuries, the Trail was used by drovers bringing their animals from the wilds of north Mayo down to the coastal market town of Newport. This is extremely remote country – you won’t see a house or soul. In winter, the crazy weather adds hugely to the experience. Here, you’ll find yourself very much out of your comfort zone.

This is rarely visited bog and mountain terrain. It’s a maze of tiny streams that find their way down from Glennamong, Nephin Beg and Slieve Carr to the wet Owenduff bog below – Ireland’s largest intact Atlantic blanket bog system. Half the time, we are walking in water. The other half, we are between rocks laid down centuries ago to make a semblance of a path and pure, unadulterated peat bog ! Very special.


Bangor Trail

The Bangor Trail, West Mayo


What’s great about the Bangor Trail is its isolation, but also the fact that, at the time it was ‘built’, those involved had an inherent sense of practicality. It wasn’t future adventure-seeking hikers they were concerned with. No, the track was laid down for the very real-world reason of getting animals to market. They laid it down not too high up the hillsides, to avoid unnecessary climbing, but not too low, to avoid sinking into the tremendous bog.

What would you need ? A very good level of fitness, great stamina, very good waterproof hiking boots, waterproof clothing, gaitors, courage, lots of food, a camera, lots of water, map, compass, head torch, etc. And a sense of humour. This is the outdoors at its best – wild and wonderful.

* The 26 km indicated is from Bangor Erris as far as the Brogan Carroll Bothy at Letterkeen Wood. Much of the remaining way to Newport is on tarmac, so not terribly attractive to walk.

The Bangor Trail 2012 Update (with Lenny Antonelli, journalist)

A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of accompanying freelance journalist Lenny Antonelli on The Bangor Trail. We had beautiful weather for our hike, especially considering it was the middle of winter. Reproduced below is Lenny’s lovely article from the Irish Times.

Discover Lenny Antonelli’s website.


The Bangor Trail in Mayo Ireland

Irish Times article, part 1



The Bangor Trail Ireland

Irish Times article, part 2


The Bangor Trail Hike

27 km, allowing for a 500m (each way) diversion to view the Scardaun Loughs; total ascent 815 m; allow 10-11 hours.

Discovering The Bangor Trail (high point 246 m) is finding a part of Ireland that you thought no longer existed. Set in the remote Nephin Beg mountain range of west Mayo, this is a place where you’re unlikely to encounter anybody else. From the Brogan Carroll Bothy to Bangor Erris village, the Trail meanders through blanket bog and mountain scenery.

This is a strenuous day out in demanding wet bog – not for the faint-hearted!

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