Posts tagged with: 'Bangor'

Thank you very much, Walshes

We had absolutely beautiful weather as we completed The Bangor Trail on Friday last. Even though we were in the dying days of winter, I had never experienced the trail in such a dry condition, not even in summer. I guess that’s not really surprising, as we’ve had very little rain this winter.

We took 9 h 45 min to complete the 26 km trail, which included a diversion up to the Scardaun Loughs for lunch. We had no rain at all.

Quite the opposite on Saturday, however. Having only one car, our small team had to cycle back from Bangor to Letterkeen to pick up mine, a distance of around 32 km. It didn’t stop raining for one minute. Leaving Bangor, we had the wind and rain to our backs. That was okay, but I realised what lay ahead. Having turned at Bellacorick, we had it hitting us from our  right hand side, sweeping in and down over Slieve Carr and Nephin Beg, nearly knocking us into the ditch. The real problems, however, arose when we turned at Keenagh. Now it was straight in our faces. Now we started to feel the 2 h 20 min already in our legs, piled on top of the long hike the day before. Not to mention the fact that J didn’t really have waterproof boots …

With the very hilly section ahead and our willpower waning, J asked for assistance, with 7.5 km of serious ups and downs still to go. Mr. Walsh agreed to give me a spin up to the bothy, where I could collect the car, drive back, pick up the others and head for Castlebar. We were very grateful.

At the bothy, I met some acquaintances who had failed to get beyond the third stream to be crossed on the Trail, such was the amount of water that had fallen since the previous day.

On my return to the Walsh household, I found the lads in the kitchen, pulled up to the table and eating soup and bread served up by the lady of the house, to these unannounced total strangers. I was invited in and shared of their generous hospitality. Later, in the car on the way back to Castlebar, I noticed J was wearing jeans. Mrs. Walsh had invited them to use the bathroom to change their clothes. Genuine West of Ireland people. Thank you very much.

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Welcome to 2012

December saw me take on three good hikes in the off-season.

I had a specific reason for revisiting The Bangor Trail from the Bangor end on Dec 21st, the shortest day of the year. While on ‘The Walk of Hope’ with the fabulous people of Foxford Ramblers Walking Club the previous Saturday, two companions from Bangor had told me of works being carried out on the Trail that they weren’t at all happy with. I just had to investigate, fearful of another example of environmental vandalism by public bodies.

Hillwalking in the west of Ireland

The Walk of Hope, with Foxford Ramblers Walking Club

But first, back to Foxford. Jim Murray and his colleagues had organised a charity walk for Sat, Dec 17th, in aid of Hope House in Foxford. It was an excellent 16 km walk over the lowish Mayo foothills of the Ox Mountains, from Bonniconlon back to Foxford. Towards the end of the walk was a superb wetlands area, with rushes, streams and three small lakes I need to re-investigate some time this year.

The walk was led by Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and we had lovely weather, save for one rough enough hailstone storm. A good 80 walkers took part and it was most enjoyable. Find out about Hope House here and Foxford Ramblers Walking Club here. A great day !


Walking holidays in Ireland

The Bangor Trail

The following Wednesday, I hiked from Bangor to the Tarsaghaunmore River on The Bangor Trail and back (8 km one-way). On the day that was in it, I knew I wouldn’t get any further by dusk and didn’t really fancy hiking after dark. All was going swimmingly until near the bridge, where I discovered the work to which the Bangor people had referred.

A bit of history : a number of interested parties, including NPWS and the local Leader company, had attended a meeting in late 2010 to discuss what should be done about the waterlogged nature of much of The Trail. I was decidedly on the “leave it alone” side of the discussions. My understanding of the outcome of this meeting was that only streams crossing the Trail would be boardwalked and / or drained and the remainder left as is. Instead, what I saw in December was both boardwalking and drainage work where there is no need whatsoever for either. Or to put it another way, if they deem work necessary on that section, then they’ll deem it necessary almost anywhere. The fear now is that this type of work will be carried out way in excess of what is required, threatening to ruin the uniqueness of this place.

Walking guide in Ireland

Lugnaquilla, Co. Wicklow

Between Christmas and New Year, I joined my brother-in-law for a hike up Wicklow’s Lugnaquilla, Ireland’s highest mountain outside Kerry. We came from the Glen of Imaal side, heading up by Dwyer’s statue. The walk (6.5 km one-way) was really easy, taking just under 2 hours to the 925 m high summit. It snowed on us for part of the hike and we unfortunately had no view when we reached the top.

It’s a hike I must try to do again this summer, but from the more difficult eastern side, because the Glen of Imaal approach is just a walk up a not-very-demanding slope. Indeed, many Mayo or Connemara mountains, of only 500 m height demand much more physical effort than this did.

She took and kissed the first flower once

and sweetly said to me :

‘This flower comes from the Wicklow hills,

dew wet and pure’, said she,

‘It’s name is Michael Dwyer,

the strongest flower of all.

But I’ll keep it fresh beside my breast,

though all the world should fall.’

[Na Trí Bláthanna / The Three Flowers (trad.)]

All said, an excellent December to finish off 2011. Now for 2012. Get in touch if you’d like to join one of my guided hillwalking weekends in Mayo.

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100 km Walking & Cycling Loop

Last week, at the first Mayo Walking Seminar, held in West Mayo’s lovely Mulranny Park Hotel, I was speaking on hillwalking and the Nephin Beg Mountain Range. I used the opportunity to present my dream of a world-class 100 km walking and cycling loop in Mayo.

The loop, which I called the “Nephin Beg Mountains Loop” would encircle the mountains of Northwest Mayo and bring the walker or cyclist along rivers and small bog lakes, through blanket bog and by the seashore. Even better, at four points, there would be the opportunity for cyclists and long distance walkers to head off on spurs leaving the central loop. One would head towards Ballycastle, The Céide Fields and the north Mayo coastline. A second would branch off towards Belmullet and The Mullet peninsula, while the third would bring the visitor west to Achill Island. Finally, the fourth branch from the loop would go south, to the tourist hot-spots of Westport and Croagh Patrick.

Even better, The Bangor Trail (for walkers only) would bisect the 100 km loop straight down the middle, giving serious walkers another choice.

Not all walkers are in to hillwalking. A lot of this low-level loop is already in place. The new Great Western Greenway cycleway and walking trail, built on the old dismantled Westport to Achill railway line, makes up some 18 km of the 100 envisaged. The Western Way national waymarked walking trail meanders for some 25 km north of Newport into the wilderness and is hugely underutilised and neglected. There are already plans afoot to extend the Greenway northwards from Mulranny, in the general direction of Belmullet and Bangor Erris.

What I am calling for that is new consists of two parts. First, a modest 3 km stretch needs building to take the Western Way off-road in its entirety in this area. That’s hardly a big ask, as the land to be crossed is either Coillte or Bord na Móna owned. The second section would be around 6 or 7 km long, along the northern border of my Loop. Again, not a major task, with the land once again being mostly in Coillte hands.

While the new Greenway is nice, it is nowhere near international quality in length or variety of scenery. This “Nephin Beg Mountains Loop” most certainly would be.

Here is my aspirational map of the finished product. I think it can and should be done. What do you think ?

The solid red lines represent already existing tracks and trails. The dot-dash lines are what I am putting forward here.

hill walking Mayo Ireland

Nephin Beg Mountains Loop

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Mayo as Green Walking Holiday Destination

Ecotourism in Mayo | Guided walking holidays

Cong Lakes Walks - May Bank Holiday Wekend 2011

The value of anything a Green Party representative says in the current circumstances, where the party faces wipe-out in the upcoming election, has to be questioned. Nevertheless, it is nice to see them talk up Mayo’s wonderful rural tourism and walking holiday product offer.

According to them, Mayo can be Ireland’s number one destination for green holidays and ecotourism. I agree wholeheartedly. The statement, which also mentions food tourism, continues that “the area where tourism is growing is in the activity, environmental and cultural sectors. Mayo’s magnificent natural environment is a haven for eco and adventure tourism.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Mind you, the statement, as reported, then gets a black mark, in my view, when it goes on to mention creating walkways and cycle trails “along existing rural roads”. Ouch ! No thank you. Walking on roads, no matter how rural and unused, is of very little interest at all. It is quality we need to offer.

So what do we have ? Well, for starters, there’s the Greenway cycle and walking trail, soon to be open from Westport to Achill along its full 42 km off-road route. Then we have Erris, with its wonderful cliff-top walks. We have the Coillte managed native forest regeneration project site at Clonbur and Cong, where non-native conifers have been removed to allow the recolonisation by our native oaks, hazel and ash.

We have The Bangor Trail, the wildest and finest old track in the country. We have the fabulous Nephin Beg Mountains, so remote, wild, wet and wonderful. In the south, we have Mweelrea, Connacht’s highest peak and its awesome views all around, over the Atlantic and Killary Harbour.

We have cycle hire, sea kayaking, wind surfing, kite surfing, sailing, curragh racing, duathlons, triathlons, orienteering, Gaelforce West. We have scuba diving, sea angling, environmentally serious hotels and B&Bs, etc, etc.

This is Mayo – come check us out.

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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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