Posts tagged with: 'Belmullet'

Day Out in North Mayo

A Grand Day Out in North Mayo (in the car!)

When I plan a day out in North Mayo, my mind usually pictures a great long hike along its spectacular ocean cliffs.

But it’s sometimes fabulous to simply jump in the car and take in more of this little-visited but wonderful part of the country. So, the other day, that’s just what we did.

Our first stop was to hike the beautiful and more-or-less flat trail at Erris Head, 10km beyond Belmullet, in the very NW of the county. This loop is 5km long, takes 2hr and boasts great cliff scenery at its climax, looking out over Pigeon Rock and Oileán Dhabhaic. Be sure to visit the little World War II Look Out Post (LOP) and its associated EIRE 62 stone marker while you’re there.

day out in north mayo erris head

Back in the car and moving eastwards, we popped in to the Talbot Hotel for a welcome bit of lunch. On this occasion, we resisted McDonnell’s, one of the great West of Ireland pubs …

Taking a detour off the road towards Ballycastle, we visited the small but beautifully located Dooncarton Stone Circle. There are many more impressive in the country, but few can match the stunning setting of this one, perched above Srahwaddacon Bay.

day out in north mayo

Then onwards to An Ceathrú Thaidhg and our second hike of the day. With occasional short climbs, this 13km trail will take you 4 to 4.5 hours. One stretch of cliffs, heading northwards from Rinroe Bay towards Kid Island, is perhaps the most photogenic in Ireland.

“The finest sustained coastal walk in western Ireland, with a profusion of precipitous cliffs,

crags, caves, chasms and islands along the remote North Mayo coast”

[Lonely Planet, 1999].

day out in north mayo

Driving further eastwards along the coast road, we made a quick stop at the impressive cross-inscribed stone pillar at Doonfeeney. It’s well worth the short detour – don’t miss it. Short of time, we skipped past the Céide Fields, the world’s most extensive Neolithic stone field system, just allowing ourselves a quick photo stop at the magnificent stratified cliffs across the road.

day out in north mayo doonfeeney

Our target instead was the singular Dún Briste sea-stack at Downpatrick Head, beyond Ballycastle. On this autumn day, we had the place virtually to ourselves. Here is quintessential Mayo, an icon of the Wild Atlantic Way and the pride of the North Mayo tourism offering. One minor complaint, however. I don’t like at all the modern glass and steel structures put in place a few short years ago. They do nothing but detract from this otherwise glorious natural site.

day out in north mayo dun briste downpatrick head

We were short of time and out of light. On a longer day, we’d have continued onwards to enjoy Killala’s round tower, the ruined monasteries at Moyne and Rosserk and the red squirrels at Belleek Wood in Ballina.

But not today. Instead, we headed southwards from Ballycastle, through extensive blanket bogs towards Lahardane and Castlebar, leaving lovely, wild North Mayo behind. Until next time.

Day Out in North Mayo – what to do and see

To learn more about what to do and see in North Mayo, visit the region’s tourism portal at

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Wild Atlantic Way

“What do you think of it yourself?”, says I.

Sitting enjoying a pint of the black stuff in McDonnell’s pub in Béal an Mhuirthead (Belmullet, Co. Mayo), we were chatting about the sheer scale of the Wild Atlantic Way.

“Tis a fierce drive alright”, says Pat, bending down to recover his beer mat.

For sure, it’s a long way from Malin Head to Kinsale. Much more so when you hug the coast as you drive. But that’s a good thing.

Fáilte Ireland’s new Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland’s first long-distance tourist driving route. At 2,500 km, the Way brings the visitor far out west, to strange places like Clare’s Loop Head or Mayo’s Mullet Peninsula, two great West of Ireland fingers jutting out into our beloved ocean.

Now, I’ve been urging you to ‘come wesht’ for years. Maybe this innovation will be the spur that drives you (no pun intended) to do so. Check out An Fál Mór and Ceann Iorrais in far-flung Mayo, or the magnificent Inch Strand in western Kerry. Visit Clifden, the Sky Road and the Alcock and Brown landing site at Derrigimlagh, way out in Connemara.

Wild Atlantic Way, Erris Head

Ceann Iorrais (Erris Head), Mayo

But, once there, get out of your car. Walk to the tidal island of Omey (Galway), the towerhouse at Easkey or up to Queen Maedbh’s Cairn above Strandhill (both Sligo). Stroll around the beautiful Rosserk and Moyne Abbeys, just outside Ballina (Mayo) or feel the wind and spray below Sliabh Liag (Donegal). Heck, there’s even a little bit o’ Lovely Leitrim thrown in for good measure. But don’t blink – you’ll miss it.

The Wild Atlantic Way transports you to the far extremities of Europe, to a land fashioned by ocean, wind and rain. Ours is a place of bog and metamorphic rock, standing testament to a world that has been transformed over hundreds of millions of years. At Ceann an Eaniagh (Mayo), you’ll tread on Ireland’s oldest rocks.

At the Céide Fields (Mayo), you’ll find the world’s oldest field system and, as if that wasn’t enough, you’ll marvel at the staggering cliffs straight across the little road. Further west, at Achill, you can hike to the top of the tallest sea cliffs in Europe (outside of the Faroe Islands). Stare in awe at the ocean’s tumultuous surface, 688m below you.

In Clare, walk around Black Head’s Burren landscape and up to the mass rock. In Sligo, fly a kite above the beach at Rosses Point. In Cork, skip lightly out to the beautiful southwestern islands of Dursey, Clear and Sherkin.

Where to overnight ? Forget about the crowded destinations of Westport, Dingle, Bundoran and Doolin. No, choose the lesser lights and get out and meet the people of the smaller towns and villages, like Falcarragh, Easkey, Belmullet, Cleggan, Fanore, Ballyferriter and Union Hall. Choose Inis Meáin over Inis Mór on the Aran Islands.

We might even see you in McDonnell’s for a ‘scoop’.

Wild Atlantic Way Route Maps

View the Wild Atlantic Way Maps.

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Loop Walks – A Vision for the Mullet Peninsula

The very remote Mullet Peninsula in northwest Mayo already boasts a few short loop walks. Measuring around 25 km from north (at the Erris Head loop walk) to south (Blacksod) and a maximum of 14 km from west (Annagh Head) to east (Ballyglass), the Mullet is stunning. Imagine what a coastal loop walk the whole way around this wonderful place would be like.

Loop walks Ireland

The Mullet Peninsula, Mayo, Ireland

This is spectacular and varied oceanic country. To the north, beautiful cliffs rise to a height of 90m from the surrounding blanket bog. Great views abound out over the Atlantic and offshore rocks and islands, like Pigeon Rock or Eagle Island. Remains of promontory forts dot the cliff-tops. Further south, past blow holes and heavily indented coastline, these cliffs give way to sandy beaches and dunes. In the south, the granite outcrop of Tarmon Hill down by Fál Mór rises to afford superb ocean views in all directions. Indeed, its western coast includes Annagh Head, formed of some of the oldest rocks in Ireland.

On its eastern, more sheltered side, greater vegetation variety is to be found in marshes and along the shoreline of Blacksod Bay. Expansive bays, like Elly and Feorinyeeo, contrast sharply with the wild western beaches. Lovely wildflowers, such as Sea Holly, Yellow Iris and Sea Campion, add to the beauty and enjoyment of a walk around these parts. Belmullet town, tucked in between Blacksod and Broadhaven Bays, guarding the narrow isthmus between the peninsula and the ‘mainland’, would be the main accommodation centre for the loop, ably complemented by small-scale providers at quaint outposts like Ballyglass, Aughleam and Corclough.

Loop walks Mayo Ireland

The Mullet Peninsula, northern end

To be of international interest, loop walks should offer not just variety of scenery, vistas and a distance that would take even the avid walker several days to complete, but also culture and heritage. Along the Mullet’s shoreline are wonderful early Christian sites like Cross Abbey and Teampall Deirbhile, but also 19th Century ruins and World War II remains. There are stories to go with all of them.

What is great is that all these “things to see” are nicely spaced along the way and not clustered together at one point on the peninsula. This is equally true of the offshore islands and four lighthouses that accompany the walker. Superb birding sites, like Termoncarragh Lake and Annagh Marsh add to the attraction of the area. All of these can be considered as staging posts to reach by the walker, pulling him along from one to the next over the entire loop walk.

Loop walks, Mullet, Mayo

Mullet Peninsula, southern end

I estimate an entirely off-road loop walk of the whole peninsula, hugging the shoreline or close enough to it, would be around 140 km long. It would certainly become one of the greatest Irish loop walks of all.

Learn about my August bank holiday guided walking weekend on The Mullet Peninsula.

Visit the local tourism development agency, Erris Beo.

Loop Walks – further posts

Read my 2011 post on a 100km walking loop I’d like to see developed in the Nephin Beg mountains of Mayo.

Read my 2011 post on a whopping 350 km loop of County Mayo that would include walking on old railway tracks from Charlestown to Ballinrobe.

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Shared Rooms Only, is it Possible ?

I’ve been wondering about this for quite a while now. Could I offer a walking holiday with shared rooms only ?

We’ve all heard about ‘production orientation’ versus ‘customer orientation’, right ? The former is where a business puts production values before customer ‘wants’. The latter is where a business puts the customer’s ‘wants’ at the centre of all decisions. The former is generally deemed bad, while the latter good. And yet …

Shared rooms on walking holidays

The Mullet Peninsula

One of the pillars of ecotourism / green tourism / sustainable tourism / rural tourism (whatever you’re having yourself) is the notion of supporting local communities and their tourism providers.

So here’s the conundrum. Up in far-flung Erris, out on the Mullet Peninsula, there are only a small number of B&Bs. Each has only a limited number of rooms. Now, I try to support them by bringing some walkers out there each year (not enough, but that’s another story). Anyway, my issue is that it bothers me greatly when I ask them for single bookings, because I know I’m occupying their very limited rooms while not maximising their income.

Shared Rooms on a Walking Holiday

In this case, is it really that bad to be somewhat ‘production-oriented’, by offering walkers shared rooms only for this walking holiday experience ? Does this mean I’m unduly favouring the product over the customer ? I think not. I hope you think not too.

Shared rooms

B&B Partner, Léim Siar

In my heart, I know it’s a lovely walking holiday product that’s being offered. I believe that walkers will agree to this perhaps unusual ‘condition’. So, for the 2013 version of my popular Western Ocean Walking Weekend, taking place over the August bank holiday weekend, I’ll only be offering shared accommodation. Let’s see how this one pans out.

Cick on the link to book your room-sharing place on this lovely guided walking weekend.

Visit Léim Siar B&B and Brú Chlann Lir B&B.

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Discussing Walking Holidays with the Heritage Council

Guided walking holidays Ireland

Walking holidays in Mayo

I was delighted to be invited to speak about my guided walking holidays at the Heritage Council’s event at Lough Lannagh, Mayo this morning, entitled “Heritage as an Engine for Economic Growth”.

I kept it simple, demonstrating how even a small operator like myself (and other colleagues) can bring a little economic benefit to an area, through delivery of guided walking holidays. The organisation of walking holidays requires partners – be that in accommodation, food provision, local transportation or great rural pubs. In a coastal county like Mayo, transportation can include not just bike and minibus hire, but also boat charter to reach offshore islands.

I try to work with B&Bs, like Hannah at Léim Siar, that will provide my guests with evening meals. Where that’s not possible, I work with local food providers, like the excellent John at the Clubhouse in Belmullet.

But I also spoke of how heritage tourism can involve getting down and dirty with locally based conservation projects, like the environmentally sensitive removal and eventual eradication of non-native invasive species, such as Rhododendron or Gunnera Tinctoria (‘Giant Rhubarb’). It was great to meet some people with whom I might be able to work on such projects in the future, by involving guests on my walking holidays.

Mayo is working hard to improve its position in the Irish tourism product offer. Domestically, we know we’re competing with the likes of Kerry and West Cork and much has been done by the County Council and other bodies on improving the walking product here. Internationally, we’re putting our offer up against Scotland, Norway and other European destinations for walking holidays. Where we’re different is in the quantity and quality of our heritage experiences. Being a county with a very low population density has allowed Mayo to retain much of its built, natural and cultural heritage.

Of course, I once again couldn’t resist the wheeling out of my big dream – to see long, looped walks of over 100 km around Mayo. Our county is a great, wild and very ‘real’ place for a walking holiday … and getting better.

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August Walking Weekend 2012

A favourite walking weekend of my own is my Western Ocean Walking Weekend that takes place up around Belmullet and the Mullet peninsula over the August bank holiday weekend.

Northwest Mayo boasts fantastic cliff-top trails, low lying hills and offshore islands. There are no steep trails here, just beautiful vistas all around Blacksod and Broadhaven bays, great white strands that go on and on, with the mountains and cliffs of Achill Island beyond as a dramatic backdrop to this lovely walking weekend.

Join us, from August 3 thru 6, for a relaxing and fun short walking holiday in Mayo.

I was delighted that the Irish Times featured this weekend’s walking event in their recent article on “100 Great Irish Breaks”. See below.

To book, please visit here.

Mayo walking weekend

Irish Times article

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