Posts tagged with: 'Connemara'

Maumturks & Bens Weekend

Join our small group hiking the Maumturk and Twelve Bens mountains of Connemara this May bank holiday weekend.

The Inagh Valley in Connemara is a wonderful spot for hiking, with the Maumturk mountains to one side and the Twelve Bens to the other. Beautiful Lough Inagh dominates the valley between these quartzite ranges. The Western Way traces its way along the valley floor on its way to Killary fjord and Leenane village to the north.

Maumturks walking weekend

Maumturk mountains of Connemara

Our small group will spend three nights in a lovely B&B, with evening dinners in a nearby hotel.

Friday, Apr 29, 2016 : Guests should arrive at our B&B around 7 pm, for dinner together at 8 pm.

Saturday, Apr 30, 2016 : Maumturks and Máméan pilgrimage site. We will be walking for 5 – 6 hours, with a total ascent of approx 800m. Level : Moderate / tough.

Sunday, May 1, 2016 : The Western Way and Killary Fjord. We will be walking for 6 – 7 hours, with a total ascent of 300m. Level : Easy.

Monday, May 2, 2016 : Derryclare and Bencorr in the Twelve Bens. We will be walking for 6 – 7 hours, with a total ascent of 900m. Level : Moderate / tough.

Please note that walking times are approximate and depend on the level of the group. Our route on Monday may be altered in function of the ability of the group, as will have been gauged on Saturday.

Price :

Euro 325 pps.

This package includes the following –

3 nights B&B accommodation in shared rooms

3 evening dinners in hotel (3 course meals, plus tea/coffee)

3 packed lunches

3 days guided hill walking

This package does not include the following –

Getting to Inagh valley.

Beverages and other miscellaneous spend.

What you need to bring :

Good waterproof ankle-protecting hiking boots.

Hiking wear (including layers, rainproof top and legs).

Sunglasses, sun cream, insect repellent.

Enthusiasm for three days of outdoor fun in the mountains of the West of Ireland.

Please do not bring :

Jeans, ponchos or umbrellas on the walks.

Maumturk and Twelve Ben Mountains of Connemara

The Maumturks culminate at Binn Idir an Dá Log, at 702 m, while across the valley, the Twelve Bens have their highest point at Benbaun (729 m).

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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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I had wanted to visit Inishbofin during winter and so, last week, took the ferry out from Cleggan. As it was February, there were only 9 of us on board.

Inishbofin - Walking in the west of Ireland

Approaching Inishbofin

As the days are still short, I wasted no time. I threw my bag into The Beach B&B and headed straight for the northern side of the island, in order to complete an anti-clockwise loop that would bring me out towards Middlequarter before swinging towards Westquarter. Accuweather let me down (hardly a surprise in these parts and at this time of year), telling me Saturday would be reasonable and Sunday rainy. In fact, my first day was miserable enough, with very low cloud and drizzle all day, turning to heavier rain before I completed my circuit. Sunday, on the other hand, was beautiful, with clear blue skies above.

The walk brings us north from the village leaving tarmac roadways behind, then west, crossing the stone beach that separates Lough Bofin from the sea immediately beyond. The Celtic Tiger airstrip seems an unnecessary scar on the landscape. Further along, we reach the blow holes, before looking out onto the Stags of Bofin. It is between these and the return towards the village that the coastline is at its most impressive, with 30 m high cliffs, a promontory fort and the views across to Inishark. A lovely stretch.

This loop walk is 11 km long, virtually flat and took 5 hours to complete at a very leisurely pace.

On Sunday, I took the relatively short stroll eastwards, to reach St. Colman’s ruined 14th Century church and the beautiful beach looking out towards Mweelrea and Mayo. The highlight of the weekend was observing a Peregrine in pursuit of what looked like pigeons. He didn’t succeed.

Walking Inishbofin Connemara

St. Colman’s Church

With a 2011 census population of 160, Inishbofin is comparable with the Mayo island of Clare (168) in terms of residents. It would be well ahead of the island that lies between them, Inisturk, which boasts fewer than 60 islanders.

In summer, Inishbofin is an extremely lively spot, which unquestionably adds to its attraction for day-trippers. I would recommend staying the night.

Visiting Inishbofin

Before your trip, visit the website of Inishbofin Tourism. Find out about ferries to the island.

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Walking Tours Ireland 2012 – A Photographic Review

I was sitting here reviewing some photos from 2012 walking tours, when I thought, well, why not share them in a blog post. So here we go. I’ve selected five photos that might inform the would-be visitor to this wonderful part of the world what a walking tour in Mayo and Connemara might consist of. I hope you enjoy the pics.

Walking tours Ireland - Mayo

Inisturk, off the Mayo coast

The first is of the wonderful Atlantic Ocean. Being out on a boat, heading to or from one of Mayo or Connemara’s offshore islands is a real treat. This pic is of the imposing cliffs on the western edge of Inisturk, on an impossibly beautiful early summer’s day. The light was fab that day and we really enjoyed a great stroll around this small, beautiful Mayo island.

Walking tours Ireland - The Bangor Trail

The Bangor Trail, Mayo

The second is of the very special Bangor Trail, a centuries old drover’s track across bog and below mountains in west Mayo. Though this was taken on a bright day, it actually suits this lonely, hidden place to be under lower cloud cover. This is a fantastic, wet place – a place where Atlantic blanket bog and wild west of Ireland weather will dominate you, rather than the other way around.

Walking tours Ireland - Belmullet

The Mullet Peninsula, Mayo

This is the low-lying and very remote Mullet Peninsula, in north west Mayo. Beyond Belmullet town, this place is a full 80 minutes drive from Castlebar or Westport. But it’s very much worth the visit, even if only to tramp along its stunning beaches in bare feet. Feel the wind in your face and look out over the haunting islands and rocks of Iniskea, Inisglora and others.

Walking tours Ireland, Maumtrasna

Corrie lakes below Maumtrasna

In February, fog filled the valley floor below Maumtrasna, as we approached from Barnahowna. Slowly, it dissipated, to reveal the twin corrie lakes of Loughs Nambrackkeagh (foreground) and Nadirkmore (below the dramatic cliffs, beyond). Ireland’s finest example of a true plateau, Maumtrasna offers excellent loop walks, taking in its fantastic valleys.

Walking tours Ireland - Iniskea

Abandoned homes of Iniskea

With its broken down homes as backdrop, Iniskea Island makes for one of the finest day trips in the West of Ireland. The boat out from Blacksod is a treat in itself, skipping between the Mullet peninsula and various little islands and rocks. The island, with its fascinating mix of human history, tragic tales, industrial heritage and varied coastal wildlife, is a place visitors never forget. A very special trip.

Walking tours Ireland 2013

If you’d like to cosider a walking tour in this part of Ireland during 2013, visit my walking tours page. You can view one-day hikes also.

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Wildflowers on Walking Holidays

I took the following photos over a 500 m stretch of West of Ireland coastal countryside last weekend, while out on a walk. I love finding wildflowers in their natural habitat, whether that be the expansive blanket bogs, small remnants of old oak woodland, along cliff tops or on the bare limestone landscape of the Burren and less known, secluded parts of Mayo and Connemara.

Ireland, and the West in particular, is short on the variety of wildflowers you might encounter. We’re not in the south of France here !That’s partly because of being an island and, of course, partly because of the West’s wind and rain lashed vast blanket bog landscapes. Nevertheless, there are certain places and times of the summer when there is an abundance of gorgeous wildflowers in this part of the world too.

Indeed, my own small garden, with its wonderful Ash and Whitethorn dominated wild hedge, boasts Field Rose, Wild Strawberry (complete with fruit at the moment), Heath Spotted Orchid, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Herb Robert and more wildflowers.

But it’s out and about that the most interesting wildflowers are to be found. So, on my 500 m stretch last weekend, I found the following :

Sea Radish, Sea Thrift, Sea Bindweed, Bloody Crane’s Bill, Sea Campion, Broomrape, Common Mallow, Knotted Pearlwort, Honeysuckle, Ox Eye Daisy, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, O’Kelly’s Spotted Orchid, Yellow Iris and more. Bliss. I love that moment when you realise that you’re seeing a flower you haven’t come across before, or perhaps a finer specimen than you’ve ever had previously.

I regularly post photos of wildflowers on my Twitter account, so why not follow me here. Indeed, if you are looking for help with wildflower identification in Ireland, then consult Zoe Devlin’s Wildflowers of Ireland site. It’s excellent. So if you’re new to wildflowers, you know the mantra : just get out there !

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Connemara National Park

Diamond Hill, Connemara National Park

I have been guiding French groups around Connemara and into the Connemara National Park for a few years now. More than anywhere else, this is the part of Ireland the French come to see. Connemara is known to them through the medium of film, but mostly thanks to one famous song from the 1970s. If you mention the title of the Michel Sardou song, ‘Les Lacs du Connemara’, to French people over a certain age, many will be able to ream off the lyrics to you without difficulty.

“Terre brulée au vent des landes de pierres.”

There is unquestionably something magical about Connemara – its mix of water, bog and stone. It is at once a land drowned in hundreds of small lakes and damp bog, yet one of mountains with bare exposed stony tops. While our lovely Mayo mountains are almost always bog covered right to the very peak, the Twelve Bens mountain range of Connemara have been stripped of turf and soil, exposing their naked shining quartzite bodies. Wonderful mountains.

Connemara has its pretty little National Park – Ireland’s smallest – which is a kind of picture-postcard representation of the greater landscape all around. Boasting the nice hike up Diamond Hill (count 2.5 hours up and down), the park in Letterfrack is well worth a visit and is perfectly child-friendly, with shorter, more leisurely looped trails around the hub that is its visitors’ centre. Don’t miss the gorgeous short walk below the centre (green nature trail), which is a delight at only 500m long or so and is best experienced during spring when its wild garlic is in bloom. The smell is wonderful.

Of course, in near proximity to the National Park are the attractions of Kylemore Abbey with its Victorian walled garden and the lively town of Clifden. A little further afield is beautiful Leenane, situated on the Killary – Ireland’s only true fjord – and the magnificent Inagh Valley. To the south on the coast of Galway Bay lies Roundstone, one of Ireland’s prettiest little villages.

Visit the website of Connemara National Park.

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