Posts tagged with: 'Cycleway'

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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Greenway is a Winner at EU’s EDEN 2011.

Last autumn, I wrote a post about the EU’s EDEN project, or European Destinations of ExcelleNce. Do please take a look back at my post of August 2010 here, regarding this EU initiative to support sustainable tourism destinations.

The 2011 EDEN Award focuses on the regeneration of physical sites. The rewarded destinations are those that have taken a physical site of local heritage (e.g. a piece of industrial or transport infrastructure, or a military site) and converted it into a sustainable tourism attraction for locals and tourists alike.

The Great Western Greenway has been named a winner this year. Congratulations to all and thank you to the landowners who bought into the concept. Hopefully, those who have thus far refused to allow the track across their land might have a change of mind.

In a press release, Fáilte Ireland writes that

” The Great Western Greenway in County Mayo has been named as the Irish winner of this year’s “European Destination of Excellence” (EDEN) award.

The theme of the 2011 competition was ‘Tourism and the Regeneration of Physical Sites’ and the Greenway was chosen following a comprehensive examination of a number of contenders, including on-site assessments by a panel of expert adjudicators.   

The EDEN award is part of an EU-wide competition designed to encourage and promote a more sustainable form of tourism development.

The Greenway was announced as the ultimate winner last week following a shortlisting of finalists, which also included the Arigna Mining Experience, Co. Roscommon and the Lough Boora Lakelands, Co. Offaly. ”

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Greenway Cycleway Extension Coming Soon

The Greenway / Cycleway, currently running between Newport and Mulranny, will soon be opened along its full length from Westport to Achill, giving a 42-km long almost entirely off-road cycling and walking (hiking) route here in West Mayo.

The Greenway traces the old disused railway line from Westport mainline train station to the terminal at Achill Sound, situated just before the bridge over to the island itself. The railway was in place from 1894 to 1937 and its most famous feature is undoubtedly the magnificent viaduct over the Newport River in the village of the same name.

In 2010, the Greenway was opened and became successful immediately, with many locals joined by growing numbers of tourists using it for exercise and as a day-trip tourism facility. There are at least three providers of bicycles for hire, based in Westport or Newport.

There is a map of the currently open stretch of the Greenway here.

April 2011 should see the full opening of the line and I look forward to seeing if other cycle hire businesses spring up at the Achill end of the line, to provide competition to those based around Westport.

There are also plans to develop a walkway / cycleway from Castlebar, through Islandeady, out to meet the Greenway perhaps at Westport. That would be a longer term project and would surely take several years to realise. It would certainly be an interesting extension.

If you are thinking of making the Westport – Newport – Achill area your base for an outdoors activity break in 2011, then do consider coming along on one of my entirely off-road guided walking events in the hills and bogs of the same area. Take a look at my events on this website. You’d be most welcome to come hillwalking in West Mayo.

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On the Newport Mulranny Cycleway

This morning, I enjoyed a cycle on the old rail line from Mulranny towards Newport with Paul Harman of Harman-e-Bikes. Paul has quality battery power-assisted electric cycles for hire out of his base near Westport, with a drop-off and pick-up service available.

The new cycleway is by no means perfect, nor as good as it could have been, but is certainly a welcome addition to the West Mayo outdoors tourism product. Its best quality is that it is off-road and you can’t argue with that, in a country which boasts very few off-road cycling opportunities.

Cycling is a logical and attractive complimentary product to my guided walking tours, especially in and around the Nephin Beg mountain range. So why not consider coming to West Mayo and combining cycling, walking and, indeed, sea kayaking and wind surfing, for example.

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Cycleway from Newport to Mulranny

I took a trip out yesterday to check on the progress of the cycleway / walkway from Newport to Mulranny that is currently under construction. The route follows the old Achill railway line for the most part, with only very short stretches not on the disused line.

Its total length is something like 18 km, with hopes that it can be further developed in both directions in the years to come, forward towards Achill and back towards Westport.

The track will be a truly great additon to Mayo’s tourism offer.

The track will take us through the Atlantic blanket bogs of West Mayo, affording stunning views of both Clew Bay’s many little quiet inlets to the West and The Nephin Beg mountains and its lakes to the East. The first stage of the track ends just beyond Mulranny village, at the junction between the roads to Ballycroy and to Achill.

Here are just some photos I took yesterday to give you an idea of what this wonderful new amenity will offer. I’ll be walking its full length before the end of the year and will add new photos here as I do so.

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