Ecotourism

Posts tagged with: 'Ecotourism'

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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Nephin : A Mountain and a Lost Ship

Steve came hillwalking last March and wrote the following article about the day, which he has kindly permitted me to reproduce here. We climbed Nephin – at 806 m, Connacht’s second highest mountain.

 

Nephin

Hiking Nephin in March

” A Mountain and a Lost Ship

Barry Murphy met us outside the post office in the village of Lahardane, County Mayo. He was our guide for a hike up Nephin Mór – the second highest mountain in Connacht. With introductions made, our small group set off.

As we approached the trail, Barry introduced us to the local history of the parish of Addergoole. A ruined house had once been the home of a victim of the sinking of the Titanic. A total of fourteen parishioners had sailed on the ill starred voyage; only three survived. The loss is reputed to be the greatest in Europe from a single small locality.

Catherine McGowan is credited with putting the ‘Addergoole Fourteen’ together. She had spent several years in America and had originally returned home to bring her niece out to the States. Others decided to join her and their dream of a new life ended in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. Catherine perished, but her niece, 17 year old Annie McGowan, was rescued. She lived to the grand age of 95 and is buried in Illinois.

Each year, the tragedy of 1912 is commemorated by the ringing of a lone church bell at 2.20am on 15th April; the moment when the great liner slipped beneath the waves. There is a thriving Titanic Society, and relatives of the passengers still live in the area. A centenary programme is planned for 2012.

We now began our ascent of the mountain. A fine Irish drizzle closed in;  it seemed our efforts would not be rewarded with a spectacular view. Boots crunched in deep snow as we neared the summit. Then, right on cue, the mist lifted and all was revealed in sunlight. Directly below us was the anglers’ paradise of Lough Conn. On the horizon, the conical outline of the holy mountain of Croagh Patrick. To the west, the grandeur of Achill Island and the very Atlantic Ocean that had taken such a toll.

Poses were struck, and cameras clicked as we enjoyed our good fortune.

 

Nephin summit

At the summit of Nephin Mór

With hike over, we returned to our hotel where Barry joined us for a pint and the swapping of tales. We much enjoyed his account of hitching through a divided Germany. An East German policeman inspected his belongings. Barry’s meagre rations had consisted of a Mars bar and a hard boiled egg. ‘Crack ze egg’, insisted this paragon of suspicion.

A fine evening was rounded off by a Guinness fuelled screening of the Ireland v England rugby international. I awoke next morning with a heavy head, but a light heart. On checking out, I reminded the receptionist of my heroics in scaling Nephin Mór. I suggested that perhaps they would consider renaming the peak after me. She smiled as she lied that she would ask someone to look into it… “

Many thanks to Steve for this guest blogpost. Read the Addergoole Titanic Society’s website.

Hiking Nephin Mór

Nephin may be hiked from several spots, but I always choose to climb it along the rim of the great northern corrie. Find my next guided hike up. Up and down in a loop usually takes around 5 hours.

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Great Mayo Walking This Weekend

I am really looking forward to this coming bank holiday weekend’s walking in Mayo. While hill walking it is not, Western Ocean Walking Weekend offers fantastic off-road walking in the wonderful north-west corner of Mayo.

Two spectacular cliff-top walks take place on Saturday, offering great views out over the North Atlantic. Each walk is filled with stories and legends of this part of Ireland.

On Sunday, we jump in a boat out to the abandoned offshore island of Iniskea. Hear about how the islanders lived, of whaling, piracy and more.

On Monday, we stroll the southern Mullet peninsula, with its lovely hills and sandy beaches, giving beautiful 360 degree views.

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March Hill Walking in Mayo

I’m climbing Nephin from Lahardane on Saturday, March 19th, meeting at the village post office / shop at 10 am. Drop me a line, or phone 086 – 8318748, if you’d like to join our group.

If you’re feeling like a real weekend up in the hills, you can then consider the slightly mad notion of a sunrise hike up Birreencorragh early in the morning of Sunday, March 20th, the day of the spring equinox. That’s a 4.30 am start at the trailhead. Pints the previous evening are not advised, that’s for sure ! There is a charge of Euro 20 for the sunrise hike.

Come on, you know you want to.

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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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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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