hiking

Posts tagged with: 'hiking'

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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Hillwalking on Achill Island

Achill Island, off Mayo’s west coast, offers excellent hillwalking, with fantastic ocean views all around. First, however, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way, so we can concentrate on what is magnificent about Achill.

Hillwalking Achill Mayo Ireland

Slievemore

The island has suffered badly from the ‘Celtic Tiger’ period, with numerous hideous developments – both finished and unfinished – blighting its otherwise fabulous landscape. There are the incomprehensible holiday home parks on the slopes of both Slievemore and Croaghaun, with the latter taking the biscuit for inappropriateness. There is the black hole that was (apparently) to be a hotel in Keel village. Then there’s Achillhenge …

However, the hillwalking is truly wonderful.

From the top of Slievemore (671 m), you have superb views of the Mullet peninsula beyond, with the Iniskea and Duvillaun islands to its south and west. A long and rewarding walk westwards brings you past the Napoleonic tower and towards Annagh, one of the most extraordinary places in Ireland, with its lake perched perilously above the ocean, waiting to be one day consumed by the crashing waves.

Hillwalking on Slievemore can be combined with a visit to the famous deserted village below.

A loop walk to the summit of Croaghaun, with Ireland’s tallest cliffs at 688m, takes in both Acorrymore Lake and the stunning corrie lake that is Lough Bunnafreva West, with superb views out to Saddle Head beyond. This is really great hillwalking, where the slightly lower SW top of Croaghaun steals the show, thanks to its sheer smooth rock wall and views along the spine of Achill Head.

Hillwalking Ireland Mayo Achill

Looking towards Croaghaun SW Top, with Achill Head beyond.

Indeed, just hillwalking from Keem Bay out to Achill Head along the cliffs at Benmore and descending down into the valley with its abandoned booley houses, without ever reaching the dizzy heights of Croaghaun’s cliffs, is a rewarding hike in itself.

The lovely cliff-top walk from Minaun down towards Dooega, hidden away on the island’s south coast, can be combined with a vist to promontory forts further along this rock strewn part of the island’s shoreline. From the top, by the booster station, enjoy lovely views over Keel strand directly below and of Slievemore and Croaghaun in the distance.

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Moore Hall and the Moores of Mayo

Down by the shores of Lough Carra, a marl lake in the south of Mayo, lies Moore Hall. Once the mansion of the local landlord, this fine three-storey over basement ruin is now home to one of Ireland’s most north-westerly populations of Lesser Horseshoe Bat.

Built in the 1790s, Moore Hall’s famous family included George Moore, John Moore, George Henry Moore and George Augustus Moore.

Moore Hall, Mayo

Beautiful Lough Carra by Moore Hall

George Moore was a wealthy wine and iodine merchant who owned a fleet of ships in Spain in the 18th Century. When he returned to Ireland, having sold his possessions in Alicante, he purchased 5,000 hectares (12,300 acres) of land along the shores of Lough Carra and had the great house constructed.

George’s son, John, became President of Connacht for a short period during the 1798 Rebellion. Along with many of his tenants, John Moore joined the French force that had landed at Killala in September of that year. Moore was eventually captured by crown forces and interred. The following year, 1799, John died in captivity in Waterford. In 1961, almost 200 years later, his grave was finally discovered and his remains were transported to Castlebar, where they were reburied in the Mall, with full military honours.

George Henry Moore was John’s nephew and is remembered for his good deeds during the Great Famine of 1845 – 1849. In that first year of famine, he ran a horse, Coronna, in the Chester Cup in England and betted on him winning, The horse obliged and George Henry won £ 17,000. Much of this he spent on famine amelioration efforts, including the chartering of ships to bring corn into Mayo.

George Augustus Moore, son of George Henry, was a writer who was involved in the Irish literary revival of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and the founding of the Abbey Theatre. When Moore Hall was burned down in 1923, George Augustus received £ 7,000 in compensation.

Moore Hall forest trail

Beautiful forest trail at Moore Hall

Moore Hall is a lovely spot to visit for a short, family-friendly walk. Coillte, the current owner of what remains of the once huge estate, have put several forest tracks in place. You can view the house ruins from outside and traverse the tunnel at the back that would have once served as servants’ entrance.

Moore Hall – Learn More

Read more about Moore Hall and the Moore family here. Read more about the marl lake, Lough Carra, on Chris and Lynda Huxley’s outstanding website here.

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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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Ringfort in Mayo – Lios na Gaoithe

Hidden in the middle of one of Mayo’s countless conifer plantations lies one of the true jewels of the county. Lios na Gaoithe (The Fort of the Wind) is a large ringfort constructed sometime from the late Iron Age to the early medieval period. Scholars now tend to lean towards the latter being more likely as the period of ringforts in Ireland (500 to 1,000 AD).

Standing at a maximum of almost 4m from bottom of ditch to top of enclosure bank (see picture, below) and forming a circle of roughly 26m diameter, this structure has a circumference of around 82m. It would originally have had wooden stakes placed vertically around its perimeter, probably for keeping animals within and predators without. Note that present-day opinion is that ringforts were unlikely to have been in fact ‘forts’, in the sense that they probably did not serve any real defensive purpose. They were not constructed particularly high above the surrounding ground level and a ring of stakes might not have kept any would-be attackers at bay for very long. They were more likely to be status symbols of local chiefs or powerful clans, perhaps representing their control over surrounding lands.

Lios na Gaoithe ringfort Ireland

Standing in the ditch at Lios na Gaoithe

Lios na Gaoithe was excavated in the 1950s and among the findings discovered was a cist, a burial construction made of stone slabs arranged in a box-like shape. Coloured glass beads were within, along with the bones of the deceased. How blue glass beads came to be in a West of Ireland ringfort is a matter of conjecture – some have suggested they may have come from as far away as north Africa, maybe via numerous trading posts along the way.

The ringfort is the most common remaining ancient type of homestead in Ireland – there are estimated to be around 40,000 of them dotted all over the country. They consisted of a raised mound within a sunken ditch and an elevated outer bank. Indeed, sometimes there are more than one ditch and associated bank, the latter built of the material removed in order to dig out the former.

An entire earthen ringfort is called a ‘ráth’ and the dwelling enclosure within the ‘lios’, although in the case of Lios na Gaoithe, the latter term has come to refer to the whole. Were it made of stone, the structure would be known as a ‘caiseal’ or ‘dún’, such as the famous Dún Aenghus of Inis Mór in the Aran Islands.

Interestingly, ringforts are often built in prominent positions and / or on good quality ground. Today, however, neither of these attributes applies to Lios na Gaoithe, located as it is in classic Mayo boggy terrain. Having said that, it does command a strong (though not elevated) position in a valley running from northeast to southwest through hilly terrain and is close by a small river.

Ringfort, Ireland - Lios na Gaoithe

Looking into the Ditch

My map below shows the location of the fort in relation to the landscape around it. Areas coloured brown are at 200m altitude or above, while the green areas are at 50m elevation and lower.  You can see two entrances into this terrain from the north, marked A and B. Entrance A comes from what is today a vast open, low-lying bog. This is very wet, inhospitable country and, even 1,000 years ago, unlikely to have been much crossed by men on horseback or foot. Entrance B carries a track today and keeps relatively high above the surrounding bog. Assuming there was already some traffic through this area over a millennium ago, we can see how Lios na Gaoithe would have commanded the pass to the rivers, lake and sea (out of picture) beyond, to the south.

 

Lios na Gaoithe ringfort, Mayo

The ringfort in its landscape

 

Ringfort Excavations in Ireland

Read about some ringfort excavations at other sites on Heritage Ireland’s website.

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