Posts tagged with: 'hiking'

Ag tuile is ag trá a chaitheann an fharraige an lá

Ag tuile is ag trá a chaitheann an fharraige an lá …

The Mullet Peninsula, Co. Mayo.

The Mullet Peninsula, Co. Mayo.

Walking on a Mayo Beach.

Walking on a Mayo Beach.

Looking towards Achill Island.

Looking south towards Achill Island.


Windy Waves

Walking holidays in Ireland

Reaching the island at low tide

“The sea spends its day ebbing and flowing”

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Walking Tours Season Begins – Off We Go Again !

And so another walking tours season kicks off ! Today sees the arrival of my first walking group of 2012. I’m bringing them up to the wild and majestic northwest corner of Mayo – to the Mullet peninsula and its fabulous cliff-top walks. I’m sure they’ll enjoy themselves, even in this early March weather.

Walking tours Ireland

Majestic Mayo

I know this is going to be a great year. The entire month of August is already booked out with walking tours, as is the first half of June. Days are being blocked in July and all looks good from here.

We in Ireland’s western regions need to put our very best foot forward when competing for a slice of the international walking (and general outdoor activities) market. We’re competing with destinations that can boast dry, warm weather, more or less all year round. What a pity it was, then, when I overheard a lady from Kerry tell some potential tourists to Ireland last week that travelling north of Galway was “not interesting”. How misinformed and disingenuous. Yes, we have fewer tourists in this part of the country than down in the better-known southwest, but perhaps our offer is all the better for that.

So here’s my simple proposal. Come here to the wilds of the true West – Connemara and Mayo. Sample one of our guided walking tours of this wonderful part of Ireland. You’ll meet far fewer tourists and enjoy real interaction with the locals in this lesser-known region of the West. Then, if you wish, go home and tell your friends and relatives it was “not interesting”. I doubt it.

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Mountain Scenery

A short post to share some pictures I’ve recently taken out hillwalking here in Mayo. The weather has been incredible these past few weeks, with very little rain and nice bright, crisp blue-sky days in the hills. Great weather for hiking Mayo’s hills and higher mountains, so “Get Out There !” and go walking.

Mayo’s mountains tend to be wet and boggy places, with only a few boasting truly rocky summits. Our highest peaks reach modest levels between 700m and 814m for Mweelrea, Connacht’s highest point. Mountainous areas are to be found mostly in the south and west of the county, while the north and east are more flat landscapes.

The great attractions of Mayo’s mountains are twofold. First, this is a truly rural, little populated part of Ireland. You’re unlikely to meet anybody on any Mayo mountain, with the obvious exception of the ‘holy mountain’ of Croagh Patrick. Second, it is from the summits of our mountains that you can best appreciate the extraordinary landscapes of this west of Ireland place.

Look down from a mountain on our beautiful and varied coastline, our vast blanket bogs, our tiny villages – indeed our deserted villages – and across the surrounding mountains with their superb examples of corrie lakes.

You’re welcome to Mayo.

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Thank you very much, Walshes

We had absolutely beautiful weather as we completed The Bangor Trail on Friday last. Even though we were in the dying days of winter, I had never experienced the trail in such a dry condition, not even in summer. I guess that’s not really surprising, as we’ve had very little rain this winter.

We took 9 h 45 min to complete the 26 km trail, which included a diversion up to the Scardaun Loughs for lunch. We had no rain at all.

Quite the opposite on Saturday, however. Having only one car, our small team had to cycle back from Bangor to Letterkeen to pick up mine, a distance of around 32 km. It didn’t stop raining for one minute. Leaving Bangor, we had the wind and rain to our backs. That was okay, but I realised what lay ahead. Having turned at Bellacorick, we had it hitting us from our  right hand side, sweeping in and down over Slieve Carr and Nephin Beg, nearly knocking us into the ditch. The real problems, however, arose when we turned at Keenagh. Now it was straight in our faces. Now we started to feel the 2 h 20 min already in our legs, piled on top of the long hike the day before. Not to mention the fact that J didn’t really have waterproof boots …

With the very hilly section ahead and our willpower waning, J asked for assistance, with 7.5 km of serious ups and downs still to go. Mr. Walsh agreed to give me a spin up to the bothy, where I could collect the car, drive back, pick up the others and head for Castlebar. We were very grateful.

At the bothy, I met some acquaintances who had failed to get beyond the third stream to be crossed on the Trail, such was the amount of water that had fallen since the previous day.

On my return to the Walsh household, I found the lads in the kitchen, pulled up to the table and eating soup and bread served up by the lady of the house, to these unannounced total strangers. I was invited in and shared of their generous hospitality. Later, in the car on the way back to Castlebar, I noticed J was wearing jeans. Mrs. Walsh had invited them to use the bathroom to change their clothes. Genuine West of Ireland people. Thank you very much.

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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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The Mullet Peninsula, Mayo

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