Posts tagged with: 'Leenane'

Mweelrea – Hiking Mayo’s Magical Mountain


Connacht’s highest mountain, Mweelrea offers a great day’s hiking. The finest mountain in the West of Ireland, Mweelrea can be tackled along a number of routes, my favourite being anti-clockwise from the southern end of Doo Lough over the mountain to Delphi Mountain Resort. This is a serious 8-hour hike and is for experienced hillwalkers only *.

Parking the car at Doo Lough, we cross the river at a weir/sluice immediately at the south end of the lake. Do not climb here, but rather follow a fence for some hundred metres southwards, to a point where it turns sharp left and descends close to the river. Here, we leave it and ascend via a gully to the first flattish part, before driving on towards the top and the cliff edge leading north-westwards across to point 760m. On the way up, turn around and take in the fab views of the Sheeffrys and Ben Gorm behind, as well as Croagh Patrick sticking its conical head up.

Now we circle above the great NE corrie, taking in points 790m, 803m and 790m, all the while enjoying this magnificent coum and its cliffs below. Along with the ocean views later, this is one of the two wonderful highlights of this fantastic hiking day.

Mweelrea corrie

Walls of the great NE corrie.

A walk westwards across the gently sloping hillside beneath point 795m brings us to the col below Mweelrea’s summit, before an easy enough drag up to its 814m top. The top of this great mountain is a little disappointing, just a flat boggy mess (like many of Mayo’s mountains), but the views are tremendous. Enjoy all the lovely islands and rocks of the west coast (including, most notably, Inisturk), the splendid beaches of Mayo and Galway, the Killary fjord and Benchoonas, Twelve Bens and Maumturk mountains to the south.

Mweelrea Ben Lugmore

Looking back towards points 790m, 803m, 790 m.

Mweelrea summit

Mweelrea summit, with Lough Bellawaum below.

We descend south then southeast towards point 495m, but without climbing it. Instead, we keep our tired legs to its north and head for the little Sruhaunbunatrench River exiting Lough Lugaloughan. Follow its banks towards the plantation forest above Delphi and exit on one of its various tracks down to the road. Walk 3km back to your car.

Mweelrea descent

The descent, with Lough Lugaloughan. Killary fjord in the background.

Please note that I do not lead groups up mountains. If you’d like to have a guide bring you on Mweelrea, or any other mountain, please search for another provider.

Mweelrea mountain hike

19 km; ascent 950 m; approx. 8 hrs.

* Note :

Mweelrea is among Ireland’s most dangerous mountains, with numerous tragedies over recent years, often involving experienced hillwalkers. Under no circumstances should you hike this mountain without a compass and waterproof map and the knowledge of how to use them. Do not venture into this mountain alone and always bring a fully-charged mobile phone, plus mobile charging device. No matter what the weather forecast says or how the sky looks at the time of your ascent, be prepared for low clouds to descend at any moment, leading to almost zero visibility at times. Respect the mountain.

Alternative Routes up Mweelrea

There are various other routes up this great mountain, most notably the more challenging “Ramp Route” from the north end of Doo Lough and the less challenging “Coastal Route” from the west.

Posted in Walking in the West of Ireland | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Mám Éan

A strange little place in the middle of nowhere, Mám Éan can be reached from three different directions. I chose to ascend from Maam (not to be confused with Maam Cross). To be honest, the word ‘ascend’ is inappropriate here, as the destination stands at a mere 260 m altitude.

Mám Éan (often anglicised as Maumeen, Mamean, etc.) is a little pilgrimage spot at a pass through the Maumturk mountains of east Connemara, roughly between Oughterard and Leenane. A visit reveals a tiny chapel, mass altar and the Stations of the Cross scattered roughly around the rocky, boggy site. I wonder is the chapel the smallest in Ireland. It’s certainly much smaller than the Costello Chapel in Carrick on Shannon, which erroneously claims the title.

Mám Éan (Maumeen)

Mám Éan Pass, Co. Galway

While Mám Éan (The Pass of the Birds) is quite a pleasant spot, with nice views all around, the walk up is rather disappointing. Coming from Maam, the first 5.5 km are on tarmac. As if that wasn’t tedious enough, the next 1.8 km consist of an even worse recently bulldozed sand and stone track that has been bludgeoned across what would have previously been lovely mountain bog. Only when this track eventually peters out is there any feeling of being in the mountains of Connemara (for 1.0 km). Once here, the mist, ever rolling in and out, adds to the atmosphere.

Descending the other side from Mám Éan is a more rewarding experience, on what might be termed a naturally eroded (sic) 1.7 km long track, quite like the one up the Reek. At the base of this track, you can exit the area by a narrow tarred roadway south or north (hence the three accesses referred to above). I chose to head 6.5 km north, up towards Lough Inagh, where I had left my bike earlier that day.

I walked beneath the superb Maumturk mountains on my right-hand side, with their steep western walls shining in the autumn light. Beyond, to my left and across the valley, loomed the wonderful Twelve Bens. A donkey accompanied me along for a while, like a big pointy-eared dog. He took my sandwich and my mind off the tarmac.

Shortly, I would mount the bike and cycle the long 29 km back to Maam and my car. This was tough, I have to admit. It seems that whenever I choose to walk from A to B and cycle back to A, the wind is in my face for the hardest stretch of the return journey. Like a sick joke, the winds seem to gather wherever I started out walking, loiter around and then hit me head-on like a convoy when I’m cycling back later. For good measure, they throw in some classic West of Ireland horizontal rain ….

With 73% of this walk on tarmac, it is, to misquote a well-known TV pundit, “a good walk, but not a great walk”.

Mám Éan walk

Maam to Inagh : 16.5 km, total ascent 398 m, 4.5 hours (including breaks).

Return cycle, Inagh to Maam (via Maam Cross) : 28.8 km, total ascent 242 m, 2.5 hours (including breaks).

Posted in Blog, Walking in the West of Ireland | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments


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.

Posted in Blog, Walking in the West of Ireland | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment