Maumtrasna

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Guided Walking Holidays in Mayo & Connemara, Ireland

 

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Posts tagged with: 'Maumtrasna'

Sheeffry Hills – A South Mayo Hillwalking Treat

The Sheeffry Hills may not come to mind when planning a day’s hillwalking in the West of Ireland. Yet they should certainly be considered.

With their high point of 772 m at Barrclashcame towards the western end of the plateau, the Sheeffrys offer a very pleasant day’s hiking that is not terribly strenuous, yet reaches a very respectable altitude. Mayo’s third highest mountain (see my post on Mayo’s highest mountains) and higher than any point in Galway, Barrclashcame should not be ignored.

Sheeffry Hills, Mayo

Ascending the Sheeffrys

What is nice about the Sheeffrys for the walker is that, once the initial pull has been managed – which is up the grassy south-facing slopes – the top is a plateau offering fantastic views in all directions. On several occasions, I have been able to see all the way around from Donegal’s coast to that of Clare, with the distinctive abrupt end of Ben Bulben in between. The Nephin Begs, Corraun, Clare and Achill Islands dominate to the north, with great views of Croagh Patrick and the outer Clew Bay (you cannot see any of the inner “365” islands, hidden behind the bulk of the “holy mountain”).

Standing at the western end of the plateau, where the descent is best left untried, you won’t forget the views down to Doo, Fin and Glencullin Loughs, or across those bodies of water to Mweelrea beyond. At various stages along the walk, cast your eyes to the south and enjoy Tawnyard Lough, Maumtrasna, Devilsmother, Ben Gorm, The Killary, the Maumturks and the Twelve Bens. Truly, the views from the Sheeffry Mountains are among the very best anywhere in Ireland. Spectacular scenery.

Sheeffry Hills - Lough Brawn

Lough Brawn, Sheeffry Hills

The range can be accessed via its grassy slopes to the south, while excellent corries encompassed by nice scree-strewn cliffs on its northern side are somewhat less welcoming. Walking east to west along the top of the Sheeffry Hills plateau from whichever of several entry points chosen, the walker enjoys the corrie lake of Lough Brawn, the two unnamed lakes on the top, one of which is in the shape of a banana and the nice, but harmless, ridge separating the scree-strewn northern slopes from their more grassy and less steep southern brothers.

Indeed, the range can now also be accessed on its eastern extremity from the section of the Western Way that has recently been taken off-road. This brings the walker north from Tawnyard Lough and up by Tawny Rower. Another option is to avoid this (lower) area to the east and ascend from the south, up the long southeast spur. Points 742m and 762m can be visited on the way across to Barrclashcame.

Descend southwards (not westwards) from near the western extreme, heading towards the Scots Pines and wall near the south-eastern corner of Doo Lough, where the bridge crosses the Glenummera River just north of the junction between the Louisburgh to Leenane Road and that coming in from Drummin.

Sheeffry Hills Walk

Distance 12 km; total ascent 912 m; time 5 hours.

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Mayo Mountains – How Many are There ?

While Ireland’s mountains are modest on a European scale, Mayo mountains are modest even in the national context. They are, nonetheless, wonderful for one characteristic at least – the fabulous ocean or lake views they afford the hiker.

I once stood in the then Bord Fáilte office in Paris back in the 1980s and read a letter enquiring as to the very best mountains in Ireland for skiing ! It made me smile. Often, in continental Europe (and perhaps beyond), people imagine that our north-western outpost is much more mountainous than is the case.

Mayo is a county characterised by mountains, bogs and coast. But just how many Mayo mountains are there ?

Before answering that question, let’s have a look at some loose mountain-related terms. A ‘spur’ is a ridge projecting downward from a mountain towards lower ground, while a ‘ridge’ itself is a long, narrow raised land formation with (sometimes very steep) sloping sides. A ‘shoulder’ is an often quite rounded flank of a mountain, perhaps before it transforms into a downward-sloping spur.

With these unscientific terms in mind, we quickly see that there are many fewer mountains in Mayo (and, indeed, Ireland) than some people, websites and physical features’ names might suggest. You see, very often what are called mountains are really little more than high points on shoulders, ridges or spurs. They’re sometimes referred to as ‘summits’ and there’s talk of ‘prominence’, though I’ve never been terribly comfortable with those terms either.

For example, it is clear to me that Mweelrea is one single mountain and that names attributed to sections of that mountain, such as Ben Lugmore and Ben Bury are really of no significance. This is one big mountain massif, where the summit is surrounded by ever-so-slightly lower ground that just happens to be big enough to have a few high points jotted around its obviously uneven top and slopes.

 

Mayo mountains, Birreencorragh

Birreencorragh, 698m

Birreencorragh is another example. To its S is the so-called Glenlara, to its W Mount Eagle while, to the E, Knockaffertagh occupies its spur. Yes, there are ‘cols’, or lower points, between the summit and these points, but since the mountains aren’t man-made, we can hardly expect them to descend in a straight line with equal gradient from top to bottom. Once again, this is clearly just one single mountain, with the usual few shoulders followed by spurs running down in various directions to lower ground.

So, just how many Mayo mountains are there then ? Well, in a land where the highest point is a mere 1,038 m and not one of the top 20 Irish peaks is in Connacht, here are the top heights in the Mayo mountains (400 m + peaks). Mayo mountains are most often not rocky at the top, so while I’m at it, I’ve noted which are more or less boggy on top and which can claim some degree of rockiness.

Mayo Mountains

Mweelrea – 814 m – boggy – no. 16 on map

Nephin Mór – 806 m – boggy – no. 11

Barrclashcame (Sheeffrys) – 772 m – boggy – no. 15

Croagh Patrick – 764 m – rocky – no. 14

Slieve Carr – 721 m – boggy – no. 6

Corrannabinnia (Coiscéim Carrach) – 714 m – rocky – no. 8

Ben Gorm – 700 m – boggy – no. 17

Birreencorragh – 698 m – rocky – no. 10

Croaghaun – 688 m – rocky – no. 1

Maumtrasna – 682 m – boggy – no. 18

Slievemore – 661 m – boggy – no. 2

Nephin Beg – 627 m – boggy – no. 7

Buckoogh – 588 m – boggy – no. 9

Corraun Hill – 541 m – boggy – no. 5

Minaun – 466 m – boggy – no. 3

Knockmore (Clare Island) – 462 m – boggy – no. 13

Knockletragh (Corraun) – 452 m – boggy – no. 4

Croaghmoyle – 430 m – boggy – no. 12

That’s 18 mountains, 7 of which rise to 700 m or more. Each of these mountains is clearly demarcated by low ground, or sea, all around. Of these, 12 lie in roughly the Castlebar – Newport – Achill – Bangor Erris area, while the remaining 6 are to be found west or south of Westport, heading down towards Killary Harbour and Lough Mask. I consider just 4 to have something approaching mildly rocky tops. The rest, dear friends, are boggy on top. But I love them all.

Corrannabinnia, or Coiscéim Carrach to give the mountain its more correct name, remains one of my favourites. The ascent is up and down over several spot heights, giving a total positive climb of around 1,000m. There’s a proper rock strewn peak (a pretty rare feature in Mayo mountains, as they are more typically peat covered even at the top) and a nice ridge between its main and SW tops. To the north of this very steep cliff lies the awesome Owenduff blanket bog. There’s the added bonus of a great view out across Clew Bay as you descend after a 6 to 8 hour mountain horseshoe hike. It’s great.

East and North Mayo cannot, unfortunately, claim any mountains of over 400 m altitude, although the latter does, of course, boast magnificent low hills offering splendid views out over the ocean. See my post on walking the North Mayo coastline.

Here’s a rough map of Mayo mountains – all 18 of them !

 

Mayo Mountains, hillwalking in Mayo

Mayo’s Mountains

So do come along and explore the Mayo mountains. You won’t bag any overly impressive heights, but you’ll enjoy day-long experiences and views you won’t forget for many a day.

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I Love Bog Pools on Walking Holidays

Bog pools, large and small, dot the peat covered terrain of Mayo, from down in the valleys to the very top of our 700m+ mountains. I love them. They are a regular feature of our walking holidays and are especially evocative when you can see the sea from standing by one.

Bog pools catch the light unlike any other feature of the landscape. Full of peat dust and mosses, they can turn from deep rusty red, through a sort of mossy green, to beautiful rich blue, as the clouds drift by and the sun peaks out.

From as little as 2 m2 up to over 400 m2, bog pools tend to form where water can remain stagnant on the lowland bog or hilltop plateau. Perhaps older bog pools were formed where there was a natural depression in the subsoil as the bog grew. They then grow outward, creating a patterned landscape of pools surrounded by open bog, some of which can be reasonably dry, with other parts, particularly between pools, very wet. The very borders of pools, however, are often among the drier parts.

Interestingly, a Scottish research project from 10 years ago found that, as they grew bigger, bog pools became more elongated and convoluted in shape. The study concluded that, while wind and pool waves play a role in bog pool expansion, ground slope is more important a factor.

Next time you’re on the mountain, out on the open bog, or on one of my walking holidays, stop for a while and admire the lovely bog pools. Mind you, don’t step in them or the sphagnum moss all around !

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First Hillwalking of New Year

I got out hillwalking at the weekend for the first time since the holidays. Not 100% successful, I must admit!

Walking in Connemara and Mayo

Devilsmother from the northern Maumturks

On Saturday, I met up with a mate and we decided to take on the northern end of the Maumturks. Standing watch over Leenane, the Maumturks are nice mountains with great views over Killary Harbour (Ireland’s only true fjord), Mweelrea, Ben Gorm, Devilsmother and other summits all around. They’re not very high by any means, but it just wasn’t going to happen on this occasion. The wind was too strong and I could hardly stand up against it. The fierce wind was rushing up the fjord, coming around the corner of the hills and hitting me on my right hand side. Maybe if I had brought some extra ballast in my pockets or lead in my boots. Having been knocked over one time too many, it was time to admit defeat and descend.

So descend we did. We drove on over to Glencullin Lough, beyond Doo Lough on the truly stunning road over towards Louisburgh (and back in Mayo), where we could admire the magnificent cliffs of the steep-walled corrie between Ben Bury and Lugmore. We spent the late afternoon and into the dark refreshing our night navigation skills, heading home after 6.30 pm. There’s definitely something extra lovely about hiking around after dark. As long as you have batteries for your head torch, a map and compass, that is.

Hillwalking in Mayo

Glencullin Lough

On Sunday morning, I travelled back down south to take on Devilsmother. A serious slog gets you up onto what is possibly Ireland’s best true plateau. In strong wind again, I nevertheless completed a loop hike that also took in the highest point of the plateau, Maumtrasna, at 702 m.

A good weekend of hillwalking in south Mayo and north Galway.

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Walking The Cong Clonbur Isthmus

I have written before about Coillte’s native woodland restoration project at Clonbur Wood, on the Galway Mayo border. I’ve been walking down around Cong and Clonbur for maybe 14 years, often lamenting the overly dense conifer plantations on vast tracts of the old Guinness estate.

But with the advent of the woodland project, the area is already beginning to be even more attractive as a walking destination than it already was.

Cong boasts wonderful sights for walkers, including the (in)famous dry canal, a failed 19th Century engineering project. You can walk the ‘bed’ of the canal and take in small roadways between the village and Loughs Corrib and Mask. Find a lime kiln in excellent condition, or the various sinks in the highly porous limestone rock that provides the sponge linking the two lakes.

Good hill climbing in the area includes the formidable Maumtrasna mountain to the north, or the more easy going Benlevy, in between the two, which offers superb views over both huge lakes.

But the special walk here is the entirely off-road linear between Clonbur and Cong. It’s about 8 to 9 km long, but will take you up to 4 hours, at a leisurely pace. This walk, well sign-posted, will bring you through both conifer plantation and new regeneration areas, past the ruined Ballykine Castle, lost in a beech wood, alongside a beautiful little bay of Lough Mask, which Mute Swans share with Mallards, Tufted Duck and others and onto the amazing lakeshore limestone pavement. Visit Pigeon Hole sink and enjoy the wetlands of the Cong River. Here you might see some of the resident Grey Herons, or visiting Cormorants. Emerge into Cong at the Abbey and Monk’s Fishing House.

2010 sees me hosting three-day walking events in Cong and Clonbur, in association with a local B&B.

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