Nephin

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Guided Walking Holidays in Mayo & Connemara, Ireland

 

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Posts tagged with: 'Nephin'

Enjoy 90 Seconds of a Windy Lough Adanacleeveen

Lough Adanacleeveen is a very lovely corrie lake below Slieve Carr, the highest peak in the Nephin Beg mountains of Mayo.

Get your hiking boots on some day and wander up to this very remote part of these mountains. Just pick a rock, sit down, switch off and take it all in.

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Exposing the “Wild Nephin” Charade

Wild Nephin, states Coillte, would “involve taking 4,400 hectares out of … commercial forest operation and rewilding this land, improving habitat and landscape quality over a 15 year period. The eventual intention … protecting a landscape of scale with functioning ecosystems while providing an authentic ‘wilderness experience’ for those that visit.”

Minister Jimmy Deenihan TD, commented at the time that this project would “protect a large landscape from human artefacts”.

You can read this March 2013 press release.

The Wild Nephin area consists essentially of densely afforested and blanket bog Coillte lands to the East of Nephin Beg and Slieve Carr mountains in Mayo. These are huge non-native conifer plantations, typical of Coillte’s West of Ireland holdings.

Note that, contrary to Mr. Deenihan’s point, the Wild Nephin project team and associates have built human artefacts where previously there were none.

Wild Nephin steps

Steps in the forest : It doesn’t come any wilder than that !

This week I visited the area for the first time since last October. On my previous visit, I had not been surprised to see that felling of trees was ongoing and I was anxious to see if this was still the case in spring 2015.

Not only is tree felling still happening, but new non-native conifers (Lodgepole Pine) are still being planted. In addition, new fencing is being erected where previously there was none. Would you call this “re-wilding”? Does this sound like a true effort to develop an authentic wilderness experience?

Wild Nephin conifers

Bags of Lodgepole Pine waiting to be planted in Wild Nephin

Wild Nephin fencing

New fencing recently erected in Wild Nephin

Timber extraction machinery is also still on site.

Now, I never for a moment believed that Coillte was in some way going to simply abandon this site. The truth, I suspect, is that not the entire plantation is of such poor quality as to be uneconomical to extract. So it seems to me that they will continue to extract the parts they deem worthy of the work, while abandoning only the worst of it. But this week’s visit also suggests that they will, in fact, re-plant those areas that are capable of delivering a reasonable crop over future years.

Wild Nephin is, in my opinion, just a cynical PR exercise by Coillte. As somebody who’s hiked this area for 20 years, I can tell you that, in addition to the active forestry that has been going on for decades, the signs of human influence on this environment are in fact on the increase, rather than the other way around. There are now invasive huts and other structures, where previously there were none. Forest tracks for heavy machinery have been widened and strengthened over the last year.

Wild Nephin Beg Mountains

Our beautiful Nephin Beg Mountains have always been wild, but are now less so than before this project was devised. And the forestry operations continue. The European Wilderness Society, if it is serious, should review its ‘endorsement’ of what is going on here. [June 2016 Update : All references to this project have indeed been removed from the website of the European Wilderness Society.]

Read my previous post about Wild Nephin.

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Farbreiga – A Hill with a Strange Name

Sixteen km north of Castlebar stands the modest but pleasant hill of Farbreiga. Though only reaching 395m high, a hike up this oddly-named hill offers wonderful views in all directions, especially eastwards over Loughs Conn and Cullin – two of our great western lakes.

‘Fear Bréige’ translates into English as something like ‘false man’, ‘fake man’, or indeed ‘scarecrow’! Wouldn’t you love to know how a hill could have acquired such a name? There may, perhaps, be a clue in its quite distinct conical top. Maybe, from a particular angle, it looks like a head. I’ll have to investigate further …

Farbreiga hill

Birreencorragh (l) and Nephin from Farbreiga

Leaving a side road at Derreens, north of Castlebar, the walk takes us onto part of the old Foxford Way *, heading north to the east of the hill. When a relatively high point is reached, we swing westward and make for the trig pillar on top of Farbreiga. Note that these early, low stretches of bog are absolutely covered in bog myrtle. Very nice indeed. Later, having reached the top, the views are really splendid and it is worth moving along the ridge to the north so the best views of Nephin beyond can be enjoyed. Don’t forget to glance back in the direction from which you’ve come. You’ll see the outlines of long-abandoned fields, with their distinctive parallel lines formed by hedges or walls no longer maintained. The relentless bog now blankets everything. The descent is then eastwards back down to the same track as before.

Farbreiga

Loughs Conn (l) and Cullin from Farbreiga.

Farbreiga Hike :

Distance 7.0 km; ascent 500 m; time 2h45.

Hike times on this website always include pauses.

* Note : The Foxford Way, as it used to be, seems no longer to be a waymarked way and there is no reference to it on any website that I could find.

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Corrannabinnia

I like Corrannabinnia very much. Let’s make that clear from the start.

At 714 m and the second highest point of the Nephin Beg range, Corrannabinnia is surely one of the highest peaks in Ireland not to be named in OSI Discovery series maps. Strangely, lower points on this mountain massif, such as Glennamong, Bengorm and Claggan Mountain are all named, while the high point goes unacknowledged. Part of the reason for that is perhaps that Corrannabinnia isn’t, in fact, its name at all.

Corrannabinnia

Corrannabinnia (top left) in Winter

The true name of this very lovely mountain is Coiscéim Carrach, ‘The Rocky Step’, sometimes anglicised into Cushcamecarrach, or simply Cushcame. Indeed, this is a more apt name than the one more typically employed which, for its part, translates as ‘The Hollow of the Peak’. This should be limited to the lake which carries the name and lies beneath the mountain on its cold, damp northern side.

The Glendahurk Horseshoe, with Corrannabinnia as its climax, is a serious day’s hiking in west Mayo. I always complete it anti-clockwise, starting with the long trudge up the grassy (boggy) slopes of the outlier that is Bengorm. Once up there, there is another “down, up and down again” before tackling the pull to the rocky summit. Rocky summit, you say ? A rare treat in Mayo. The real delight, however, lurks beyond. Crossing the inviting arête between Corrannabinnia’s summit and its SW Top is perhaps Mayo’s finest hillwalking moment after Mweelrea’s numerous charms. With plantation-blanketed Glendahurk valley below on one side and the sheer drop to the awesome Owenduff Bog that makes up the bulk of Ballycroy National Park to the north, this is a fabulous stretch. The descent southwards off the SW Top beyond is gentle, through heather and turf hags.

Corrannabinnia Arête

Corrannabinnia Arête

At points along this loop, you can view the legendary Bangor Trail winding its way from the north, the surrounding mountains of the Nephin Beg range, Clare Island out to sea, or the peaks of Achill Island to the west.

This is a great walk that starts and ends 2.5 km up a track to the north of the Newport to Mulranny road. It only requires one car because the loop is a complete one, depositing you back exactly where you began. If you’re feeling energetic, leave your car at Newport and cycle to the start, along the Greenway. There is a fabulous variety of views offered, from over Lough Feeagh while ascending, to across the huge bog of the National Park while at the top, to across Clew Bay’s drumlin islands towards Croagh Patrick beyond while descending.

Corrannabinnia Hike (The Glendahurk Horseshoe)

14 km; total ascent 1,020 m; approx. 6 – 8 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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Lough Avoher – What’s in a Name ?

To the south of Nephin Beg mountain and just east of The Bangor Trail (though barely visible from it and missed by many walkers, I would guess) lies the small Lough Avoher.

You might think I should have added “and irrelevant” to my description. This is not a Lough Feeagh, Furnace or Carrowmore, greater lakes of this part of boggy, rocky west Mayo. But to do so would have been an error, for irrelevant this little body of water most certainly is not. In its very name lies a clue to the lives of our ancestors, men and women who passed this place in harder times. Much harder.

Lough Avoher by the Bangor Trail

Lough Avoher by the Bangor Trail

The anglicised form of the name of this little lake, you see, reveals its original name as gaeilge, “Loch an Bhóthair”, meaning ‘lake of the road’. Therein we discover a beautiful and important testimony to the history of this place and the age of The Bangor Trail. A drover’s path from the outlying areas of north Mayo when that bog-saturated land was still roadless, the Trail witnessed many people bringing their animals down to market in the towns to the south. Perhaps they stopped for refreshment at Lough Avoher. They may even have passed the night by its shores.

I’ve known about Lough Avoher since I first laid eyes on it while reading Joe McDermott’s excellent little guidebook to the Trail, back in the mid 1990s. From that same time I’ve known that the lake is incorrectly named “Lough Aroher” on Ordnance Survey Ireland’s Discovery Series maps (sheets 23 & 31 ; grid ref. F94 07). Unfortunately, I now realise, I did nothing about it at the time. I should have picked up the phone and let OSI know about the error and to have it corrected. I could have done it, I now know, because I finally did a few weeks ago. I received OSI’s agreement and was helpfully told that it will be changed in the next version of the map.

Except …

Over the intervening years, a walking trail has been developed nearby the lake (as a loop off the Bangor Trail) and a mountain bothy structure has been put in place, both employing the incorrect name for the lake. Happily, I’ve been assured that the bothy mistake is to be rectified this winter. I’m appreciative of that.

The problem here is a lack of cultural awareness for what people are dealing with. Loch an Bhóthair stands as a witness in the bog, the rain and the wind to the very history of this part of the world. To a people who tried to eke out a miserable existence, without today’s fancy waterproof hiking boots or jackets to shield them from the elements of west Mayo.

A quick glance at McDermott’s book, or an attempt to involve members of the local hillwalking community would have avoided these mistakes being made. Either myself or Joe, and presumably plenty of others also, would have put the authors of the walking trail or builders of the bothy straight.

There is a general carelessness about Irish language place names creeping in that bothers me. Just a short distance away from Lough Avoher, out past the wonderful ringfort at Lios na Gaoithe, lies a lake whose county council signpost declares it ‘Lough Bunaveela’ in English and ‘Loch Bunaveela’ as gaeilge. In other words, no attempt whatsoever was made to identify its true name in Irish. Lazy.

Before I end, I should admit that my own Irish is very poor. However, I like to think I have an appreciation of our history, our heritage and what the French call our “patrimoine”. Lough Aroher is dead; long live Lough Avoher.

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