Sheeffry

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Guided Walking Holidays in Mayo & Connemara, Ireland

 

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Posts tagged with: 'Sheeffry'

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, surrounded by 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 my favourite. 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.

Posted in Blog, Walking in the West of Ireland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments