walking holidays

Posts tagged with: 'walking holidays'

Walking Tours Ireland 2012 – A Photographic Review

I was sitting here reviewing some photos from 2012 walking tours, when I thought, well, why not share them in a blog post. So here we go. I’ve selected five photos that might inform the would-be visitor to this wonderful part of the world what a walking tour in Mayo and Connemara might consist of. I hope you enjoy the pics.

Walking tours Ireland - Mayo

Inisturk, off the Mayo coast

The first is of the wonderful Atlantic Ocean. Being out on a boat, heading to or from one of Mayo or Connemara’s offshore islands is a real treat. This pic is of the imposing cliffs on the western edge of Inisturk, on an impossibly beautiful early summer’s day. The light was fab that day and we really enjoyed a great stroll around this small, beautiful Mayo island.

Walking tours Ireland - The Bangor Trail

The Bangor Trail, Mayo

The second is of the very special Bangor Trail, a centuries old drover’s track across bog and below mountains in west Mayo. Though this was taken on a bright day, it actually suits this lonely, hidden place to be under lower cloud cover. This is a fantastic, wet place – a place where Atlantic blanket bog and wild west of Ireland weather will dominate you, rather than the other way around.

Walking tours Ireland - Belmullet

The Mullet Peninsula, Mayo

This is the low-lying and very remote Mullet Peninsula, in north west Mayo. Beyond Belmullet town, this place is a full 80 minutes drive from Castlebar or Westport. But it’s very much worth the visit, even if only to tramp along its stunning beaches in bare feet. Feel the wind in your face and look out over the haunting islands and rocks of Iniskea, Inisglora and others.

Walking tours Ireland, Maumtrasna

Corrie lakes below Maumtrasna

In February, fog filled the valley floor below Maumtrasna, as we approached from Barnahowna. Slowly, it dissipated, to reveal the twin corrie lakes of Loughs Nambrackkeagh (foreground) and Nadirkmore (below the dramatic cliffs, beyond). Ireland’s finest example of a true plateau, Maumtrasna offers excellent loop walks, taking in its fantastic valleys.

Walking tours Ireland - Iniskea

Abandoned homes of Iniskea

With its broken down homes as backdrop, Iniskea Island makes for one of the finest day trips in the West of Ireland. The boat out from Blacksod is a treat in itself, skipping between the Mullet peninsula and various little islands and rocks. The island, with its fascinating mix of human history, tragic tales, industrial heritage and varied coastal wildlife, is a place visitors never forget. A very special trip.

Walking tours Ireland 2013

If you’d like to cosider a walking tour in this part of Ireland during 2013, visit my walking tours page. You can view one-day hikes also.

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Walking Tours in Ireland – Anatomy of a Day

Walking tours in Mayo, Ireland, are about enjoying the beautiful coastal, mountain, lakeshore or woodland landscapes our part of the country has to offer. And they’re about the people we meet and share our time with.

Walking Tours - guided walking holidays Ireland

Enjoying themselves in Mayo

Sitting in a quiet rural pub by night, I observe members of our small group recounting stories and sharing opinions on where we’ve been today. They can be overheard admitting to one another that they had never really known much about Mayo until now. They’re having a good time.

Earlier in the evening, they had been enjoying each other’s company around the dinner table in our B&B. Telling eachother where they come from, where they’ve walked, what they like. Getting to know eachother. There’s a lovely camaraderie you find on walking tours, born from sharing 6 hours of hiking through wind and bog, with nobody around but us.

We had returned to the B&B around 5 pm, giving us all plenty of time to relax before dinner. People drifted off to their rooms for a shower and a lie-down, delighted with their day of walking two lovely, fairly easy cliff-top trails. With sea air in their nostrils and sea spray in their hair, they were glad to have the chance to rest their legs. It’s an integral part of a walking tour.

The day had begun with a wholesome breakfast – you know, the most important meal of the day for the walker. But we’re not talking about a 7 am rise here. No, this is a relaxing walking tour. Breakfast was at 8 and we left the house at our leisure, around 9.30.

Walking tours in Ireland - Tourism Pure Walking Holidays

A Wonderful Sea

Our first walk brought us along cliffs rising to 230 m, with great views across the North Atlantic. Even transferring from the first walk to the second was enjoyable, with good craic, interested questions and varying opinions being bandied about the minibus. When you hear opinions, you know you’ve a great group. We munched on our packed lunch and sipped a cup of tea. The second walk was easier than the first, with new views and seabirds to accompany us all along. They liked the wind. They loved the waves crashing on the rocks below.They didn’t even mind the rain shower. Finishing up after 4.30 pm, we happily regained our B&B.

So as we lounge in the local pub, I reflect that successful walking tours are first and foremost ones where walkers have fun. And, heck, if the sun shines, all the better.

Find walking tours in Mayo, in the West of Ireland.

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Ten Great Short Mayo Walks, Part One

I want to share with you 10 beautiful, but short, Mayo walks. These are places to go for a short, easy stroll and admire the surroundings. Bring the kids. I’ve chosen 10 places that you can easily reach in your car or, preferably, on your bike. No need for hiking boots to get to any of these spots, each of which is wonderfully representative of Mayo!

These are places where you can just wander around for a while at your leisure and take in the atmosphere and scenery. You might call it ‘meditate’ or ‘reflect’ on what is happening around you. Learn what Mayo is all about. Let me know what you think and where you feel should have been included in my list.

Here are the first five Mayo walks (in no particular order). Find the five remaining strolls here.

1 McMahon Park / Clare Lake, Claremorris
2 The Mall and Bridge Street, Westport
3 Céide Fields and Cliffs opposite, Ballycastle
4 Moore Hall, Carnacon
5 Belleek Wood, Ballina

 1. McMahon Park / Clare Lake, Claremorris

Mayo walks

McMahon Park, Claremorris

One of the nicest town parks in Mayo, the people of Claremorris are rightly proud of this wonderful space. The park is centred around Clare Lake and has beautiful walks, with cute little bridges over streams and fantastic flora, from native trees to lakeside reedbeds. Children and adults alike will enjoy the ducks and swans that have made the lake their home. As an added bonus, there’s a good children’s playground just outside. One gripe, however : The entrance to the park is not great and the playground really should be incorporated into the same space. Total walking time from car or bike, maybe 60 minutes (off-road).


 2. The Mall & Bridge Street, Westport

Mayo walks


Nowhere in Mayo is more lively than the main street (Bridge Street) in Westport, especially during the busy summer months. No street is prettier than The Mall, with the river flowing through its twin tree-lined avenues. Park your car or bike in any of the off-street carparks in town. Then go stand on the bridge for a while, take it all in and walk the lap of the Mall around the river, followed by the loop of Bridge St, Shop St and James St, before returning to the Mall. Then go find the craic in one of the many pubs on Bridge Street or James Street. Total walking time from car or bike, maybe 30 minutes (beware town traffic).


 3. Céide Fields and Cliffs, Ballycastle

Mayo walks

Cliffs at Ballycastle

The Céide Fields are the world’s oldest known farm system, at approx 6,000 years old. Here, stone walls encompassing a very large area have been discovered, lying intact beneath thousands of years of blanket bog. Straight across from the wonderful visitor centre and its carpark is a viewing platform out over the North Mayo cliffs. Stand here for a while, watch the seabirds and it will remain with you for the rest of your life. Indeed, go visit nearby Downpatrick Head, on the other side of Ballycastle afterwards. Total walking time from car or bike, including visiting Céide Fields, maybe 60 minutes (beware traffic on the road when going to view the cliffs).

  4. Moore Hall, Carnacon

Mayo walks

Moore Hall forest trail

In the county where the fight began, back in the 1870s, for the right to own the land one farmed, there are now almost no ‘big houses’ (landlord mansions) left standing. Moore Hall, though now a ruined shell, remains. Walk around here and think of the Irish National Land League, the campaign for land ownership for the tenant classes of the 19th Century and, ultimately, the struggle for Irish freedom. Better still, walk here at dusk during warm summer days and watch the Lesser Horseshoe Bats flying all around you. There is a fine carpark on the shores of Lough Carra, beyond Carnacon village. Total walking time from car or bike, over 60 minutes (off-road).

  5. Belleek Woods, Ballina

Mayo walks

Belleek Wood, Ballina

Belleek is the finest urban wooded area in Mayo. Situated on the northern side of Ballina town, the wood straddles the banks of the river Moy. It is a beautiful place, with lovely walks and river views. It is home to one of Mayo’s very few Red Squirrel populations and is a haven for the people of the north Mayo town. Park up your car and just lose yourself in here for a good hour. Total walking time from car or bike, over 60 minutes (off-road).


The second half of this Mayo walks list is presented in my next post here.

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Moore Hall and the Moores of Mayo

Down by the shores of Lough Carra, a marl lake in the south of Mayo, lies Moore Hall. Once the mansion of the local landlord, this fine three-storey over basement ruin is now home to one of Ireland’s most north-westerly populations of Lesser Horseshoe Bat.

Built in the 1790s, Moore Hall’s famous family included George Moore, John Moore, George Henry Moore and George Augustus Moore.

Moore Hall, Mayo

Beautiful Lough Carra by Moore Hall

George Moore was a wealthy wine and iodine merchant who owned a fleet of ships in Spain in the 18th Century. When he returned to Ireland, having sold his possessions in Alicante, he purchased 5,000 hectares (12,300 acres) of land along the shores of Lough Carra and had the great house constructed.

George’s son, John, became President of Connacht for a short period during the 1798 Rebellion. Along with many of his tenants, John Moore joined the French force that had landed at Killala in September of that year. Moore was eventually captured by crown forces and interred. The following year, 1799, John died in captivity in Waterford. In 1961, almost 200 years later, his grave was finally discovered and his remains were transported to Castlebar, where they were reburied in the Mall, with full military honours.

George Henry Moore was John’s nephew and is remembered for his good deeds during the Great Famine of 1845 – 1849. In that first year of famine, he ran a horse, Coronna, in the Chester Cup in England and betted on him winning, The horse obliged and George Henry won £ 17,000. Much of this he spent on famine amelioration efforts, including the chartering of ships to bring corn into Mayo.

George Augustus Moore, son of George Henry, was a writer who was involved in the Irish literary revival of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and the founding of the Abbey Theatre. When Moore Hall was burned down in 1923, George Augustus received £ 7,000 in compensation.

Moore Hall forest trail

Beautiful forest trail at Moore Hall

Moore Hall is a lovely spot to visit for a short, family-friendly walk. Coillte, the current owner of what remains of the once huge estate, have put several forest tracks in place. You can view the house ruins from outside and traverse the tunnel at the back that would have once served as servants’ entrance.

Moore Hall – Learn More

Read more about Moore Hall and the Moore family here. Read more about the marl lake, Lough Carra, on Chris and Lynda Huxley’s outstanding website here.

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Wildflowers on Walking Holidays

I took the following photos over a 500 m stretch of West of Ireland coastal countryside last weekend, while out on a walk. I love finding wildflowers in their natural habitat, whether that be the expansive blanket bogs, small remnants of old oak woodland, along cliff tops or on the bare limestone landscape of the Burren and less known, secluded parts of Mayo and Connemara.

Ireland, and the West in particular, is short on the variety of wildflowers you might encounter. We’re not in the south of France here !That’s partly because of being an island and, of course, partly because of the West’s wind and rain lashed vast blanket bog landscapes. Nevertheless, there are certain places and times of the summer when there is an abundance of gorgeous wildflowers in this part of the world too.

Indeed, my own small garden, with its wonderful Ash and Whitethorn dominated wild hedge, boasts Field Rose, Wild Strawberry (complete with fruit at the moment), Heath Spotted Orchid, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Herb Robert and more wildflowers.

But it’s out and about that the most interesting wildflowers are to be found. So, on my 500 m stretch last weekend, I found the following :

Sea Radish, Sea Thrift, Sea Bindweed, Bloody Crane’s Bill, Sea Campion, Broomrape, Common Mallow, Knotted Pearlwort, Honeysuckle, Ox Eye Daisy, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, O’Kelly’s Spotted Orchid, Yellow Iris and more. Bliss. I love that moment when you realise that you’re seeing a flower you haven’t come across before, or perhaps a finer specimen than you’ve ever had previously.

I regularly post photos of wildflowers on my Twitter account, so why not follow me here. Indeed, if you are looking for help with wildflower identification in Ireland, then consult Zoe Devlin’s Wildflowers of Ireland site. It’s excellent. So if you’re new to wildflowers, you know the mantra : just get out there !

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Ringfort in Mayo – Lios na Gaoithe

Hidden in the middle of one of Mayo’s countless conifer plantations lies one of the true jewels of the county. Lios na Gaoithe (The Fort of the Wind) is a large ringfort constructed sometime from the late Iron Age to the early medieval period. Scholars now tend to lean towards the latter being more likely as the period of ringforts in Ireland (500 to 1,000 AD).

Standing at a maximum of almost 4m from bottom of ditch to top of enclosure bank (see picture, below) and forming a circle of roughly 26m diameter, this structure has a circumference of around 82m. It would originally have had wooden stakes placed vertically around its perimeter, probably for keeping animals within and predators without. Note that present-day opinion is that ringforts were unlikely to have been in fact ‘forts’, in the sense that they probably did not serve any real defensive purpose. They were not constructed particularly high above the surrounding ground level and a ring of stakes might not have kept any would-be attackers at bay for very long. They were more likely to be status symbols of local chiefs or powerful clans, perhaps representing their control over surrounding lands.

Lios na Gaoithe ringfort Ireland

Standing in the ditch at Lios na Gaoithe

Lios na Gaoithe was excavated in the 1950s and among the findings discovered was a cist, a burial construction made of stone slabs arranged in a box-like shape. Coloured glass beads were within, along with the bones of the deceased. How blue glass beads came to be in a West of Ireland ringfort is a matter of conjecture – some have suggested they may have come from as far away as north Africa, maybe via numerous trading posts along the way.

The ringfort is the most common remaining ancient type of homestead in Ireland – there are estimated to be around 40,000 of them dotted all over the country. They consisted of a raised mound within a sunken ditch and an elevated outer bank. Indeed, sometimes there are more than one ditch and associated bank, the latter built of the material removed in order to dig out the former.

An entire earthen ringfort is called a ‘ráth’ and the dwelling enclosure within the ‘lios’, although in the case of Lios na Gaoithe, the latter term has come to refer to the whole. Were it made of stone, the structure would be known as a ‘caiseal’ or ‘dún’, such as the famous Dún Aenghus of Inis Mór in the Aran Islands.

Interestingly, ringforts are often built in prominent positions and / or on good quality ground. Today, however, neither of these attributes applies to Lios na Gaoithe, located as it is in classic Mayo boggy terrain. Having said that, it does command a strong (though not elevated) position in a valley running from northeast to southwest through hilly terrain and is close by a small river.

Ringfort, Ireland - Lios na Gaoithe

Looking into the Ditch

My map below shows the location of the fort in relation to the landscape around it. Areas coloured brown are at 200m altitude or above, while the green areas are at 50m elevation and lower.  You can see two entrances into this terrain from the north, marked A and B. Entrance A comes from what is today a vast open, low-lying bog. This is very wet, inhospitable country and, even 1,000 years ago, unlikely to have been much crossed by men on horseback or foot. Entrance B carries a track today and keeps relatively high above the surrounding bog. Assuming there was already some traffic through this area over a millennium ago, we can see how Lios na Gaoithe would have commanded the pass to the rivers, lake and sea (out of picture) beyond, to the south.


Lios na Gaoithe ringfort, Mayo

The ringfort in its landscape


Ringfort Excavations in Ireland

Read about some ringfort excavations at other sites on Heritage Ireland’s website.

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