Western Way

Posts tagged with: 'Western Way'

Maumturks & Bens Weekend

Join our small group hiking the Maumturk and Twelve Bens mountains of Connemara this May bank holiday weekend.

The Inagh Valley in Connemara is a wonderful spot for hiking, with the Maumturk mountains to one side and the Twelve Bens to the other. Beautiful Lough Inagh dominates the valley between these quartzite ranges. The Western Way traces its way along the valley floor on its way to Killary fjord and Leenane village to the north.

Maumturks walking weekend

Maumturk mountains of Connemara

Our small group will spend three nights in a lovely B&B, with evening dinners in a nearby hotel.

Friday, Apr 29, 2016 : Guests should arrive at our B&B around 7 pm, for dinner together at 8 pm.

Saturday, Apr 30, 2016 : Maumturks and Máméan pilgrimage site. We will be walking for 5 – 6 hours, with a total ascent of approx 800m. Level : Moderate / tough.

Sunday, May 1, 2016 : The Western Way and Killary Fjord. We will be walking for 6 – 7 hours, with a total ascent of 300m. Level : Easy.

Monday, May 2, 2016 : Derryclare and Bencorr in the Twelve Bens. We will be walking for 6 – 7 hours, with a total ascent of 900m. Level : Moderate / tough.

Please note that walking times are approximate and depend on the level of the group. Our route on Monday may be altered in function of the ability of the group, as will have been gauged on Saturday.

Price :

Euro 325 pps.

This package includes the following –

3 nights B&B accommodation in shared rooms

3 evening dinners in hotel (3 course meals, plus tea/coffee)

3 packed lunches

3 days guided hill walking

This package does not include the following –

Getting to Inagh valley.

Beverages and other miscellaneous spend.

What you need to bring :

Good waterproof ankle-protecting hiking boots.

Hiking wear (including layers, rainproof top and legs).

Sunglasses, sun cream, insect repellent.

Enthusiasm for three days of outdoor fun in the mountains of the West of Ireland.

Please do not bring :

Jeans, ponchos or umbrellas on the walks.

Maumturk and Twelve Ben Mountains of Connemara

The Maumturks culminate at Binn Idir an Dá Log, at 702 m, while across the valley, the Twelve Bens have their highest point at Benbaun (729 m).

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Aasleagh Falls to Drummin Village

Aasleagh Falls is a tiny but celebrated waterfall at the head of the Killary, Ireland’s only true fjord, in south County Mayo. The very beautiful Erriff River tumbles down the couple of metres, before babbling over rocks and into the sea just beyond.

Aasleagh Falls

Aasleagh Falls near Killary Fjord, Mayo

Come to Aasleagh around the summer solstice to witness wonderful Salmon and Sea Trout, as they make their way back into the river system from the sea. It’s a magnificent sight.

Beginning at Aasleagh Falls, I walked 20 km of The Western Way to Drummin, a tiny village south of Westport. This is a varied walk, with the first 6 km along the banks of this lovely river, among fertile fields filled with sheep. Sharing the banks with the fly fishermen, the beginning is a far cry from the blanket bog covered stretches that await me later on.

From Houston Bridge, where we leave the river behind, the walk turns northwards through 4 km of the plantation forest at Tawnyard. I cross the small Owenduff River at a fish counting and measuring station, before emerging on to the small road from where the best views of the brooding Tawnyard Lough are to be enjoyed. While I usually avoid walking on tarmac, I don’t really have a choice here and over the 3 km stretch, I don’t meet a single vehicle on the Sheeffry Pass road.

My attention now turns to tackling the climb to the col between Tawny Rower (510 M) and the Sheeffry Hills, which reach 772 m several km to the west. The col itself, at 450 m, is welcome after the trudge up its grassy, boggy southern slope. Under its impressive northern cliffs lies remote Lough Lugacolliwee, an unusually large corrie lake.

Western Way - Lough Lugacolliwee

Lough Lugacolliwee on The Western Way

I skirt the shore of this fine lake, before turning away to cross over a km of pure, unadulterated bog. Emerging on to a little lane, I then follow the small road to Drummin, jump on my bike and cycle back to Aasleagh, where I had left my car earlier.

Aasleagh Falls to Drummin, along The Western Way

Distance 20.4 km; total ascent approx. 600 m; time 6.5 hrs.

Cycle back to car (along minor roads) : 20.2 km; 1.5 hrs.

Read about a very different experience on The Western Way.

Discover Western Way maps on Irish Trails.

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The Western Way in Winter

I love winter.

OK, I prefer a dry, crisp, fresh winter to a sodden, rainy, mucky winter. But since we have far more of the latter than the former, I make do with it.

Today, I went on a 7-hour cycle and hike along The Western Way, through Ireland’s largest tract of land with no through road. It rained good and proper for the entire duration, with not a single minute’s reprieve. But not just any old rain, oh no. Blown by strong winds, this was the “wonderful” almost horizontal Irish variety. On the journey out, this was fine, as it blew into my back. But on the journey back, another story …

Western Way Mayo

The Western Way, Mayo, in winter

In this area, The Western Way is a forest track through Coillte land, with one section of around 2,100 m of boardwalk in the wettest part – a seriously slippy boardwalk in this weather. [Note to those responsible : You might have considered studding it] In all, it’s about 26 km of entirely off-road hiking and cycling, although I couldn’t manage that in these short winter days.

With the rain coming down, I cycled more in water than on terra firma, as the rain run-off likes to utilise the track bed as the path of least resistance in its relentless search for a river course. Between my outward journey and the return, all rivers and streams had impressively increased the volume of water they were carrying. On the drive home afterwards, there was flooding aplenty in the fields and bogs along the road. A lot of water fell in north Mayo today.

Western Way, Mayo, Ireland

Boardwalk on The Western Way

The wildlife count was poor today, as is to be expected in heavy rain. No deer and no raptors. Just four hares and one pheasant of note. Mind you, deep into the plantation forest, very large deer tracks are all around. I saw fox, otter and pine marten droppings, as well as those of the deer.

If you want a place to gather your thoughts and be utterly immersed in and subjected to the West of Ireland outdoors, this is a good place. Coillte likes to call it Ireland’s ‘big sky country’. With the conifers all around, I’m not so sure about that description, but you know what they’re trying to say. If it’s views you’re after, better choose elsewhere.

I made a video of this day which you can watch here.

You can view the entire Western Way on Irish Trails, both the Mayo section and that in Galway.

Western Way Gear Review

Despite 7 hours of continuous rain, my Meindl Vakuum GTX feet were bone dry, as always. My Helly Hansen Helly Tech head and torso ditto. I was particularly impressed that not a drop of water went down my back or even onto my neck. My North Face trousers could not withstand the rain, but, in fairness, that was mainly because I was cycling most of the time, so pumping thighs and a wet saddle didn’t help. My LifeVenture TiV vacuum flask disappointed. Billed as keeping water hot above 60 C for up to 12 hours, it didn’t deliver for even 6.

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Hiking Up and Around Nephin Beg

Here is a video I made of my hike up and around Nephin Beg mountain and the twin Scardaun Loughs last Saturday.

I hope the video gives you an idea of what this landscape is like.

Section 2 is from on the top of the 627 m mountain, with the camera facing directly west. The result is very strong wind, so you might like to tone down the volume just for that section.


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Nephin Beg, A Winter Hike

On Saturday, I left Castlebar at 7.20 am, to begin a climb of Nephin Beg from its eastern side, around 8.20 am. I parked the car on The Western Way and took to the hills from the little bridge over the second stream after the Coillte hut.

As I gained ground, I was quite surprised that the terrain was not wetter and I made steady enough progress. I made the summit from the southeast, looking across the corrie towards pt 311 m, which forms part of the Letterkeen Loop.

Nephin Beg, Mayo, Ireland

Nephin Beg summit; Slieve Carr in background.

Naturally, once I reached the top, I was no longer sheltered and became subjected to fierce wind and some snow coming in from the west. The views were nevertheless wonderful in all directions, from Achill, Blacksod Bay, The Mullet, Duvillaun and Iniskea Islands to the west and northwest, all the way around the flat Mayo boglands to Nephin Mór in the east and Buckoogh, the southern arc of the Nephin Begs and Corraun to the southwest.

From the summit, I descended northwards and headed for the northern side of the Scardaun Loughs, passing them to the west. I saw seven geese (too far away to positively identify, but presumably White-Fronted, which over-winter here).

Nephin Beg; Scardaun Loughs

Scardaun Loughs in the shadow of Nephin Beg; Slieve Carr beyond.

Having passed with the twin lakes on my right, I then began to circumnavigate them to the north, underneath Slieve Carr. Swinging around to the southeast on the far side, I began my descent to The Western Way. This section was by far the wettest on the hike, but was nonetheless easily manageable.

To come around Nephin Beg, I followed the tree line, with long, clear views north across the huge plantation forests to the wind turbines and disused power station at Bellacorrick beyond. East of the Loughs, five additional geese came flying overhead from the NE and did not land on the lakes, rather continuing out to the pond-studded Owenduff bog beyond.

Passing Lough Namroon below me, I dropped down into the valley of its draining stream to rejoin The Western Way after a great hike in varying sunshine, snow and heavy rain towards the end. I would return many times to camp near Namroon and spend more time in this wild place.

Nephin Beg Hike

10 km; 5.5 hrs; total ascent 630 m  (from the Western Way)

View my poor quality video of this hike here. Note to self : I must edit this video and improve it!

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