‘A Mecca For Walkers’.
The landscape of County Mayo is a palette of ever-changing hues, and the terrain varies from mountains sculpted against the western sky to silent glens chiselled deep into the earth. It’s little wonder then that Mayo is a walker's wonderland! There are numerous planned trails throughout the county, and of course, Castlebar hosts an annual walking festival, which attracts over a thousand walking enthusiasts from around the world.
So why not browse through our suggested walks below or for a more leisurely day out try some spectacular drives through the county.
And if you're not in the mood for those either take a look here to see what else Mayo has to offer.
HILLWALKING IN MAYO.
To be truly and intimately in touch with ancient Ireland, retreat to the islands that were once cast adrift and abandoned from the continent of Europe, and now stand guard at the entrance of Mayo, or climb Ireland's holy mountain Croagh Patrick. Hillwalking through this tempestuous and wild land is a rewarding and invigorating experience!
Off the coast of Clew Bay lies the secluded and unspoiled Clare Island. The island caters for both the laid-back rambler and the experienced walker. Knockaveen Hill, located near the harbour is a relaxing trail that gives wonderful views of the mainland and the island. If you prefer a more challenging climb then Croaghmore is for you! It is a tough ascent but the picturesque views and the native wildlife make it very rewarding!
To get to the island leave Castlebar on the N60, travel until you reach Louisburg (via the R335), and from here continue west to Roonagh Quay, where either The Ocean Star Ferry or Clare Island Ferries will take you to the island. Telephone ‘The Ocean Star Ferry’ at (098) 25045 and ‘Clare Island Ferries at (098) 26307 for departure times and group rates.
2.Croaghaun, Achill Island.
Achill Island is dominated by three imposing mountains, and its coast is edged by dramatic cliff faces as well as numerous charming resort villages that boasts several broad, sandy beaches. So why not spend a fulfilling day exploring its magic by foot? To reach the island from Castlebar, take the R311 to Newport town, then take the N59 through Mulranny (the gateway to the island).
1. Take the road that leads to Keem Strand. In the distance you can see Croagh Patrick and Clare Island.
2. One mile from Keem Strand take the road that leads to Lough Accorymore and the Dam.The Lough has been dammed to provide water for the islanders. Park your car at this location and set off by foot crossing the Dam, making your way over to Lough Corryntawy, now start climbing!
3. As you make your way up the shoulder called Keel West, you can see the seaward side of Slievemore sweeping down to Blacksod Bay and the whole of Achill will open out spectacularly before you. In the distant north stands the weather-gnawed Peninsula that runs south from Belmullet.
4. Nestled under the southern side of Slievemore is the ‘deserted village’.
5. Continue around until you reach the summit over Lough Acorrymore, and enjoy the most inspiring scenery that Ireland has to offer.
6. Descent: retrace your track back to Lough Acorrymore.
3.Climb Croagh Patrick
Standing like a huge pyramid, Croagh Patrick or "The Reek" as it is known locally, is more than just a mountain. Croagh Patrick is the home of old pagan gods and a saint. The gods were pre-Christian and the saint was Saint Patrick.
Patrick, who was probably a Frenchman, though some claim him from Wales, had been brought as a child to Ireland where as a slave, he was set to watch sheep on a northern mountain called Sliabh Mis. Having escaped from slavery, he went back to the continent and after some years at Avignon he went to Rome where he was ordained. Patrick returned to Ireland in 432 to convert the Irish from their worship of the old pagan gods, their faith in the Druids and the Gods of the elements.
Legend has it, that it was upon Croagh Patrick that he banished all the snakes and demons, all the old gods and spirits.
The Tripartite Life of Saint Patrick, written around the tenth century, tells us that Patrick fasted and prayed on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.
For another fifteen hundred years Croagh Patrick stood undisturbed, then in the late nineteen-eighties an exploration company discovered gold in the quartz/veined rock that is Croagh Patrick. It was estimated that the richness of ore would yield half an ounce of gold per crushed ton. It was proposed to initially remove and crush 700,000 tons of the mountain.
There was outcry at the suggestion that the Holy Mountain should be mined, not just on religious grounds but also from environmental considerations. The use of cyanide, the crushing process and large quantities of spoil would without doubt have a detrimental effect on one of the most pristine and beautiful locations in Ireland.
After a tough battle and against the odds the developers were finally sent on their way. In 1990 the then minister for Energy decided not to renew the exploration licence.
A small churchat the summit of Croagh Patrick welcomes penitents and tourists who climb their way up the mountain, following the old pilgrims route from Murrisk.
Magnificent views of Clew Bay open out beneath you with an island for every day of the year. The bay was once a drumlin field and when the sea flooded it millennia ago, it left the peaks of the drumlins above water line, reminiscent of a school of whales facing out to sea.
On ‘Reek Sunday’ (the last Sunday in July or Garland Sunday as it is some times called) the mountain swarms with devout pilgrims from all over Ireland in honour of the patron saint, to hear mass and to say the rosary. Many climb barefoot over the loose stone path which leads to the summit. The tens of thousands who climb have a devotion rarely found in the world today.
The route from Murrisk is freely available to use all year round. There is likely to be someone on the mountain every day of the year, but be warned that the route to the summit is quite demanding and climbers would be well advised to exercise care and wear suitable clothing and foot-wear. Allow approximately 5 hours for accent and descent. There is ample car parking at the base.
For the less energetic, it is popular to climb to the first statue at the base of the mountain cone, on your way you will be conscious of the unwritten history of the Mountain stretching over the millennia.
NOTE: ALL OF THE ABOVE HILLWALKS SHOULD BE UNDERTAKEN ONLY ON CLEAR, DRY DAYS. UNACCOMPANIED WALKS ARE NOT ADVISED.
LONG DISTANCE (PLANNED) WALKS.
Mayo County Council has organised three planned walking routes that lets the walker explore this charming county.
1. The Foxford Way.
The Foxford Way route stretches for 86 kilometres through the rugged Ox Mountains and on the sparkling lakes of Lough Cullin and Conn, exploring rivers, meadows and wild boglands on your way!
Throughout the summer there are regular, interesting guided walks along numerous sections of the route. This trail offers everything to everyone as it explores a wealth of historical and archaeological sites, as well as being rich in beautiful flora and fauna.
2. The Western Way.
‘The Western Way’ is a long distance trail (170km) that brings you from the fjord of Killary to the Ox mountains. En route, the walker explores mountains, woodland and streams, then crosses the side of Croagh Patrick into Westport. The walker then continues through the solitude and wilderness of the bogs of Erris and Tirawley. Onward to the sites of the world's most extensive 5,000 year old Stone Age site. End this wonderful walking trail by passing through some richly historical Abbeys, and finally see the famous salmon rich Ridgepool at Ballina.
3. The Bangor Trail.
The Newport-Bangor Trail, which covers a distance of 48kms, is one of the finest walks in Mayo. This beautiful walking trail stretches through the majestic Nephin Mountain Range in Northwest Mayo.
Details of the above walks can be obtained from the local Tourist Information Offices in Mayo.
1. Castlebar 4 day Walks.
This festival has attracted thousands of walkers from around the world since it was first set up in 1967. The walks are non-competitive and are organised to cater for varying levels of fitness. Anyone can participate, so if you’re feeling energetic why not leave town life behind for four days and discover the natural, wild beauty of the West of Ireland? Even if you can’t spare four days, its possible to participate for one, two or three days. Every day there is a 30km ramble, a 4km and a 25km road walk. At night there is plenty of entertainment organised at the Walking Club from ceili music to jazz.
Telephone (094) 24102 for further details or click here.
If you would like to spend a fascinating day on the look out for otters, dolphins and seals, whilst exploring the country’s finest coastal beauty, then Shay Fennelly can guide you on a walk on the shores of Clew Bay. Contact Shay Fennelly at (098) 41048 for further information.
3. Croagh Patrick Walking Tours.
On the last Sunday of July each year over 60,000 people make the tough, but exhilarating ascent to the holy mountain’s summit. The mountain’s popularity continues throughout the year as climbers are rewarded with inspiring views of the island-dotted Clew Bay.
Legend has it that Saint Patrick spent the forty days of lent praying on the summit of this sacred mountain. The mountain and it’s hinterland are also home to a wealth of ancient sites including ancient burial sites, ringforts, monastic sites and ancient cooking sites called ‘fulacht fiadha’.
If you are interested in guided hill walking tours on Croagh Patrick and its surrounding area then telephone Gerry Greensmyth, Cloona, Westport at (098) 26090.
Tucked away in little niches scattered throughout the county lies Mayo’s woodlands. These pockets of forest are home to a medley of thriving oak, birch, and ash trees. Spend a day exploring their terrain of hollows and heights through leafy pathways while breathing some of the purest air on the planet!
Letterkeen Wood, situated 9km north of the town of Newport, is a 5km trail embellished with natures delicate flora. The walker even gets the opportunity of seeing a 1000BC ring fort.
Tourmakeady Wood is just a 2.5km walk and is located 8km south west of the quaint village of Partry. There is a delightful little waterfall at Tourmakeady wood. Why not pass an afternoon strolling through the flourishing glades!
3.Moore Hall Wood.
Moore Hall Wood offers the rambler 3kms of solitude and peace! Moore Hall is situated 11kms north of the town of Ballinrobe.
Back to Castlebar
Take a Drive around Mayo