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The serious walker will be rewarded in Mayo as the variety of landscapes--undulating hills, green pastures, bogs, rocky hills and soaring mountains rising out of the mist--offer the perfect chance to immerse in pure nature. Unspoilt is the defining quality of the county. Headlands overlooking crashing seas below, extensive bog trails and pastoral walks all offer distinct experiences for all levels of walker.
The most famous hike on the Mayo calendar is known as Reek Sunday, when, as part of a traditional pilgrimage 30,000 people climb Croagh Patrick. Since not everyone wants to climb a mountain en masse, luckily the county is bursting with opportunities to walk short and long distances in all terrains, from coastal to mountain walks, rural to urban and even island walks, including on Clare Island and Inishturk Island.
People with any level of fitness will find suitable walks all over the county. Easy to moderate walks include several in the Bunnyconnellan area of north Mayo (Kilgarvin Loop, Ellagh Loop and Drumsheen Loop). Near Crossmolina there is Gortner Abbey, as well as Grange and Enniscoe walks. The Carrowteige Loop Walks (including Children of Lir Loop and the Black Ditch Loop) are popular. For more of a challenge try Castle Walk or Erris Head whose difficult terrain is a stamina-test. The Foxford area has a good range of walks for all levels as does central Mayo. Claremorris has the moderate Clare Lake Loop Walk as well as the challenging Keenagh walk.
West Mayo has plenty to offer also. Besides the 42 km Westport-Achill Greenway, which is a coastal walk, Burrishoole Loop Walks offer 4 separate walks ranging from 3-16 kilometres through the stunning scenery of Newport, Derradda, Tiernaur and Mulranny. Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail is a long and ancient pilgrim’s path, beginning in Balla and travelling through Aughagower, ending in Murrisk, at the foot of Croagh Patrick, a span of over 60km. Around the historic house Moore Hall--home of several generations of culturally and politically influential Moores, including writer George Moore--is a lovely walk on the banks of Lough Carra. And nearby Tourmakeady Forest Trail is a satisfying, yet easy walk. For a challenging walk in West Mayo, try the Letterkeen Loop off the Newport to Achill road. Set in the Nephin Beg mountain range and incorporating some of the boglands of the Bangor Trail, this varied terrain of mountain tracks, sandy paths, riverbanks and forestry roads won’t disappoint. The Bangor Trail was once used to herd animals between Newport and Bangor in the Barrony of Erris. Hiking through soft blanket bog, flanked by the Nephin Beg mountain range on one side and a little distance away, the ocean on the other, makes this 50km walk tough, but the remote, natural wild environment is truly unparalleled.
As Connaught’s highest mountain, Mweelrea Mountain Walk is the pinnacle for the serious walker. Its rough and craggy edges tower at 814 metres and reflect its formidable challenges. Only to be attempted on a clear day, it rewards the tenacious climber with panoramic views of the ocean and surrounding islands on one side as well as Ireland’s only fjord, Killary Harbour on another and Doolough Valley carved out of a glacial valley on another.
There are 14 proposed walks on Achill Island, and another amidst the ancient trees in the Belleek Forest Park. The long and winding Western Way is an epic walk beginning in Connemara and working its way along the coast past Croagh Patrick, overlooking Clew Bay, through Westport and on up the coast on old bog roads before turning east for Ballina. Whatever your preference and wherever you find yourself on your journey around Mayo, you will never be far from an off-road walking opportunity where nature is on tap and the vistas which unfold before you are the only constant in an ever-changing world.