I finally got around to walking the Castlebar to Turlough Greenway in mid-April and I wasn’t disappointed by the 7km trail that opens a door to the countryside for walkers and cyclists in Castlebar.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the walking and cycling trail that brings together the natural and cultural heritage of Mayo.
What I love about the new greenway is that it creates a sylvan corridor that links two of Mayo’s most popular recreational amenities – Lough Lannagh in Castlebar – and Turlough Park, about 7km east of the county town.
I began my walk in Turlough Park which is always an enjoyable place to visit. At the heart of the grounds and gardens is the National Museum of Ireland Country Life, celebrating Ireland’s traditional and rural ways of life.
The Museum comprises the estate’s Victorian Gothic-style house and an impressive modern building that is tastefully tucked away in the grounds and houses the museum’s exhibition gallery.
You can also wander through the extensive gardens and grounds of Turlough Park that was the home of the Fitzgerald family from the mid-17th century until recent times.
The estate’s delightful trails bring you through native woodland and around the lake at the heart of the estate that is the home to a family of swans. You can see the nearby Turlough Round Tower which dates back to early Christian times.
As I set off on the trail to Castlebar, I noticed that lovely perennial wildflower, the Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa).
Creating a carpet of green to show off its delicate, white flowers, the wildflower warmed up a woodland scene still dominated by bare trees of winter.
Skirting the banks of the Castlebar River
The trail is set in the Castlebar River valley between the N5 and the secondary road, the L1719, which was once the main road from North Mayo to Castlebar.
Skirting the banks of the Castlebar River for most of its 7km, the trail meanders through a mixture of wide open countryside, quiet by-roads, and native woodland, making it a pleasure to walk, jog or cycle.
The river is your constant companion. It originates in Lough Lannagh and the adjoining Castlebar lakes and joins the Manulla River after Turlough before entering southern end of Lough Cullin.
Because of its lake source, the Castlebar River rarely runs low in summer and is popular with trout anglers even if the fish only average one to two pounds.
Along the way, I crossed a number of bridges, including a newly-built single-span red bridge that is a lovely feature of this greenway.
Passing a dilapidated and overgrown old mill near Turlough Park got me wondering about the impressive building and its past.
Its mill race and former glory are now hidden by the bushes and ivy that covers what must have been once an imposing edifice in this rural part of Mayo.
The success of the Castlebar to Turlough Greenway, which was only opened in 2015, can be gauged by the large number of people of all ages who are already using the trail.
On my Sunday afternoon walk, I met many walkers, joggers and cyclists of all ages during a relaxing two-hour stroll from Turlough Park to Lough Lannagh – a testament to the success of the Castlebar to Turlough Greenway.
Admittedly, the birdsong does have to compete with the constant din of the traffic along the nearby N5 for much of the route, but that is a small price to pay for the trail that links urban and rural life in such a safe and enjoyable way.
It was also interesting to note that the arrival of the walking and cycling trail seems to have helped promote sustainable energy in a small way as can be seen in the many solar-powered water pumps feeding cattle troughs all along the trail.
After passing through urban Castlebar, the trail finishes (or starts) in Lough Lannagh where if you still feel like continuing you can walk around the lovely lake at the heart of this urban green space.
The Castlebar to Turlough Greenway is a new and exciting addition to Mayo’s walking and cycling trails that is just one stage of a continuing project that aims to create a walking and cycling route that will eventually link Westport and the Great Western Greenway to Killala via Ballina.