It’s mid-October and the Brent Geese (light-bellied) have returned to Mayo for the winter from their summer breeding grounds, over 7,000km away in Arctic Canada.
Ballycastle, the gateway village to the wild wilderness that is North Mayo, has one of the most scenic looped walks in Ireland.
For a few short months, every summer, sailing vessels from far-flung shores cruise Mayo’s Wild Atlantic waters navigating the many islands, stacks, rocks, and hidden reefs that make our coastal waters so beautiful to admire but a treacherous world for the unprepared sailor.
Diamond Hill, overlooking Connemara National Park Visitor Centre in Letterfrack, is one of the most easily climbed mountains in Ireland, rewarding those who venture to the summit with magnificent views in every direction.
Standing in the safety of Killerduff, watching the awesome power of Mayo’s Wild Atlantic waves crashing over Downpatrick Head, got me thinking of the terrifying conditions only seafarers witness as they work the high seas to earn a precarious livelihood.
The newly-opened Ballina and Killala sections of the Monasteries of the Moy Greenway, the 10km walking and cycling trail, partly follows the route of the old railway line that once linked the two north Mayo towns.
It’s great fun to create a looped walk from scratch. Spread the Ordnance Survey Map out on the kitchen table and, as the radio jingle used to say, “let your fingers do the walking” while you set about discovering somewhere new to explore.
I’m sad to say that I have taken one of the great natural wonders of Mayo for granted – and until last week I didn’t realise that it is under threat.
Before setting off for Enniscrone I had to use a spatula to scrape the layers of ice off the car windscreen. It was showing 1 degree Celsius on the car monitor and the road from Ballina was icy and dangerous.
The mists of time have once again briefly lifted on beautiful Doohoma beach to reveal the preserved remnants of a prehistoric forest that once covered Mayo.
The Purple Sandpipers, perched on the cliff-top at Kilcummin Head, seemed completely unbothered by my presence, even when I edged closer to take a photograph.
When the R312, linking Belmullet and the wider Erris region to Castlebar, makes the headlines it’s usually to do with justifiable calls to upgrade the road that takes motorists through many dangerous twists and turns on their journey to the county town.
Blanemore Forest Archaeological Walk near Moygownagh is another gem in Mayo’s treasure chest of extensive Neolithic sites – the best known of which is the Ceide Fields near Ballycastle.
The lovely aroma of Meadowsweet filled the air as I wandered through McMahon Park in Claremorris on a beautiful July Saturday.
I was standing in the middle of the bog that covers Benwee Head on the Children of Lir Loop Walk in one of the most scenic places in Mayo talking to a local man as he put in a late evening shift saving the turf.
My travels took me to Muingdoran last week that isolated headland near Doolough. The meadow grass was high with some fields blanketed by buttercups.