The long drive from Ballina to the south-west corner of Mayo where the Mweelrea Mountains slope down to Killary Harbour is always a pleasure as we look forward to the magnificent Atlantic seascapes that await us.
Over the years, we have become regular visitors to this remote part of Mayo, located between Louisburgh and Killary, to wander its beautiful beaches like Silver Strand and discover its many sheltered, sandy coves.
On a clear day, the views in every direction are breathtaking – from the backdrop of hill and mountain to an island-dotted sea, dominated by Clare Island, and its southerly neighbour, Inishturk.
Our most recent trip took us to Killeen – located about 7kms south of Louisburgh – to walk one of the two short loop walks that wind around this lovely village.
On arriving in Killeen, we were struck by its well-kept parish centre and adjoining children’s playground, evidence of a strong community spirit in the area.
Opposite the community centre is the Church of the Holy Family and a hundred metres further on you will come to the local graveyard which gave the village its name.
Cillin is the Irish name for a burial place for unbaptised children. Today, the graveyard is a well maintained and after a short visit to the cemetery we set off on our walk around Killeen, Killadoon, and Cross.
Walking the hilly road from Killeen to Killadoon, you find yourself stopping every few minutes to admire the wonderful views of Clare Island and Inishturk.
And rising before you along the road the gentle mountain slopes of Derrygarve Mor and Derrygarve Beg add the finishing touches to a picture postcard scene.
Overlooked by a towering Croagh Patrick to the north, this part of Mayo has a rich and interesting history.
There are a number of archaeological sites in the area, including Standing stones at Killeen, Dadreen, Cross, and Doughmakeon. And while we hadn’t time to visit it on this occasion, the wedge tomb at Altoir is on our itinerary for our next visit.
We were pleasantly surprised after walking a few kilometres to arrive at the Ocean Lodge Killadoon where we received a warm and friendly welcome.
Perched on a hill, surrounded by mountain and seascapes, this hotel, bar, and restaurant can boast one of the most remote and beautiful settings of any hostelry in Ireland.
We enjoyed our refreshments on the bar balcony soaking up the warm sunshine and the sight of the islands in the endless expanse of silvery sea stretching out to the west.
Our short break was another opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this part of Mayo and we had to drag ourselves away from the tranquil surroundings of this unique hotel in its solitary location.
The walk led us onto pretty Bunlough Strand which is within a stone’s throw of Inishturk Island. Turning north again, we walked around Cross Lough with its ancient Crannog, further evidence of the rich heritage of this part of south-west Mayo.
As we headed back towards the trailhead, we passed close to Cross beach – a magnificent stretch of the strand that is popular with families and surfers as is nearby Carrowniskey beach. Of course, we can never pass on the opportunity to explore a new beach and we were delighted to spend a pleasant half an hour watching the setting sun sink behind Clare island.
The Killeen loop walk took us along quiet country lanes, sandy beaches and around a lovely lake. This is a walk that lingers in your memory. It’s all about the magnificent scenery of sea and mountain which make every step of this Mayo loop walk a delightful experience.
It’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon – and certainly not a walk to be rushed.