In the first of what we hope will be a regular series, Cathleen Fergus of South West Mayo Development Company outlines a walk in arguably one of the most scenic locations in Ireland
Let me start by saying this is not a climb and perhaps for the more adventure hillwalkers among you it might not offer that much of a challenge, but anything it lacks in height, the Western Way Spur more than makes up for in views.
Situated in West Mayo, nestled in the foothills of the Nephin Begs between Newport and Mulranny, this Spur veers west off the main spine of the Nationally Accredited Western Way that runs from Oughterard in Galway, north to Ballina in Co. Mayo. We locals call it the High Road but if you are to look onto mayotrails.ie you will find the route under the Burrishoole Loops, as it is situated in the Barony of Burrishoole, which covers an area stretching from Achill Island to Newport town.
Now enough about the name, the walk itself can be started 2.5 miles outside Newport, at Derradda where there is an information board, parking and public toilets. The total distance can be as long or as short as you want it to be, depending on your mood, the weather or your level of fitness. Should you choose one of the shorter options you can loop back to Derradda Community Centre at a choice of different junctions; with the full 10.5 mile option, it’s best to have two cars and park the second one at the Mulranny Park Hotel or enjoy a lunch or tea in the hotel and then walk back the way you came. Alternatively, the Spur is also bikeable, cycle it to Mulranny and then loop back on the Great Western Greenway Cycle track which runs beneath it.
Set off from the community centre following the Lettermaghera arrows and cross the busy Greenway; taking care not to walk in front of the many eager, lycra clad cyclists, frantically pedalling for their lives, not realising that there are many miles to go before they reach their end destinations of either Mulranny or Achill Sound. You are now venturing onto the ‘wire hills’, a painters paradise offering a kaleidoscope of colours thanks to the myriad of lakes that are dotted amongst them. You turn left at the bridge and enter the village of Lettermaghera, gradually gaining height before views of Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay are unveiled before you. Pass through two gates and another mile onwards, turn right at the junction and you are officially on the High Road.
Walk under Ben Gorm, taking in glorious scenery all around you, the same scenery I developed a slight aversion to as a child. This is turf cutting country and a few childhood summers were spent up here footing and bagging turf, wind burnt and midge bitten, oblivious to the fact that people gladly come here to savour the views that we at the time took for granted. Higher up still is the Oghillees Mass Rock, one of many of its kind where people gathered to celebrate their faith in times of persecution during Cromwell’s campaign against the Irish and the Penal Laws of 1695. You will meet a junction which gives you the option of turning right and visiting this, continue straight on and make a note to do this climb another day.
This is a solitary walk, as are the higher hills that watch over it, the horseshoe of Glendahurk lies silently above it, save for the sounds of Mother Nature. There are many options to loop back; turn left at any of the junctions along the way and you will end up on the Greenway where you can walk back to your starting point.
Eventually you will come to where the spur joins the cycle track, passing through commonages with such captivating names as Meenacloghfinny, Srahacorick & Bunnahowna. Then its one last push towards Mulranny and after the tranquillity of the High Road, it’s a delightful contrast to see and hear people of every age out on their bikes on the Greenway track that has long brought people on journeys. Whether it be by train, bike or foot, the station house in Mulranny still signals that you have reached your end destination for today and its time to disembark, rejuvenated and inspired, after your time on the Western Way Spur.