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The road less travelled

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The road less travelled


Ciara Moynihan


The nature of travel and tourism is expanding beyond towns and villages, museums and well-known box-tick sites. More and more tourists are searching out wilderness and pristine nature – perhaps as a consequence of mass migration to cities across the globe. The great outdoors of Ireland’s west coast, with the Wild Atlantic Way and the Great Western Greenway, is a massive draw.        
For those seeking out true wild and pristine nature, the Bangor Trail is a wonderful resource. Starting in the Erris region of northwest Mayo – recently named the Best Place to Go Wild in Ireland – the Bangor Trail is a 400-year-old ancient roadway carved through the foothills of the Nephin Beg mountain range. It is not for the fainthearted, but its rewards are manifold and breathtaking. As author and naturalist Robert Lloyd Praeger wrote in 1935, the area is ‘inspiriting’: “You are thrown at the same time back upon yourself and forward against the mystery and majesty of nature.”
The condition of the trail, said to have been used by herdsman bringing their cattle to market between the Barony of Erris and Burrishoole, is primitive. It is probably one of the most remote in the country, and access is limited.
The full Bangor Trail extends for 40km and meets another ancient trail, the Western Way, just outside Newport. Large parts of the trail lie within the lands of the awe-inspiring Ballycroy National Park. To the west of the mountains is the Owenduff Bog: An important scientific and scenic feature of the park, it is one of the last intact active blanket-bog systems in Ireland and Western Europe.
Over the past number of years, the National Parks and Wildlife Service has been doing sensitive maintenance and improvement work along the trail, drying out small parts, as it can be very wet. Would-be walkers should be aware that the Tarsaghaun Bridge, located on the trail three hours south of Bangor Erris, was swept away by floodwaters several years ago. This means wading across the river to continue on the trail.
The water could be knee-high after rain in the summertime, higher still after heavy rain, especially in the winter. The County Council plans to replace the bridge by the end of the year.

For more information, contact Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre, Ballycroy Village, on 098 49888, email ballycroyvisitorcentre@ahg.gov.ie or visit www.ballycroynationalpark.ie.