MOUNTAIN TOP Anne-Marie Flynn pictured atop the iconic Nephin after a recent climb.
Here are a few adventures I’ve enjoyed around North Mayo this year
The highest standalone mountain in Ireland now has a waymarked trail to the top. Five of us climbed in May and while some of us were slower than others (ahem) it was because the magnificent views demanded frequent stops. While we took plenty of selfies, what we didn’t do was pop into Barrett’s of Lahardane afterwards to get our free Nephin certificates of achievement. Don’t make that mistake. But do start your climb early to ensure you find parking.
We also enjoyed strolling in the Addergoole Titanic Memorial Park in the shadow of the mountain, where the village’s Titanic lost are beautifully, poignantly immortalised.
Swimming in Portacloy
I can easily be in the water within five minutes of leaving my house, but more than once this summer I’ve embarked on the hour-long drive to Portacloy for a swim. There is something really magical about this quiet, often deserted beach – perhaps it’s the cliff walk with its Éire 63 sign and breathtaking cliff views of the Wild Atlantic. Perhaps it’s the waterfalls cascading down the mountainside within which this cove and its perfect white beach are nestled. Perhaps it’s the Mediterranean blue of the calm sea in one of the safest swimming spots in North Mayo. Whatever it is, I love it.
Ancient history and Saints and Sinners in Moygownagh
Sometimes, places make it easy for you to visit. Moygownagh has done it twice. The intriguing 5km Blanemore Forest Archaeological Walk boasts cairns, lines of standing stones, and centuries-old secrets still hidden beneath the bog. Conveniently, its stories are told both in on-site signage and on a mobile app. The app also offers the 15km, 14-stop looped Saints and Sinners tour with stories of intrigue, joy and tragedy spanning over 15 centuries. Bring headphones, download from www.moygownagh.ie before you go. Regular readers will know I love a graveyard, and the ancestors I found in the old Moygownagh cemetery are definitely saints, not sinners. No trip to Moygownagh is complete without a ‘99 or something stronger at Mitchells, and a summer day with my mother spent exploring Moygownagh is one of my most treasured memories.
There is a tendency in Mayo to gravitate towards the coast. But from where I’m standing, if you head southeast inland, there is loads to discover. The serene Attymass Loop is a treat (park at the Fr Peyton Centre and ensure you get apple tart in the café. Also, watch out for the goats). Food from the incredible café in Foxford Woollen Mills makes the Braid Hill climb a great morning out. A wander through Drummin Woods followed by a dip in Lough Cullin near Pontoon is a perfect afternoon. And Swinford is an underrated gem – the Callow Lakes loop on a clear still day is beautiful, followed by a visit to the famine graveyard, a stroll in Brabazon Woods and a bite to eat in the iconic Gateway Hotel (if my adventures don’t always involve graveyards, you can be sure they will involve food).