Mayo Sailing Club not all at sea


Club members enjoy land-based activities too

Alex Blackwell

Sailing is a summer sport, so to keep fit, Mayo Sailing Club organises a few activities over the winter. Members met recently at the Letterkeen Wood carpark, Srahmore, Newport, for an informative walk. Their guide for the day was the very knowledgeable Michael Chambers (thank you Michael). There are many walks in the area, suitable for all.
It was a day of glorious sunshine, interspersed with light rain, snow and hail showers, as well as a light breeze. The 16 members of Mayo Sailing Club were dressed for the weather with boots, waterproofs and torches that they had been instructed to bring. As the meeting time was 10.30 in the morning, there was a little concern among the members that the walk would be excessively long when they heard about the recommendation to bring a torch.
They had stunning views in what is a much under-rated and undiscovered beautifully scenic area. Their guide, Michael, is a passionate historian and a fount of local knowledge of folklore and nature. A couple of hours took the group from the bothy around the short, signposted loop at Letterkeen.
Then the group was rewarded with a trip to the caves. The torch was needed after a steep, though fairly short climb to the caves: natural boulder chambers.
Michael told the participants about skirmishes during the Civil War. These caves had been used as a hiding place. He regaled them with stories about locals who could evade the RIC and the Black and Tans because of their detailed local knowledge of the challenging terrain and the many safe houses and indeed caves where they hid.
It was a real privilege to stand (after some crawling in tight spaces) in a cave where so few people have been and where our ancestors sheltered during their times of need.
The final part of the walk ended along a delightful tree-lined trail with a very lively waterfall alongside and another appearance by the sun.
Michael recited a poem called ‘Forgotten Heroes’, which he has written and published. He came from a very strong republican tradition but ended his talk with a very balanced commentary on the Civil War and the memories of atrocities; noting that in the end all those involved on both sides were ultimately humans.
Mayo Sailing Club members will be getting together many more times over the coming season – both on and off the water. They will once again be offering a ‘Try-Sailing’ course on big boats for those who have never sailed before, and this will start on Tuesday, May 5. There is also the option to try dinghy sailing.
The ever-popular six-week junior programme will start this year on June 29. For more information on any of these activities, visit

Alex Blackwell is PRO of Mayo Sailing Club. Please note that all dates of upcoming courses and programmes are subject to change depending on advice from the HSE.

Letterkeen loop
To get to Letterkeen from Newport, head north up into the hills past Lough Furnace and Lough Feeagh.
Soon you’ll come across a solitary old cottage, Brogan Carroll Bothy, which marks the trailhead for the dramatic Letterkeen Loop.