A little piece of Canada on your doorstep
Letterkeen Loop Walk
Distance (purple loop): 12km
Time 3 to 4 hours
Minimum gear Hiking boots, rain gear, snack, water, mobile phone, camera
Trail surface Riverbank, mountain tracks, sandy paths and forestry roads
Shorter loops Red loop (10km); Blue loop (6km)
Letterkeen is a secluded area in the heart of the Nephin beg mountains 14km north of Newport. There are three looped walking trails here that require a good level of fitness, especially the purple loop, which includes a climb and some rough ground.
The walk starts at the Brogan Carroll bothy in Letterkeen wood, this is an old stone bothy that was rebuilt in recent years and provides an excellent trailhead for this outstanding set of looped walks. Information boards at the trailhead will give you details of the various trails and some local history.
This area was devoid of woodland until 1951 when the Government introduced a forestry development programme. The main species are lodge pole pine and larch on the mountain slopes, which gives the area a Canadian wilderness effect with lively streams coming down off the mountains. Sitka spruce covers the more fertile valleys.
This walk contains a section of the famous Bangor Trail; this is the old route through the mountains between Newport and Bangor Erris that was used for centuries before the road was developed around by Mulranny and Ballycroy. On the Letterkeen loops, you will also pass through a section of Ballycroy National Park and some outstanding mountain scenery.
To get to Letterkeen, follow the N59 out of Newport towards Achill for 1km. Turn northwards at a signpost indicating Treenlaur Youth Hostel and Lough Furnace. Follow this road for about 2km where you continue straight through a crossroads passing a disused two-storey house on your right. Continue along this road with Lough Feeagh to your left, 2km past the lake you will enter Letterkeen wood, follow the signs for Letterkeen loop walk until you reach the bothy.
From the trailhead you can follow three loops, the longest being 12km looped marked in purple arrows that reaches a high point of 300 meters. The shorter loops are marked in red and blue and do not contain any significant hills. The final part of the trails brings you along a sandy path that follows the Altaconey River back to the bothy.
Tom Carolan works for South West Mayo Development Company as Recreation Officer. His job involves the design, construction, and promotion of recreational trails. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is the seventh in the Living section Walk of the Month series, which describes a different Mayo walk at the start of each month.