The Granuaile Loop Walk
Trail head: Johnny Patten’s Public House, Derreens, Achill
Trail surface: Old bog roads, now grassed over, and open moorland
Distance: 6.8 kilometres
Total ascent: 334 metres
Highest point: 189 metres
Duration: 2-3 hours
Dogs: No dogs allowed, as this walk goes through open farmland
OSI Discovery Map Number 30
In the middle of August, whilst in vacation mode, I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to walk a newly developed trail in Upper Achill called the Granuaile Loop Walk. As all the Dillane household were on holidays at this time, a somewhat undemocratic decision was taken that some quality family time would be beneficial. Where better to experience this than a healthy hike among the hills of Achill?
To locate the Granuaile Loop Walk is relatively simple. Pass through the Achill Sound heading west, and after 400 metres or so, take the first road on the left and travel along the Atlantic Drive for 4km. You will then come across Johnny Patten’s Public House on the right, and the car park here is the official trailhead for the walk.
There is a newly erected map board with both Irish and English text giving all the information required to complete the hike. One of the advantages of a loop walk (As distinct from a linear route) is that one starts and finishes at the same place, so therefore only one means of transport is necessary.
Summer 2015, weatherwise, had been poor, and many households like our own suffered a touch of cabin fever. We were fortunate enough to get a rare beautiful day, and so we seized on it, heading out with a sense of adventure.
After a brief five-minute initial climb, we joined an old grassed over road that was built in the early 1940s by local men unable to go to England due to the threat from the German U-boats. Even at this early stage of the walk, the views were truly stunning. The trail offers a panoramic view of Clew Bay, Croagh Patrick and Clare Island, as well as many historical local features.
One such feature is the deserted village of Ailt. Over 79 families lived here in 1838, but by 1854 the landlord William Pike had evicted them all as it was more profitable to have cattle on his land.
To the south west is Gráinne Mhaol’s castle in Kildownet, built 16th century. The Achill Lifeboat lies at anchor beneath the castle, which was once the anchorage of Gráinne’s fleet.
As we continued, we stumbled on about 40 large stone cairns, monuments of an ancient burial site on the old funeral path to Kildownet Cemetery, known locally as the ‘Leachtaí’. A sea mist suddenly descended on us at this point and created a most eerie atmosphere of calm and foreboding. However, as suddenly as it had appeared, the mist vanished. The trail then turned north, offering a sweeping view from the cliffs of Ashleam Bay to the west through to Davitt Bridge at Achill Sound.
The final section of the walk brings Carraig Na Loinge, a rocky outcrop located between Shraheens Points and Belfarsad into view. Historically, this was an important landmark for yawls and hookers as they travelled from Achill Sound through the channel carrying cargo to and from Westport. They also carried turf from Saulia to the villages along the coast, including Achill Beg.
Back in Johnny Patten’s, while enjoying a cuppa tae and some sandwiches, the youngest pipes up, hard to beat quality family time. Certainly hard to beat the Granuaile Loop Walk.
Martin Dillane works for South West Mayo Development Company as Rural Recreation Officer. His job includes the design, development and promotion of walking and cycling trails. He can be contacted at email@example.com. Every month, he will cover a new section of the 200km Western Way, which starts in Oughterard, Co Galway, and ends in Bonniconlon in north Mayo.