Saturday December 3rd;
Even though I was up at 7am it was 08.15 by the time I emerged from the hotel to begin my walk. The beauty of staying in this location was that I could leave the car where it was and start and finish my walk from the front door. Leaving in the early light it was wonderful to see the stunning surroundings that were hidden by darkness when I arrived the previous evening. Across the road Ben Gorm soared and the Sheeffry Hills book-ended the valley and of course the impressive east spur of Ben Lugmore stretched westward. I had chosen to do a big round of the Mweelrea Mountains today and this meant I had to cross the very boggy ground until I reached the slopes of Teevnabinnea, a long hill that rises from the northern shores of Killary Harbour. Even though it is only 379mtrs high it is a worthy start as the resort is only just above sea level so every meter is hard earned. I must say it felt great to be back here. It must have been over ten years since I did this particular route and it felt fresh and new. I had of course climbed Mweelrea last January 2015 in stunning winter conditions and it is one of my favourite mountains in Ireland and it is always a pleasure to return. From the summit the views to the south open up and the Twelve Bens, Bencoonaghs and Maumturks come into view over the waters of the harbour. I continued west and the route drops over 200mtrs which gives a steep 300mtr plus pull up to Mweelrea east spur at 495mtrs before another drop and a long 400mtr slog around the spectacular coum to the summit of Mweelrea itself which at 814mtrs is the highest in Connaught.
|Looking back to the start|
|The Twelve Bens|
|Mweelrea and Ben Lugmore then down to the right|
|The Connemara Mountains|
|The southern slopes of Ben Lugmore|
|From Ben Bury to Ben Lugmore|
|Doo Lough and Ben Creggan and Ben Gorm|
|Back down across Fin Lough|
I once again had had the room to myself so I had slept very well. I got up again at 7am so I could make the most of the short days and I was breakfasted and packed and on the move by shortly after 08.30. I had thought to climb Ben Creggan 697mtrs and Ben Gorm 700mtrs which rose steeply directly across the road from the hostel but at the last minute I opted for the Sheeffry Hills which were just a few kilometers away and they stretched in an east west axis from the shores of Doo Lough. I parked my car a short way along the little road that ran through the valley under Ben Creggan and The Sheefry's and after crossing the river using some slimy rocks as stepping stones I set off up the steep slopes that rose a full 700mtrs towards Barrclashcame 772mtrs. It was another chilly morning and the wind was a little stiffer today so there was little chance of overheating as I rose steadily. One thing that delighted me was how dry the ground was and it stayed that way throughout. It always makes it a little easier when you don't have wet bog sucking at your feet. Again as I rose up the views got better and looking over the lake to Ben Lugmore was great and Ben Creggan and Ben Gorm rose to the south and after a little while the Connemara mountains also drew the eye.
|Getting high on Barrclashcame|
|Croagh Patrick to the north|
|Easy wonderful walking ahead|
|Towards Clare Island and Achill in the mists beyond|
Eventually I reached the broad almost flat summit ridge and I wandered easily to the inconspicuous summit. Ahead stretched over four kilometers of gently rolling ridge that made for super easy and very enjoyable walking. I gamboled along and enjoyed the views and tried to ignore the biting and occasionally buffeting as I passed over Tievummera &62 mtrs and then Tievnabinnea 745mtrs before dropping easily southeast towards Tievnabinnea south east top 525mtrs and then dropping down steeply to the harvested forestry below and easily back to the road. I then had a further 5kilometers on tarmac but it was a delight on the deserted lane that led back to the car. A very enjoyable 4.5 hours had been spent on what was new ground for me and it is a nice undemanding circuit with good underfoot conditions. When the cloud would be down and visibility poor it would be a good place to practice map and compass skills. I was all set and on the road again by 13.40 and I enjoyed the fifty or so kilometer drive to the lovely little town of Clifden where I checked into my hotel and enjoyed an evening of luxury in the plush surroundings and made full use of the leisure centre and had a three course dinner thrown in as well. It was worth it.
|If you have to walk a road it might as well be one like this|
I stuck to my 7am rising time and after a full Irish breakfast I was checked out of the hotel by 08.30 and on the road towards the biggest little mountains in these islands...The Twelve Bens. Today I was going to do the Owenglin Horseshoe which is a big circuit of about 20kilometers and involves around 1800mtrs of climbing so I wouldn't have any time to waste if I was to get it all in before dark. I drove in the little bog road that exits off the main road a few kilometers before the Benlettery youth hostel and after several kilometers parked where a narrow bridge crosses the river. I was on the move at 8.48 and for the first couple of kilometers I walked back along the road until I could start across the bog towards the slopes of Benglenisky 517mtrs. Soon I was climbing steadily up the increasingly rocky slope and eventually crested to a crumpled crest with several cairns. The view over the wilderness of water and bog to the south is always wonderful and this was added to by the sun creeping through the cloud on the eastern horizon. Passing the rocky crest you cross a broad boggy saddle before climbing onto the ridge that rises from Benlettery to the first of the major tops on the round Bengower 664mtrs. Unfortunately the cloud was a little lower today and seemed to have settles at around the 600mtr mark so once I reached this top I had little reason to tarry before setting off towards the next mountain Benbreen 691mtrs. Some care is needed here as the descent is steep in places and precipitous drops are to be found if you take the wrong route. Today though it wasn't too long before I was back under the cloud and I could once again enjoy more expansive scenes.
|Looking into the Owenglin Horseshoe...A couple of tops cannot be seen|
|It is often magical to come out from the cloud|
|Looking south over Roundstone Bog|
|See what a full Irish does to you..|
|In Maumina. The heart of the Twelve Bens|
|Not a bad spot for lunch..Looking towards Bencorrbeg|
|Looking towards Diamond hill and Tully|
|Less rocky but still lovely|