Summer Walks: The Western Greenway and Ballyhoura Way

Walking outdoors, as an exercise, is sometimes regarded as the poor relation of the keep fit merchants.  Yet, it is the one exercise that can be undertaken from those just old enough to walk to golden oldies.  One of my random friends that I meet occasionally on my regular walk through Blackrock park is 98 years old.  Walking releases those much needed endorphins into your system, particularly if you are in the fresh air.  Here in Ireland we are spoilt for choice when it comes to walking holidays, so apologies to other wonderful walking trails not included in this Blog.  I have opted for specific walks in Mayo and Cork for this summer.

The Great Western Greenway (Mayo):  This is a fairly newish trail in Co. Mayo, established within the last decade and which has gained a massive reputation and following over the last few years.  It is nearly 50 kms long and begins in Westport and ends in Achill, passing through the towns of Newport and Mulranny as it meanders along the scenic coast of Clew Bay.  A  favourite part of this very long trail for many is that of the Mulranny spur to Achill which is 17 kms long and graded easy, so good for those who don’t like to feel too breathless when taking exercise.  The beauty of this spur is the freedom not to have to watch out for traffic on the narrow side roads and having to jump into the nearest ditch as it is a properly designed walking/hiking trail. The concept of designated walking/hiking trails is such a fantastic idea and the Barrow walkway (Co. Carlow)  is getting a lot of publicity lately.  There is also the opportunity for the ‘random chat’ which I consider a must with any walk.  Everything you need to know about The Western Greenway is on their website  http://www.greenway.ie/   Where to base yourself is another important consideration and where better than the lovely Newport House in Newport town, with its wonderfully comfortable bedrooms.   Newport is a genuine Irish town and not filled with tourist pastiche stuff.

The Ballyhoura Way (Cork):  This National Waymarked Trail is 90 kms long and is described as a ‘moderate’ trail. The walkway actually runs along the borders of three counties – Cork; Tipperary and Limerick and you can choose to walk sections of it at a time This means that it covers a wider range of terrain from tarmac roads, forestry tracks, open moorland and field paths.  Some of the road sections are quite busy and care is advised for walkers.  Some of the uplands can be wet and it is advisable to have proper footwear for this walkway.  Taking a run at it would take four days walking on the trot (excuse the pun)!   The trail is best accessed at one of seven key trailheads, which provide information map boards and car parking. These are located reasonably close to  services and facilities, including shops, restaurants and public transport. The trailhead details  are on the following website: http://visitballyhoura.com/index.php/2012/04/16/ballyhoura-way/  There are also mountain bike trails along the Ballyhoura Way for those who like to move a little faster.

An excellent place to stay would be Longueville House, on the Killarney side of Mallow town. You will need to drive to one of the trailheads from there but it won’t take that long.

At Longueville you are assured of superb accommodation and fantastic food based on their extensive herb and vegetable garden.  After a long day’s walking you could treat yourself to an apéritif/digestif of their homemade Apple Brandy and/or Cider.

Just remember you will need a clear head for the long walk!