The Western Way
The Western Way is an iconic linear walking route from Oughterard in County Galway to the village of Ballycastle in North Mayo. According to the National Trails Office the total length of the trail is 216 kms. However, please note, the Western Way is currently being extended to link with the Sligo Way at Lough Talt, as well as connecting with the Foxford Way and the Bonniconlon Loops of East Mayo.
The Mayo section of the Western Way covers 150kms and much of the route is on forestry tracks or moorland paths and walkers should be prepared for some very wet sections. The aggregate ascent is nearly 1700m, but there are no significant climbs.
County Mayo consists of a rugged landscape of which thirty six percent is made up of mountain, bog and lake. The county experienced the greatest depopulation of any county in Ireland during and after the Great Famine: the 388,000 inhabitants in 1841 had reduced to just over 100,000 by the late 20th century, and it is hard not to sense this flight from the land as you walk through the county's magnificent mountain and moorland landscapes views.
From Leenane village, walkers must walk along the N59 to Aasleagh where the route goes off road and follows the Erriff River as it meanders through the Sheeffry Valley, Coillte's Tawnyard Forest and onwards to Drummin. From Drummin the trail goes cross country under the watchful eye of the looming holy mountain of Croagh Patrick before the spectacular vista to the north, over the many islands of Clew Bay, opens up before you as you take the coastal road to Westport.
North of Westport the route now follows the Great Western Greenway to Newport offering the walker the option of forwarding their backpacks and covering this section by bike. After Newport the trail goes back on road, before veering right onto a minor road that takes you past the beautiful mountain-framed Lough Feeagh where there is a tangible sense of moving away from 'civilisation'. Soon the route enters one of Ireland's last wildernesses, the barony of Tirawley and the largest expanse of peatland area in the country, bordered on the west by the Nephin Beg mountain range. This area is soon to become Ireland's first Wilderness Park. It's onward to Derry and Bellacorrick, then the wilderness of a heavily forested Sheskin, before descending towards the town of Ballycastle with the Atlantic Ocean filling the northern horizon.
This next section of the Western Way currently follows the road to Ballina; however, plans are afoot to take this section away from the main roads and along less travelled minor coastal roads, taking you as close as possible to the wild Atlantic Ocean before coming to the town of Ballina.
Please note: current OSI maps do not show the re-routes at Aasleagh or Sheeffry Bridge nor do they show proposed re-routes in North Mayo. Please follow yellow men directional signage at all times.
For further details can be found on the National Trails website: www.irishtrails.ie/Trail/Western-Way--Mayo-/38/. Accounts on individual sections of the Mayo Western Way can be found on Mayo News website: www.mayonews.ie/Living
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