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Connemara-Mayo Guided Walking Tour 2016

The west coast of Ireland is a walker’s paradise. Why not come to the edge of Europe, and be guided through a magnificent and mystical landscape? There are rambling country lanes to discover, breathtaking coastal paths, ancient pilgrim routes, ribbon like mountain tracks and the moors of Connemara richly scented with flora and fauna.

The walks are suitable for most people who are relatively fit and should be within the capabilities of most. A certain amount of flexibility is allowed in the program to allow for slower pace or bad weather. The walking pace is moderate with adequate stops for sightseeing, photographs and lunch.

Westport is an ideal location for a week long holiday as it has so much to offer.

One of Ireland's few 19th century planned towns its history goes back to the mid 18th century when the Browne family employed the well know architect James Wyatt. The tree lined streets that run along the Mall River and the lovely shop fronts make it a very pleasant town to visit. Westport has also been voted Ireland's tidiest town three times.


Day 1 - Saturday: Arrive at the Westport train station on the afternoon train due at 4:15 pm and transfer to your B&B just outside Westport by minibus. A brief description of the week to come in the evening, then you are taken to town for dinner. Take a taxi back to the B&B. Westport is a veritable mecca for traditional music with a member of the famous Chieftains owning a bar on the main street.

Day 2 - Sunday: Breakfast at 8 am. Depart the B&B at 9 am for a 60 minute transfer south to Connemara in County Galway where you will visit Connemara National Park. After visiting the interpretative centre the group will set out on the first hike of the week. Diamond Hill, so called for its glittering quartzite top that glistens in the sun, is today's objective. A well defined path leads you gradually upwards to 1600 feet. The views from the summit are majestic. Afterwards you will visit Kylemore Abbey (please note a small fee of about €8 applies to enter the Abbey and Cathedral) with its completely restored Victorian gardens. The Abbey, now a girl’s boarding school, is run by the Benedictine nuns. Dinner in town.

Day 3 - Monday*: Breakfast at 8 am and depart at 9 am. The wonderful quartzite coned mountain of Croagh Patrick has been a sacred place for almost 5,000 years. As far back as 3,000 BC Irish megalithic ancestors worshipped there. Before the birth of Christ, the festival of the God Lugh was held on its slopes. Lugh is the God whose name gives the Irish word Lughnasa for August, and it would seem that there is a connection between the pagan worship which took place at the end of the summer and the date fixed for the present day Christian pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick. Croagh Patrick is Ireland’s holy mountain where Patrick, the patron saint, spent 40 days and nights praying and fasting in 441 AD. While on the summit Patrick was tormented by blackbirds which surrounded him and in later stories became demons and serpents. Ancient chroniclers say that Patrick threw his bell at them and banished them into the hollow known as Lug Na Deamhan, which is located on the north side of the mountain. It is a common belief that this is why no poisonous snake or reptile can be found in Ireland today. The plain iron bell said to belong to the patron saint is preserved in the National Museum. Dinner in town.
Walk Details: 8 miles, 1750 feet, uphill climb on a loose stoned, pilgrim track, small section of bog and country lanes.
*Please note that you do not ascend to the summit of Croagh Patrick Mountain at 2500 feet as owing to the steepness and erosion of the track near the top which is considered unsuitable. The walk takes you to 1750 feet where you turn south and descend.

Day 4 - Tuesday: Breakfast at 9 am and depart at 10 am. You take a short sail to Clare Island this morning. Clare Island is synonymous with Grace O’ Malley, the formidable ruler of the Clew Bay district during the second half of the 16th century. One of the most interesting places on the island is the remains of the late 12th century Cistercian Friary, founded by the Monks of Abbeyknockmoy in County Galway. According to local folklore, following the death of Grace O’ Malley in 1603, her remains were interred in the decorated O’Malley wall tomb in the Friary. The Chancel Vault was once covered in wall paintings, patches of which remain. The walk will take you uphill on a good quality bog road from where you will view the island's cliffs before returning to the quayside for the return ferry. (Please note that the crossing to the island is subject to wind and weather conditions and may, in some cases, be taken earlier in the week at the discretion of the guide.) Dinner in town.
Walk Details: 8 miles on good level surface on back country roads.

Day 5 - Wednesday: Breakfast at 9 am. Today is your free day. Some of the many things you can do are golfing, fishing and horseback riding but they need to be booked in advance and transport organized to get there and back. It also gives you the opportunity to catch up on your emails and laundry. Dinner in town.

Day 6 - Thursday: Breakfast at 8 am and depart at 9 am. A one hour drive south takes the group once more to Connemara where you walk the Western Way. The walk starts just outside the village of Leenane and finishes in the Inagh Valley. On the route you will clearly see the ruins of famine villages and lazy beds, the name given to the potato ridges where the starving Irish peasant tried to provide food for his family. Dinner in town.
Walk Details: 12 miles, some ascent on mostly good tracks and forest paths that can be wet and boggy in places. This hike can be shortened to 9 miles and can be done in reverse sometimes depending on the wind direction.

Day 7 - Friday: Breakfast at 8 am and depart at 9 am. Your final day’s hike is a half day. You head north to the foothills of the Nephin Mountains where a sequence of bog roads take you through peat bogs where you will see the traditional methods of turf cutting still in evidence. The walk also offers great views of Clew Bay and the Islands. Dinner in town.
Walk Details: 9 miles on good track. By early afternoon you will be back in the accommodation where after showering you will be taken to town for some shopping.

Day 8 - Saturday: After breakfast the minibus will take you to Westport train station if you are planning on going elsewhere in Ireland.

Please note that the itinerary may be changed at the discretion of the guide and that the walks listed may not always take place in the sequence indicated as determining factors such as weather conditions and tides may prevail.

What's included in this tour:
* 7 nights B&B accommodation
* 5 pack lunches
* 5 days walking
* Services of a walking guide & driver
* Transfer to/from Westport Railway station at preset times
* All associated transport to/from days walking
* Ferry to Clare Island

What's not included in this tour:
* Dinners
* Entrance fee to Kylemore Gardens (€8.00 in 2014)
* All alcoholic beverages and phone calls
* Taxi fare home to B&B in the evenings

Price: $875 per person

2016 Dates:
May 21-28, June 25-July 2, July 9-16, July 23-30, August 20-27, September 3-10

Contact: Hoofbeats International (yes, we do walking trips too!)

To ask questions:
Skype id: hoofbeatsinternational
Phone: 978-631-0440
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