A spectacular for the sure-footed
Go Walk:Watch your step on Achill’s Croaghaun or you could be seagull fodder, writes Deirdre Davys
SITTING IN THE bath surrounded by one’s cats seems an eminently sensible way to pass the long winter nights, which is precisely what a certain Major Frier is reputed to have done during his sojourn on Achill Island.
Perched on the side of Croaghaun mountain just below Corrymore Lake, the major’s old home, Corrymore House, commands one of the finest views on the island. That is on the good days. For much of the year the house is obscured by clouds drawn in by the mountain behind – little wonder that the major took to his bath.
Corrymore House is also associated with the famous Captain Boycott who gave the word boycott to the English language. He was renowned for his cruel treatment of his tenants who eventually refused to work for him.
The start of our walk up Croaghaun is at Corrymore Lake just above Corrymore House. Nowadays, this lake provides the drinking water for most of the island.
Steep craggy cliffs at the north and west sides of the lake make it dark and forbidding when the sky is grey. Should a Lough Ness-style monster’s head break the surface one would not be at all surprised. So choose a blue day to do this walk as the views are amazing even before you start to climb.
Your ascent is going to be a gradual one up the shoulder of the mountain rather than straight up the craggy cliffs behind the lake. So head north from the car park past the tiny lake called Corryntawy and, veering ever so slightly northwest, keep on climbing. The reason for keeping out to your right is to avoid going near to the cliff edge and to save yourself from having to climb steeply uphill at the start.
You might be lucky, as I was and see a tiny bog lizard (see below) scuttling away through the heather.
It is hard to believe that anything even remotely “lizardish” would choose to reside in the bogs of Ireland rather than in warm sunny climes, but they do exist. Perhaps someone has written a treatise on “the masochism of the Irish lizard” and could contact this writer.
In spring and summer the musical accompaniment of the skylarks singing high above you will gladden your heart as you press on up to the ridge. Once up at about 450 metres you start to see out over the back of the mountain. Far out to the northeast the golden beaches around Belmullet become visible. Almost straight ahead two tiny islands, one housing a lighthouse, can be seen.
THE NEXT SECTIONof the walk is very easy – just boggy ground rising gently before it turns into a real mountain again and rises steeply upwards. If you have a good head for heights move out to the edge of the ridge to see what the back of the island looks like. This is a view that only walkers or those who take a sea trip will ever see. Huge craggy cliffs fall away into the sea far below. Giant fissures in the rock tell of great geological events way back in time. This is spectacular scenery – not for the faint-hearted.
Step out just a little too far and you could be over the edge and fodder for the seagulls. Not even the usually sure-footed sheep get it right all the time as the odd carcass lying around can testify.
After you have got your adrenalin fix, keep well in from the ridge and head southeast towards the cone of the mountain. This can look very daunting should mists be swirling up from far below giving just fleeting glimpses of the summit before closing in again. But don’t be put off, it looks much worse than it is and quite quickly you will be on top of some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe.
In order to avoid descending by the cliffs behind Corrymore Lake head in a southeasterly direction.
This route descends relatively steeply at first and then flattens out onto a rock-strewn flattish section. Going by this route you will approach the lake from its southern side. You can then go along the shore and up to where you parked your car. A fence goes from the road down nearly to the water’s edge but it is easy to get past it.
With plenty of stops for photographs this walk should not take more than three hours. You might even be tempted to go body-boarding at the magnificent Keel beach before heading home.
Croaghaun mountain, Achill
START AND FINISH: Corrymore Lake
HOW TO GET THERECar, bicycle or bus to Dooagh and then a walk of no more than 5km
MAPOrdnance Survey Ireland Discovery Series 22
TIMEAbout three hours
SUITABILITYA reasonable level of fitness and the ability to use a compass