Go wild with a mountain walk, lake swim or storm-watch
More than 750 people have entered our Best Place to Go Wild in Ireland competition. Almost half of their pitches are for Co Mayo
Glacial valleys of Glendalough: swimming there brings you to ‘another world and time’
More than 750 members of the public have now submitted entries for the Irish Times Best Place to Go Wild in Ireland competition. Below are three of those pitches, and a map showing where all the entries so far have come from. Only four counties are not yet represented: Armagh, Cavan, Fermanagh and Louth.
The hunt for the best spots to experience nature in Ireland’s 32 counties began on March 29th. You can r ead all the entries so far, write your own and learn more about the competition at irishtimes.com/gowild.
Storm-chasing in Erris, Co Mayo
Wild means no one else. In Erris, Co Mayo, you can be the only one on the beach on a sunny day . Only a few are lucky enough to have visited this beautiful area , and there’s no better place to be when the weather is good.
I grew up in South Africa, and this is the only place in Ireland that brings me close to home. It starts with the road to Belmullet. Not a house in sight for a few miles . Beautiful mountains to do a short hike . The white, soft sandy beaches that are long enough for horse racing , and others kept as secrets by surfers and locals .
I have seen otters, seals, dolphins and wild salmon, and heard the corn crake’s “hex hex” call .
No place is wilder than Erris during a storm . Locals take kids for a drive to a safe viewing point and watch the waves smashing against the rocks and sending beautiful fireworks of white surf metres into the sky.
Walking trails, boat trips, wind surfing, kayaking, kite surfing , calm waters for bathers , wild salmon-fishing in the clear fresh rivers or sea- fishing off the rocks or the boats; the list is endless.
I was asked by many an Irish friend: Why the hell do you want to live in that god forsaken place? They haven’t realised that it’s a fine, rare, beautiful gem . God looks downstairs on Erris and He’s pleased .
Swimming in Glendalough, Co Wicklow
Everyone knows world-famous Glendalough, a national-park lake that is on the doorstep of the capital but that instantly transports you to another world and time. But how many know it from the water? Swimming and event boats have been banned there for years, but now, once a year, swimming is allowed . Over a weekend in September there are swims of three distances – 750m, 1.5km and 3.9km – up the glacier valley. For years we have looked at it; now I can be in it: my own best place to go wild .
Freedom in Knockmealdown, Co Waterford
Heinrich Harrer wrote in his great book, Seven Years in Tibet : “Mountains give us strength and provide a refuge. They are the realms of freedom.” Elijah walked for 40 days and 40 nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God . He recognised a divine presence by “the sound of a gentle breeze”. Our walk takes about five hours for hardy pilgrims.
The Knockmealdown, on the Tipperary-Waterford border, is my M t Horeb. One can experience a powerful spiritual atmosphere climbing it.
Over the years I have set out from the Cistercian abbey of Mount Melleray and walked to the source of that monastery’s water . Its abundance reminds us that a billion people do not have access to a safe water supply .
One now enters rugged terrain, where the walker matches strength of mind and body against the challenges of nature. Keep to the right ascending, on an ill-defined path. Walking through the valley, the stillness is broken by sheep and birdsong. Sky, mountains and moorland form a kaleidoscope of colours.
Meister Eckhart said: “Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness.” At 794m (2,600 ft) Knockmealdown invites one to leave the land of fear and walk into the land of trust.
Brendan Ó Cathaoir