Great places to Go Wild in Limerick and Mayo

The long-list is coming but meanwhile here are another two of our favourites: Ballyhoura in Co Limerick and the Blueway in Killary Fiord, Co Mayo

The wild landscape of the Ballyhoura Forest provides the perfect location for mountain biking, for our Best Place to go Wild in Ireland series. Video: Daniel O'Connor

Wed, May 14, 2014, 15:17

Stack-climbing, cave camping, lake swimming and night kayaking are just some of the activities we’ve learned about from readers, during the The Irish Times Best Places to Go Wild in Ireland competition. More than 3,800 people entered the competition, which is all about the best places on the island to experience nature.

Our judges are now choosing a longlist of 20 great spots.  If you’re looking for somewhere to go in the meantime, read these write-ups by Frank Kelly, who loves Ballyhoura in Co Limerick and Maura Lyons who wants you to join her in Killary harbour in Co Mayo. The winner will be announced in early June.

To see all the nominations and more visit


Ballyhoura, Co Limerick - nominated by Frank Kelly

When you tell friends and family you’re thinking about a holiday in Ballyhoura, you may be met with quizzical look. Ballyhoura? Em, where?

While I live about 40km from Ballyhoura, I always leave the place having met the locals who make this oasis so interesting.

About eighteen months ago, I mentioned to my barber Larry that I was going to a gay wedding reception that evening in Kilmallock, one of the principal towns in the Ballyhoura region. “Oh, I’ve been to a druidic wedding in nearby Lough Gur”, he responded. Well, that put me in my place.

That evening, I ventured over to the wedding reception at the Deebert House Hotel in Kilmallock. I chatted to the local auctioneer DJ; he introduced me to his wife Annette who runs Ballyhoura Horse Trails. Even if you’re a novice, the five-star reviews on Tripadvisor will give you reassurance about how being on horseback could be one ideal way to explore Ballyhoura country with Annette.

And the more you listen to the locals like Annette, the more you will discover about Ballyhoura’s areas of unspoilt, natural beauty. But it is only when you chat to the locals that Ballyhoura’s wild side reveals itself.

If you’re a weekend-warrior, then, you’re going to be enthused by the range of tracks at the National Mountain Bike Centre near Ardpatrick. Want to challenge yourself a little more? Then, check out the Headless Horseman adventure races, a series of day-time adventure races.

Still not wild enough? Then, challenge yourselves in the forty-hour Beast of Ballyhoura Adventure Race; it starts at 2am on a Saturday morning and finishes on a Sunday evening at 6pm. Now, that IS wild.

For more tranquil escapes, explore Lough Gur, a prehistoric site rich in natural beauty; you might even come across a druidic wedding! Right now, you could watch on YouTube how local videographer, Tony Grehan, has captured the tranquillity of Lough Gur using a flying video drone. His 4min 58sec video will almost transport you there.

How about some looped walks? The Canon Sheehan Looped Walk is one of my favourites, a tranquil saunter where you will experience nature at its best. Just visualise now what you’re going to experience: the so-called Black Ditch, possibly Iron Age; the sounds of the Ogeen River and those Tolkien-esque trees with weird moss beards. Truly, naturally wild.

In whatever way you want to discover your wild side, go wild in Ballyhoura Country. Simply different. Simply natural. Simply better. Simply wild. Simply you. 



Killary Fjord Blueway, Co Mayo. Nominated by Maura Lyons

If you have never tried a sea sport, this is the year to don your wetsuit and snorkel! Be captivated by exotic sea life on Ireland’s new Blueway, a magical marine-trail which will open in 2014 in Co Mayo and Galway. This exciting new snorkelling and canoeing/kayaking experience will allow you put your face in the water and see a different world. Each of the canoe or kayak trails will be 10-15km long while the snorkelling trails will stretch to between one and three kilometres. These areas are already noted for their sea life attractions. The snorkel or kayak trips are an excellent trip for seeing plants and animals in another world. Killary has an abundance of sea life such as sea squirts and dahlia anemones, while Kayakers paddling into its harbour might encounter dolphins or seals.

What better way to round off the day than with a nice cold pint of Guinness or a hot pot of tea upon return to Delphi Adventure Resort.


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