Go Walk: Corraun Peninsula, Co Mayo

Tucked in between the Nephinbegs and Achill is this beautiful but little visited area

Corraun Peninsula, Co Mayo

Map: OS Discovery Series Sheet No 30
Start/Finish: Belfarsad Bridge, Corraun (west)
Time/Effort: 4/5hrs, 10kms, c.650mts of climbing
Suitability: moderate level of fitness, knowledge of mountain navigation required

Mayo is a wonderland for hikers – the Sheefries and Mweelrea, Croagh Patrick and that little-visited sweep of mountains from Nephin, through the Nephinbegs out to spectacular Croughaun at the western end of Achill Island. And tucked in between the Nephinbegs and Achill is another beautiful but little visited area – the Corraun Peninsula, itself nearly an island in its own right.

And that’s where we came on a stormy day in early November. A cold North Atlantic depression had rudely displaced the mild airs of October, and was heading our way from its spawning ground in the cold waters off Greenland; a preceding south-westerly gale and slow moving embedded front delivered the kind of day that doesn’t encourage being out on the hills! However, we had a plan to start at Belfarsad, on the shore of Achill Sound in the west, and enter and explore that unusual glacial topography tucked under northern flank of the Corraun plateau, using the mountain itself to protect us. Our aim was to gain an undulating sinuous “terrace” or step at about 100mts below the summit plateau and work our way along it, east to west, to where it merges with the col about a kilometre short of Corraun Hill summit at 524mts. Our plan then was to descend off the summit in a northwesterly direction to our starting point at Belfarsad.

And it all worked very well. We started in rain and wind from a parking area beside Belfarsad Bridge; a turf-cutters’ access track brought us, after about 2kms, into a tumbled glacial terrain of block moraines and beautiful wild loughs, gradually picking up the shelter of the mountain from the south wind as we progressed. Our route skirted the south-western corner of the forestry plantation on easy heathery ground and ascended onto the “terrace”, via the a promontory or “pier” pointing due north, from just east of Lough Cullydoo; again the going was easy, though the cloudbase and sheets of rain shrouded the high ground of the high plateau, sometimes rising sufficiently to show us the rim of the “terrace” against the higher mist.

The geological origins of this “terrace”, clearly discernible on the OS Sheet 30, were a mystery to us. However, it is likely to be a relict level predating the glacial excavation of the now lough-filled hollows below; indeed, intense glacial erosion appears to have cut back through the pre-existing “terrace” in one corner of the Cullydoo coum, creating there a high boulder-strewn concave backslope, reaching almost to the summit of the Corraun plateau.


We worked our way along the “terrace” in mountain mist conditions , closely scrutinising the map for its more widely spaced contours as it meandered to the west, sometimes showing itself as a small hanging valley and at others a wide area where a promontory abutted the headwall at right angles. Going was easy, safe and fairly sheltered. Compass navigation was needed to reach the top of Corraun Hill at 524mts, where we were gifted a sufficient raising of the cloudbase to allow us see our way down. Indeed, care was needed on the descent to Loughaun at 108mts, where we picked up an easy track to the cars and celebrated a day that proved enjoyable despite seriously discouraging conditions.