Walk for the weekend: No better way to spend a sun-filled morning

The Mullaghmore Loop is a jewel in Sligo’s crown

Part of the beautiful Mullaghmore Loop in Co Sligo.

Part of the beautiful Mullaghmore Loop in Co Sligo.

 

“Summer’s here!” said the first person we passed just outside picturesque Mullaghmore Harbour. And, of course, summer wasn’t “here”: it was mid-January, and the temperature was about 9°C. But, for everyone on the 4.6km Mullaghmore Loop that day, a beautiful day and a beautiful place were coming together to create a really special experience!

And that day was immensely beautiful: a bright sun hung low over Ben Bulben in a faultless sky, and a gentle sea-air windchill encouraged pace but did not dissipate the hint of sun-borne warmth. The long line of the Donegal coast, from the bright sands of Rossnowlagh in the east to the high mountains of the west, showed off its winter raiment of soft yellows and browns, its skyline a little lost in a subtle blue-grey haze. The in-between sea was a ruffled blue, with the whitest of breakers washing onto the tilted limestone platforms of the nearby shore.

And it was, and is, a beautiful place: Mullaghmore, with its pristine curving beach and ancient rocky shore, its well-protected harbour and hint of old-world charm, is a jewel in the many-jewelled crown of Sligo county. There is nowhere better to spend a sun-filled morning of coffee and the paper, and a walk around the Mullaghmore Loop. The loop starts at the information panel on the well-tended green area by the harbour. This panel is well worth a read before walking: it will enrich your journey with information on the history, geology, wildlife and local interests of the harbour and your route.

For us that beautiful day, the high ground gained in the first few minutes afforded views of the great cliffs of Slieve League across Donegal Bay, and the close-in reefs told us of the famous Mullaghmore surfing waves thrown up when wild Atlantic storm depressions come to visit. Further on, the route swung due west, bringing the flat line of distant Inishmurray into our view, prompting yet another plan to go visit! A little panel on the roadside told us of Earl Mountbatten’s love for Mullaghmore and the local people, and of the sad deaths he and three of his party suffered at the hands of the IRA on a summer’s day in 1979. It also told of the healing visit of the earl’s grandnephew, the Prince of Wales, in 2015.

Further on over little rolling hills, the classic silhouette of Classiebawn, against Sligo’s iconic Ben Bulben, came into view for us across a shining wave-washed shore. Closer to the castle, another poignant little notice prompted us to remember the lonely death of cold and despair, on a wintery night in the 1960s, of another who knew that headland well, poor local man Freddy McHugh.

The loop then turns east, opening up views over the high Dartry escarpments and the fine sands of Mullaghmore beach; and soon it swings north to enter the village where your reward of maybe another coffee, and even lunch, awaits.

Walk for the weekend: Mullaghmore Loop, Co Sligo

Map: Sheet 16 or detailed map on panel in harbour area

Getting there: take R279 off the N15 at Cliffoney

Effort: 4.6kms, 1 to 1.5hrs and minimal climbing

Suitability: easy, suitable for all; quiet paved road and grass margins with little traffic

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