Wet and wild but worth it Killadoon, Co Mayo

The top of Killadoon Hill, in Co Mayo, is unremarkable, but its 360-degree views over land and sea are fantastic, writes FRANCIS…

The top of Killadoon Hill, in Co Mayo, is unremarkable, but its 360-degree views over land and sea are fantastic, writes FRANCIS BRADLEY

THE WEATHER was pretty grim in July and August, as you know, and nowhere more so than in west Co Mayo, where it was truly miserable. We still made our annual late-August trip to the area, though, and even though I didn't arrive until a few days after the others, I hoped to bag a walk around Doo Lough.

Before I got there my wife and son got out twice, doing "the Croagh" and Owenwee Bog - the latter in foul conditions.

My hopes were dashed when I inspected my planned route. I have never seen so much water pour off the mountains. Rivers were racing, ditches and drains were brimming and it was impossible to get to the start of my route, as it involved crossing a river.


Besides, torrential showers were constantly moving in from the Atlantic, and the wind was so strong that it was whipping swirling masses of spray from Doo Lough itself.

A shorter trek was required, one that offered plenty of escape routes and a chance of staying below the almost constant wet grey fug sitting on Mweelrea and the Sheeffry Hills. We decided on Killadoon Hill, which overlooks Killeen, Killadoon, Devlin and Thallabawn, 10km south of Louisburgh.

We started from the car park at the Ocean Lodge Hotel, in Killadoon, and walked back up to the main road, where we turned right, south, and continued along the road with Killadoon Hill rising on our left, big old potato drills still visible on its slopes. After a kilometre, opposite a turn for Devlin, is a wide opening on the left that gives you access to the open mountainside.

We had started out in rare sunshine but were wary that this could change at any moment. Sure enough, not 10 minutes into our climb up Killadoon we saw a curtain of rain steamrolling in from the Atlantic, swallowing islands in its grey folds.

At least we had time to get kitted up and find some meagre shelter behind a rock - albeit in a puddle. This turned out to be more than adequate, and we were soon on our way again.

The top of Killadoon Hill (267m) is unremarkable, but its 360-degree views are fantastic - Mweelrea, the Sheeffry Hills, the Partry Mountains, Croagh Patrick, the Nephin range, Achill, Clare Island, Inishturk and Inishbofin. Between showers we skipped over to points 257m and 255m. In worsening conditions, common sense intervened, and we decided to get off the mountain.

Heading almost directly west, and to the right of a watercourse, we made for the ruined Gowlaun Church, which was built around 1816. In the late 1800s the parish priest decided, following a huge number of evictions in Thallabawn, that most of the congregation lived north of the church and that a new church was needed. This was built at Killeen, and slate from Gowlaun Church was used to roof it. Local legend has it that the holy-water font at the entrance to the old church never dries up.

Following the lane down to the road, we turned right, north, and after a couple of hundred metres turned left down a narrow road towards the coast. Evidence of the heavy work of the Atlantic is clear along this short stretch of coastline. Just as the road veers away from the coast we crossed on to Bunlough Strand and continued north until we could get on to the road leading back to the Ocean Lodge Hotel.Start and finish The Ocean Lodge Hotel in Killadoon.

How to get there: Just off the Louisburgh-Uggool road.

Distance: Nine kilometres.

Time: Two or three hours.

Map: Ordnance Survey Ireland Discovery Series, sheet 37.

Suitability: An easy walk for all ages. Know how to read a map and use a compass. Dress appropriately, bring drinks and snacks - and don't litter.

Accommodation: If you're staying, you could rent a house from Vivienne Gibbons (087-6975400) or Mary Gibbons (087-7737689).

Refreshments: Louisburgh.