Walking Mweelrea Co. Mayo
Hiking Mweelrea from the west
Mweelrea is the highest mountain in both Mayo and Connacht. Standing at 814 meters the peak offers panoramic, nay dramatic, views of surrounding mountains as well as The Sheffry Hills, the Twelve Bens, Killary Harbour, Croagh Patrick and some of Mayo’s finest beaches. With all these wonders on offer you’ll not be surprised to learn that these vistas are not given lightly, but are earned no matter what direction you approach this sometimes forbidding mountain from.
Together with two friends I climbed Mweelrea from the relatively easier Western side.
Our walk took 5hrs 45 minutes including about 1.5 hours of breaks and searching for a pair of lost sunglasses…
Note: For driving direction to Mweelrea you can click on the map above and select ‘Directions’. The map will then open in a larger format and allow you to specify your start point.
While researching walking routes for Mweelrea – through a combination of guide books and comments on Mountainviews.ie – I came to the conclusion that approaching using the ‘classic’ route which involves starting from Doo Lough or Delphi and tackling “The Ramp” sounded a little too hairy for my liking. Phrases like ‘I had my heart in my mouth’ and ‘A rope may be required’ turned me off bringing two friends up this route without having experienced it for myself in advance. Whether or not the route is actually as exposed and unnerving as some accounts would suggest is something I’ll just have to find out some other time. Have you walked Mweelrea using this route? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
With that in mind I chose to approach from the West, a walk which is a lot less dramatic but still offers views of the dramatic ridges that more hardy walkers will have crossed to reach the saddle between Benbury and Mweelrea.
Driving from Louisburgh we followed signs for the wonderful Silver Strand beach before parked up at a lay by just past a pink house at Dadreen [L687762], just a minute or two before the road ends at the beach itself.
From here a couple of minutes walking up a rough track that parallels a stream will see you through a gate and into the open hillside. At this point you should be able to see the col between Ben Bury and Mweelrea just to the right of straight ahead.
We headed towards the col, making steady progress through the boggy grass until one of our party noticed that his sunglasses were missing. This was about two minutes after we had stopped to admire some of the numerous frogs that are living on the hillside, so we backtracked as best we could and searched for about twenty minutes. Unfortunately, the featureless grass and heather gave us little to reference and we had no luck. Dammit, if only we had littered during our stop we probably would have been able to find the glasses! Having marked the general area with our GPS we pushed on, gradually veering to our right until we met a stream which has etched a channel for itself into the hillside. We crossed this at around 350 meters and followed it on up towards the col.
At around 550 meters the ground steepens for the final rise to the col. We could have altered course to the left to take a slightly easier route, but being three guys we bulled our way up the steeper ground for 5 – 10 minutes to emerge about 30 meters or so above the central section of the col, around point [L794674].
A moments walk further towards the East opens up spectacular views down towards Delphi and around towards Ben Lugmore which was for the most part covered by cloud but occasionally cleared to show its jagged ridge.
After a break for lunch we pushed on towards the summit which was in cloud. It took just a few minutes to reach the cairn from the Col, with the ascent looking more difficult than it turned out to be.
With no sign of a break in the clouds we didn’t loiter at the top and instead retreated back to the saddle for another cup of coffee. We had considered venturing up Ben Bury and out towards Benlugmore but with little prospect of being able to see down from these heights due to the clouds we opted instead to head for home.
We stopped for a half hour or so to search for the missing sunglasses (without success) before strolling back down to the car and off towards Westport for a well-earned meal.
Mweelrea was my 19th county highpoint of 26 I plan to walk this year. It’s a mountain I’d love to walk again, next time approaching from Doo Lough.
Planning a walking route for Mweelrea
Mweelrea and surrounding mountains BenBury and Ben Lugmore get plenty of attention on mountainviews.ie where there are lots of accounts of walking routes people have used.