Skelp Mountain Walk in Co. Mayo

The Skelp Mountain walk makes a circuit around Croagh Patrick. This 11km walk starts and finish at the entrance to Brackloon Woods.

Take the N59 out of Westport for about 6km and, when you reach the Owenwee River, the Brackloon Wood is on the far side. Take the next right turn, cross the bridge and, after 200 metres, park your car near a wooden gate.

At the entrance to Brackloon Woods the walk starts, follow the track and keep walking along the Owenwee River.

You will see a gate, cross through it and turn left on the road. Take the first small road on the right. Now the path climbs in and around low hills.

Turn left at a T-junction where there are a small white cottage and a red barn on the left. Turn right and follow the gently rising path.

Now you will have superb views of Croagh Patrick and across Clew Bay, watch for an old gate and go through it.

The gate leads onto an old track which climbs over the Skelp Mountain with its ever more stunning views. At the top of the hill, new views open out ahead across extensive bogland.

Follow the old path and when you reach a T-junction turn left. Walk along the Owenwee valley and turn left to return to the starting point.

DID YOU KNOW?

Skelp, in Irish Scealp, means a rocky cleft. Here the rocks are made of quartzite. This metamorphic rock, difficult to erode, is found on Croagh Patrick, Errigal in Donegal and Sugarloaf in Wicklow too.

Quartzite was originally pure quartz sandstone, which is converted into quartzite through heating and pressure related to the earth movement and upwellings of magma.

This walks rolls through a heathland, here the soils are acid and very poor in nutrients. Ling or Common Heather is the most abundant species and its purple flowers make up the wonderful landscapes of this area in late summer.

Sweathouse

Along the Owenwee River there are the ruins of an old sweathouse. This building had a stone structure where a fire could be lit. When the house got hot, patients entered the house, covered up the opening and remained inside sweating it out.

Then they came out and took a quick bath into the river.

Tochar Phadraig

The Skelp Mountain Walk crosses the ancient pilgrim route known as Tochar Phadraig after Ireland's patron saint. It runs from Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Patrick.

Tochar Phadraig predates christianity and was probably built around 350AD, as the main route from Cruachan (seat of the kings of Connacht) to Cruachan Aigle, the pagan name for Croagh Patrick.

This path was one of the major pilgrimage walks in Ireland until the suppression of the pilgrimage around 1588 when it went into decline.

Many of the fields and rock slabs have names and traditions associated with the pilgrimage such as Leic na ndaoine, Leac do Pheadar or Craigean na Gaoithe. In Irish Leac means a slab.