Letterkeen Loop Walk in Co. Mayo
The area provides tremendous scope for mountain climbing and hill walking, as well as cultural and historic tours of the area. The old Bangor Trail walk (48 km) is regarded as one of the finest walks in the country.
Letterkeen Loop Walk
This Way Marked Route was officially opened in July 2000. Its development was a natural progression as the region had already two Way Marked Trails namely the Bangor Trail and the Western Way passing though The Nephin Beg Mountain range.
The route of this walk combines a portion of the Bangor Trail and the Western Way and a trail that joins both these routes through what is known locally as "The Sheep Pass".
The walk starts at Letterkeen Woods, which is one of the largest forest blocks in the country and is situated northwest of Clew Bay in the Nephin Beg Mountain Range. This area was devoid of woodland until 1951 when the Government introduced a forestry development programme.
The main species are lodge pole pine and Japanese larch on the mountain slopes, with sitka spruce being planted in the more fertile valleys.
The Government has recently acquired several thousand acres in this remote part of the county, which is to be developed into a National Park. There will be an Interpretive Centre at Ballycroy.
Follow the Main Street through the town of Newport and at the end of the town keep left following the N59 towards Achill for 1 Kilometre(km).
Turn northwards towards at signpost, indicating Treenlaur Youth Hostel and the Bangor Trail, towards Lough Furnace. Follow this road for about 1 km. At the signpost for Lough Furnace continue straight through passing a disused two storey house on your right.
Continue along this road passing Lough Feeagh to your left and Buckoogh Mountain on your right. Continue past Treenlaur Youth Hostel until you come to Shramore Lodge, you then cross a small bridge over the Srahrevagh River.
Shortly after this, before you come to the entrance of Letterkeen Wood, turn left following the signposts for the Bangor Trail and the Western Way. Follow this minor road for 1 km where you will notice billboards outlining the Bangor Trail, the Western Way and the Letterkeen Loop.
Our walk starts about 9km northwest of Newport just beyond Shramore Lodge at the Brogan Carroll Bothy (Grid Ref. F 968 056.)
The first section of our walk follows Green Way Markers for the Bangor Trail. The Way Markers for this walk are white and the last section of the walk follows the Western Way route markers, which are yellow in colour.
Our walk starts at the Brogan Carroll Bothy. Follow the route for the Bangor Trail for the first section of the walk (green markers). Cross the minor stream to reach WM.14 and then take a sharp left following the forest edge until you reach the Altaconey River. Follow the river downstream until you reach a metal footbridge, which brings you to WM 15.
Follow the track along the Forest Fence until WM 18. You will notice the long ridge of Coirin Beg Mountain to your East. The forest was planted around 1951 and consists mainly of lodge pole pine and sitka spruce. The ground rises gradually until WM17 is reached. There is then a fairly steep climb to 205m and then downhill to WM18.
About 50m past WM18 you will notice a way marker coloured white indicating a sharp right turn. Follow this route to the East along the forest perimeter fence for about 1km. As you walk along this section you will be overlooking the forest and Lake Avoher comes into view in the valley below you. This section of the route is known locally as "The Sheep Pass".
At the next way marker takes a sharp turn right bringing Spot Height 311 (Grid Ref.F951 085) into view. Continue to this spot height and then take a right turn in the direction of spot height 266following this trail for about 500m; then turn left keeping north of the spur. This track brings you to a forest road.
Take a sharp turn right and follow this road to a minor intersection. At a signpost for Lough Avoher take a turn left following yellow way markers. Follow this forest road through Letterkeen Woods westwards along the Altaconey River, which brings us to the starting point of our walk at Brogan Carroll's Bothy.
The length of the trail is approx 9 km.
Maps and Guidebooks
The route is covered in OSI Discovery Series Sheet No. 31.
Mayo County Council have also published two excellent guidebooks on The Bangor Trail and The Western Way, which are available from most bookshops and tourist offices or from Mayo County Council offices. Tel. 094 21444.