Ireland has designated its first national wilderness: a vast area of mountain, bog and forest on the country’s wild west coast. But is a real ‘backcountry’ experience possible on such a small island? Lenny Antonelli spent three days finding out
The Great Outdoors magazine, December 2013
You won’t meet many other walkers in the Nephin Beg mountains. You can kind of understand why. Only two of these hills peep over 700 metres, they get about four times as much rain as Dublin, and they’re a long way from most places.
A long stroll beside one of Ireland’s most legendary rivers
Irish Times, Oct 19, 2013
Walking a riverbank gives you new perspective on a landscape. While climbing a mountain opens the land up around you, walking a quiet waterway hides you from the world. The river becomes your own private highway through the countryside. Was any Irish river historically more important than the Boyne? Ancient landmarks line this valley: Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth, Trim Castle, the site of the Battle of the Boyne, the Hill of Tara.
Wild Nephin project aims to create 27,000 acres of unique wilderness landscape
The Nephin Beg mountain range rises on Ireland’s western coast and stretches 20 miles into the sparsely populated northwest of County Mayo. This is a landscape of boglands and heath-covered mountains, battered by Atlantic winds and rain. The only forests here are stands of Lodgepole pine and Sitka spruce, planted in an attempt to wrestle economic gain from the unproductive soil.
A stroll through one of Co Dublin’s oldest woodlands
Irish Times, Sept 14, 2013
There’s so little old woodland in Ireland it feels like an exotic habitat. Trees once covered our island, but today walking in woods is a novelty compared to walking on hills, beaches or bog. I was browsing a study of ancient Irish woodlands recently, hoping to discover those last places this primeval landscape survives and came across one listing for Dublin: St Catherine’s Wood, Lucan.
Irish Times, August 17, 2013
Hiking Ireland’s first wilderness area
We simply need that wild country available to us,” the US novelist and historian Wallace Stegner wrote, “even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in.” This is an arresting idea: that wild places nourish our spirit even if we never enter them.
If there is true wild country anywhere in Ireland, it’s in the Nephin Beg mountains of north-west Mayo. In March, Coillte and the National Parks and Wildlife Service designated 11,000 hectares of bog, mountain and forestry here as Ireland’s first wilderness area, dubbed Wild Nephin.
Exploring the captivating woodlands on the shores of Galway Bay
Irish Times, 1 June 2013
You can climb mountains in search of wildness and yet find it in the most ordinary of places. Rinville is a typical park of woods and meadow near Oranmore, east of Galway city. When I first came here as a teenager the richness of the forest hooked me. The trampling of human feet made most suburban woodlands I knew barren, but here the understorey was thick with life.
Earth Island Journal, 1 May, 2013
Environmentalists and local fishermen concerned that sea lice from farm will harm wild salmon and trout populations
The project’s backers say the over 1,000-acre farm will bring jobs to coastal communities, while helping to meet demand for salmon in a sustainable manner. But critics claim it threatens wild fish populations.
The Irish Sea Fisheries Board, a government agency, is planning to develop the salmon farm near Inis Oírr, the smallest of three Gaelic-speaking islands that are famous for their unique limestone geology, rare wildflowers, and ancient archaeology.The farm is slated to produce 15,000 tons of organic-certified salmon per year, more than doubling Ireland’s production of farmed salmon.
Craoghaun, the highest cliffs in Ireland
Earthlines magazine, May 2013
The remote stretch of coastland on the north-west of Achill Island is sometimes called ‘the back of beyond’. The island is tethered to the County Mayo mainland by a swing bridge that resembles a leviathan’s fleshless ribs. When you come to Achill you enter the belly of the whale.
Lenny Antonelli takes a spring walk on one of Connemara’s less visited islands
Irish Times, April 27, 2013
Inis Ní always seemed elusive to me. I had often passed the seductive signpost for the island after coming over the vast and empty Roundstone bog. Just when you think you’ve found the wildest coast in Connemara, there is Inis Ní, stretching further into the sea.
Irish Times, April 13, 2013
Lenny Antonelli walks the Dodder river through Dublin
By the time they reach cities, most rivers have deposited their personality: they’re flat, dull, dirty. But the Dodder is different. Flowing from Kippure mountain to the Liffey, it’s a river rich in whitewater and wildlife.