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The Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail - Balla to Ballintubber Print

Trail surface: forest tracks, farmland, country roads and boreens.

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 16 Kilometres

Duration: 4-6 hours walking

Start: Community Centre in Balla

O/S maps: 1:50000: number 30

CPHTMaps

After completing the Western Way back in early March, I was delighted to be asked to act as a guide for the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail (CPHT) Festival. This festival runs for three days every year over the St Patrick's Day public holiday weekend in March. The proceeds are donated annually to a most worthy cause, this year being the Mayo Roscommon Hospice. So, at 8:00 am on a beautiful, crisp, spring morning, 70 or so walkers gathered, resplendent in bright yellow and orange hi-vis vests, ready for the 16 km trek to Ballintubber Abbey. As we waited patiently for the start, I wondered what the farmers, passing on their way to the mart, must be thinking with this vision of bright colour emanating from the crowd.

The CPHT is the second of Mayo's two way marked ways, the Western Way being the other. Therefore, the way marking will always feature a yellow walking man symbol. Way marked ways must also meet a set of strict guidelines issued by the National Trails Office (NTO) which includes regular inspections by this body and corrective maintenance being carried out. The CPHT runs east/west, from Balla to Murrisk over three stages and, in today's stage, the trail acts as a conduit stitching together many of the famous heritage sites that exist between Balla and Ballintubber.

Balla was formerly known as 'Ros Dairbheach' or 'Place of the Oak Wood' and it is fitting that our walks begins by passing through old oak woodland. Balla round tower and medieval altar are also to be seen here; these were founded back in the early seventh century by St Cronan. This site also contains the famous Balla holy well or Tobar Mhuire and, encouragingly, this landmark site is currently being sympathetically restored by a team of experts. Until 1879 this well was the major pilgrimage centre in Mayo.

Pilgrimage_well_in_Knock

On an organised trek like today's, walkers divide into three, main groups. The hares, the tortoises and somewhere in between. I was that somewhere in between, availing of a steady pace to take in all the beautiful surroundings. The hares have disapeared into the distance and I suspect the tortoises have availed of the generous offers of lifts offered by the many stewards on duty. There are many areas of beauty on this section of the CPHT but my favourite would have to be the woods at Knockratha.

Knockraha_Woods

There is something magical about the daylight that permeates a trail through the undergrowth. Day was done at Ballintubber Abbey and a spot of lunch at Corley's Abbey Lodge went down a treat. Next stage, Ballintubber to Aughagower!

 

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