Are you considering a hike up Mweelrea, the highest peak in Connacht? If so, you're in for a treat. This mountain offers not only breath-taking views but also a satisfying challenge for hikers of all levels. In this blog, we'll cover everything you need to know to make your ascent a memorable and safe experience.
Getting Started: Preparing for Your Hike
First things first: preparation is key. Mweelrea, standing at 814 meters, is no small feat, so you'll want to ensure you're well-prepared. Here are some essentials:
Fitness Level: Assess your fitness level. Mweelrea is suitable for intermediate hikers, but beginners can also enjoy it with proper preparation and pacing.
Your Gear: You’ll absolutely need waterproof hiking boots regardless of the time of year you hike but especially if you hike during the winter months. You’ll need weather-appropriate clothing, so a base layer and a waterproof, breathable jacket for the way up. At the summit it can be windy and the wind chill can make it feel much colder than it actually is so you'll want a mid layer, hat and gloves for the way down. You’ll also need a map, compass, and a fully charged phone. We recommend you use hiking poles. And don't forget your first-aid kit, just in case.
Weather Check: The Irish weather can be unpredictable. Always check the forecast before setting out and be prepared for sudden changes. You want to hike Mweelrea on a clear day with good visibility and clear skies.
The Trail: Choosing Your Path
There are several routes to the summit, each offering unique perspectives: Both options are not marked with signage, so you’ll need to bear this in mind. So, your options are:
Silver Strand Route: You have two options for parking if you’re hiking this route. You can either park at the Silver Strand beach car park and walk 1km to the start of the trail or if parking is available, you can park at the bottom of the lane beside the gate just off the road. The trail starts when you enter the gate. You’ll need to cross the stream and make your way towards the gully. Once you reach the shoulder you’ll see a trail to take you to the summit. This route is just under 11km round trip, depending on your exact route.
Doolough Valley Route: This is more challenging because it takes you from the valley floor in Doolough into the bowl and up the ramp. We wouldn’t recommend this route if you’re nervous with heights. This route is less trodden and will most likely involve stream crossings and boggy soil, so this is where your waterproof hiking boots and hiking poles come to your aid. This route is approx 14km round trip.
The Climb: Tips and Tricks
As you plan your climb, you’ll want to keep some things in mind.
Start Early: Begin your hike early in the morning to avoid getting caught in the dark and to fully enjoy the scenery. And if you start early enough you might be lucky to enjoy sunrise from the shoulder or the summit as the sun illuminates Doolough Valley.
Pace Yourself: Don’t rush. Regardless of your route, hiking Mweelrea is likely to take you at least 4.5 – 5 hours. It's more about the journey than the destination. Regular breaks will help you maintain your energy.
Stay Hydrated: Bring plenty of water and a hot drink with you. Mweelrea is a challenging hike so you’ll need plenty of snacks to keep your energy up.
Respect the Mountain: Stick to well-worn paths where possible. Respect the natural environment and take all your rubbish with you.
Reaching the Summit:
The moment you reach the summit of Mweelrea, you'll feel an immense sense of achievement. The panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Sheeffry and Ben Gorm Mountains, and the surrounding wild landscape are truly spectacular. Take your time to soak it all in. Remember, it's not just about the destination, but the journey.
Descending can be more challenging than ascending, especially if your legs are tired. Take it slow, watch your footing, and if you’re in a group, keep an eye on each other. This is where your hiking poles can help too. Mweelrea can be a dangerous hike and it’s not ideal for hikers with no experience and should not be attempted in bad weather.
Conquering Mweelrea is an experience you'll cherish. Not only does it offer some of the most stunning views in Ireland, but it also provides a gratifying challenge that rewards you with a sense of accomplishment. Remember, preparation is key, respect the mountain, and most importantly, enjoy every moment of your adventure. Happy hiking!
And you can pick up all your gear online or in one of our stores in Westport, Killarney or Galway City.