Clew Bay in County Mayo stands out as one of the real coastal treasures of Ireland. Overlooked by the striking Croagh Patrick, Clew Bay is surrounded by mountains on virtually every side, with the Nephin Beg range to the north and the Sheeffry Hills to the south.
The Lettermaghera Loop hugs the lower slopes of the Nephin Beg Mountains and demands just 100m of ascent. Fully signed, the loop begins 3km west of Newport, a small 18th century town with a beautiful seven-arched viaduct of red sandstone.
Starting at the Derrad Community Centre, your route takes you north along a narrow lane and around a maze of small lakes until you reach Furnace Lough, home to one of the biggest marine research stations in Europe.
The road comes to a junction near the point where Furnace Lough meets Lough Feeagh, with the Salmon Leap Bridge spanning the gap between the two – stand for a while to see these magnificent specimens making their way upstream to their spawning ground.
Turn left at the junction to join a bog road crossing the lower slopes of the Bengorm Mountains, which offers splendid views across Clew Bay and its islands.
The route then turns south again and you pass an old Mass Rock, along with several lakes and dismantled railway – part of the old Westport-Achill line that operated between 1892 and 1937 – until you are back at the Community Centre.