Trail: Lough Easkey Loop Walk
Terrain: Lakeshore tracks, laneways and minor roads
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Trailhead: Lough Easkey, County Sligo
Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, phone, raingear, water
When you think of the Wild Atlantic Way, you probably imagine beautiful nature, unbelievable views, and fantastic experiences. And that’s exactly what you’ll get when you visit this hidden gem in Co. Sligo.
The Easkey Loop Walk on Sligo’s Atlantic Coast is one of the most exciting experiences to be had in this part of the country.
The waymarked route traces the shores of the gorgeous Lough Easkey and leads walkers up the stunningly beautiful Ox Mountains through forest tracks, laneways, minor roads and even bogland.
Fun fact: The picturesque seaside village of Easkey got its name from the Irish word ‘iascaigh’, meaning ‘abounding in fish’, as the Easkey River is known to have large populations of salmon and trout.
Lough Easkey is situated in the dramatic landscapes of the Ox Mountains, between Lough Talt to the south and the village of Dromore West to the north.
The lake itself is surrounded by scattered houses and forest plantations and the area is becoming fairly popular for outdoor sporting enthusiasts such as surfers, kayakers, fishers and, of course, walkers.
Head up the N4 toward Dublin, and after around 5km take the N59 signposted Ballina. Just after Dromore West village, take the first left and continue for approximately 11km until you arrive at the lakeshore trailhead and carpark.
The Trail Itself
Once you’ve parked up at the carpark, you’ll be greeted by the calm waters of Lough Easkey stretching out ahead of you and the Ox Mountain range rising up all around. Take a breather here as you instantly start to embrace a slower pace surrounded by natural beauty at every turn.
This walk is really well signposted, with stiles and markers showing you the way so that all you need to worry about is taking in the views.
A map board marks the trailhead, so take a minute to get your bearings here before continuing on to follow the purple arrows.
Starting from the trailhead, it’s just a 30m walk until you arrive at a sandy roadway junction.
A yellow arrow for the longer Sligo Way points straight ahead at this juncture, but you’re going to take a left here to walk along the lakeshore for the shorter Lough Easkey Loop. In fact, you’ll be walking the full perimeter of the lake on this trail. This, coupled with the extensive signposting makes it next to impossible to lose your way along this trail!
You’ll continue to follow the roadway for about ten minutes when you’ll reach a bridge that crosses the Easkey River.
All along the way so far, you’ll have enjoyed 360 views of the Ox mountains, as well as ruins in the distance from mid-century to Mesolithic eras, bringing the long and storied inhabitance of this valley to life in front of your eyes.
As you cross the bridge, look down to spot brown trout, or salmon swimming below - both of which are in abundance in the area.
We also spotted a number of frogs near the lakeshore - so keep your eyes peeled if the season is right!
After another 100 metres or so, you’ll arrive at a fenced-off water treatment plant. At this point, you are turning left again to walk alongside the shore. It gets a little boggy from here - so this is where your walking boots come in handy!
At times we were shin-deep in bog, so prepare to get mucky on this trail (but that’s all part of the fun.)
An interesting quirk here is the contrast between the wild, rugged landscape and the formal planting near the gardens of the ruined residences. This formal planting has embedded itself around the lake - with pops of colour sitting in sharp juxtaposition to the browns and greens of the wild landscape.
Continue to follow the purple arrows for almost 2km, until the loop veers right and starts to ascend slightly.
Here, you’ll really get lost in the history of the area as you’ll pass by a derelict farmhouse and other ruins, before descending again to join a laneway along the lakeshore.
After 500 metres, The Sligo Way joins the loop from the right, and you’ll continue straight on. This laneway continues for 1km before you traverse an open area by a farmhouse.
Following the purple arrows, you’ll continue on around the shoreline enjoying the views for a further 1.5km until you arrive back at the trailhead, ready to relax after your walk in the gorgeous coastal village of Easkey.
There are fabulous accommodation options for your stay in the area along the Wild Atlantic Way, such as the stunning Diamond Coast Hotel.
This hotel offers comfortable double, twin and triple rooms, spacious family rooms and plenty of unreal dining options. The Coral Restaurant offers amazing cuisine and a great selection of wines. Stir Bistro has an amazing menu of steaks, seafood, burgers and Asian cuisine. And Inishaven Bar is a fantastic spot for wholesome Irish grub like fish and chips and their roast of the day, as well as an extensive menu of sandwiches and wraps, burgers, steaks, and absolutely loads more.
Another great option is the Ocean Sands Hotel.
With a choice of rooms, suites and apartments, Ocean Sands Hotel is known for offering traditional Irish hospitality and luxury at the same time.
If you book one of their Sea View Rooms, every morning you will be treated to some insanely gorgeous views of Killala Bay when you look out your window.
Just under 30km west of Lough Easkey is the quaint seaside town of Enniscrone, a popular holiday destination for families, couples, and groups of mates. It has been a popular holiday destination for decades now, and for a small enough town, it has its fair share of things to do and see, restaurants to dine in and pubs top have a pint in.
Luckily, Enniscrone has one of the most gorgeous beaches in the area. Stretching over 5km, Enniscrone Beach is a stunning blue flag beach. The quaint town of Enniscrone sits on one end of the beach, while on the other end is Killala Bay.
While you’re here, you’ll most likely spot folk surfing, horse riding, walking, fishing and swimming.
There are also plenty of historical sites in the area for you to check out, including the ‘split rock’, AKA ‘Fionn’s Stone’, which is a large boulder split in half just off the R297 near Easkey. Although it was transported here from the Ox Mountains to the south by the retreating glaciers, some believe the mythical hunter and warrior Fionn Mac Cumhal cast the rock here form the top of the Ox Mountains.
There’s also Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, which is actually the largest cemetery of megalithic tombs in all of Ireland, with some of the monuments ranging from five thousand to five thousand eight hundred years old.
Food and drink
While in the area, you’re pretty spoiled for choice in terms of great food and fab pubs to chill in.
Pudding Row on Main Street, Easkey won the award for Best Cafe in Ireland 2018 at the Irish Restaurant Awards, so you can be sure that you’re going to get a fantastic grub when you head here, such as its artisan bread, pastries, amazing coffee and organic produce, which is all homemade by owner Dervla.
For traditional Irish food with a difference, you should head on over to Áit Eile in Enniscrone. Some of their most popular dishes are their Black Pig of Enniscrone and their Seafood Linguine, but their menu is ever-evolving and focuses on using local produce and the best ingredients to serve up some amazingly delicious food.
Then, you can sit back and relax, enjoy a pint, and maybe even some live music in Gilroy’s Bar, which is part of Áit Eile Restaurant. Based in the centre of Enniscrone Village, Gilroy’s prides itself on their friendly service while serving a fantastic pint.
For spectacular sights, invigorating sensations and unforgettable experiences, make your next short break a walking break along the Wild Atlantic Way. Before you go, make sure you check out our 10 Genuinely Useful Tips For Going Hiking In Ireland to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable walk.
It’s always important to be respectful of the wildlife and surrounding environment, so make sure to leave the trail as you found it. Visit leavenotraceireland.org for more information.