With a longer stretch in the evenings and improving weather, we decided to go on a short over night loop around the Ox mountains in Sligo, Ireland. In truth it was a good chance to begin preparing for our trip to Iceland coming up in early June. I’d rather discover any issues with the bikes, gear or ourselves along the hills of Sligo rather than the barren plateaus of Iceland.
The Ox mountains are a range of mostly granite rock that borders Sligo and Mayo, on the west coast of Ireland. The uplands are covered in blanket bogs and forestry, with small rolling farms at the foothills.
It’s a sparse and at times lonely place, particularly around the bogs that surround Lough Easkey on the uplands. It was here by the ruins of an old hunting lodge that we camped for the night, listening to the winnowing sound of the snipe and the haunting cry of the occasional curlew, which unfortunately is becoming a rare occurrence nowadays.
The smells in this part of the country lingers long after you’ve left. The heady fragrance of wild gorze, pine trees, blossoming hawthorn and heather with the occasional whiff of sea air blowing in from the Atlantic is a hypnotising aroma, that can’t be bottled and labeled! Not only does the air carry intoxicating smells but also fabled stories, myths and legends of adventure, tragic romance and warrior queens. The place has a magical energy that makes it easier to understand why our ancestors choose this area of the North West to build so many megalithic tombs, ring forts and cairns. These structures, which are still visible on hilltops and dotted around the landscape, are still regarded with reverence. Many of the structures have existed to this day because of the superstition and belief that tampering with them would bring bad luck and the wrath of the fairies upon oneself!