Looped walks an added attraction at Destination Breaffy
By Tom Gillespie
A STUNNING selection of looped walks have been developed through the 101 acres surrounding four-star Breaffy House Hotel, outside Castlebar
The two-, three- and five-kilometre routes take visitors and locals through an array of forest trails and woodland walks with dozens of surprises along the way.
The looped walks are part of the ongoing development at the Destination Breaffy Resort and general manger Wilson Bird emphasised all are welcome to experience the choice of walks.
The routes take the walker on a wonderful journey of discovery into the history of the estate and once owners the Browne family while enjoying the abundant richness of nature that is central to this beautiful and stunning resort.
From the hotel reception, a map outlining details of the routes, together with a beautifully crafted story of all the wonderful points of interest along the way, can be downloaded on QR code. You can follow the route on your phone and learn about 13 points of interest.
The Browne family were first connected with the lands at Breaffy in 1680 when John Browne was granted 200 acres in the period of land confiscation of the Cromweilian settlement at the end if the 17th century.
The first Breaffy House is estimated to have been built in the 18th century by Dominick Browne. The present Breaffy House was built by Dominick Andrew Browne in 1890.
The first point of interest - 2nd red gate - marks the spot where the original owners had the first hydro-electric system in Mayo.
Next is the walled garden, where, during the period from 1900 to the '60s, 25 people were employed as farm workers, gamekeepers and servants.
The third point of interest is the tree-lined avenue, the original avenue to the big house, which had a variety of 52 beech, sycamore, hazel and oak - one for each week of the year. Four have since been removed to make way for improvement developments.
A sunken swamp is the fourth point of interest while the fifth is the Breaffy bridge with its ‘Charles Dickens’ style lanterns, and the sixth, Breaffy cemetery, where walkers can observe the Celtic Cross.
Look out for log swings and giant stilts at the seventh point. Dominick Browne’s railway is number eight - this marks the spot where Andres Browne took the train from Castlebar to Dublin in the late 19th century. Coming out of Castlebar the train would actually stop to pick him up.
Around the demesne and scouts tree fort, at point nine, you are at the heart of the woodland, the home of pine martins, badgers, squirrels, foxes and hedgehogs.
Next is Browne’s shooting hollow where an average of two shoots took place annually from the late 1800s to the '60s.
Take a peek through the bushes and see the extensive green fields where once the gentry were regaled by a colourful cacophony of sound including the release of the hounds and the caterwauling of woodcock, pheasant and quail as they indulged their senses for a full day’s shooting.
The shooting events signified wealth, opulence and prestige in keeping with the classes of gentry that were frequent visitors to the Browne estate.
Next, at point 11, is the Scandinavian barbecue hut, Destination Breaffy’s latest outdoor dining experience.
Moving to point 12 you come on the sycamore hugging tree, so called because of the way its trunk intertwines, like two lovers passionately embracing. Here you can take a seat and enjoy the panoramic view of the entire hotel and estate - a popular location for ‘popping the question’.
The final point of interest is the Destination Breaffy beehives who are working with the Castlebar Beekeepers Association producing honey that is now part of the new breakfast menu at the hotel.
Having completed the five kilometres I can confirm that it is easily managed and is not difficult. The three trails are colour coded on the download.
The mixture of woodland and forest trails takes you into a majestic panorama of serene nature where you can enjoy an hour or less of pleasant walking.
Apart from the points of interest the remains of the Breaffy House farmyard buildings can be seen at the end of Breaffy GAA grounds. These were much more extensive when in use. There was a water tank and a weighbridge for weighing animals. The cowman had a bungalow at the farmyard.
In the house itself, among the domestic staff was the butler who was in charge, then the footman, cooks, housemaids, chamber maids and other servants.
The butler waited on tables, looked after the silver, and brought meals to Mr. and Mrs. Browne’s bedroom.
The coachman, Pat O’Malley, father of Michael O’Malley, lived with his family in the stable yard. The two gamekeepers lived in the gate lodge, one in the lodge which was Lally’s house, the other in the lodge off the Cottage Road. In the other gate lodge on the Castlebar road a gate keeper lived whose duty was simply opening and closing the gate. This lodge was demolished for the new road works.
Gamekeepers who lived in Lally’s house at different times early in the century were Michael Wilcox and Billy Smith. A man named Baker who had three wives lived there in later times. Billy Wolfe is remembered as the gatekeeper who lived in the gate lodge on the Castlebar road.
Breaffy House Resort can be contacted on (094) 9022033.