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The Western Way national trail in Galway and Mayo now part of the International Appalachian Trail


Mám Éan Geotrail


January 2024


JCWL Geopark and partners

Local communities

New Mám Éan geotrail on Western Way highlights local geological heritage and connections to rocks in North America

The recent Mám Éan geotrail has just been launched on the Western Way. The Western Way has ancient connections to access routes used by our ancestors. It became part of the national walking trails system in the 1980s, taking in spectacular scenery in Counties Galway and Mayo in the west of Ireland. Mám Éan is located at the ancient pass crossing the Maumturks mountains between the Maam Valley and the Inagh Valley. Ireland shares a geological history with the USA and Canada, and also Scotland, Scandinavia and Greenland. There is ample evidence in the rocks along the trail revealing these strong connections.

The geotrail consists of three info panels, two at either side of the pass and one at the col. The panels explore the geological links between the west of Ireland and north eastern America. In particular, there’s detail on the Dalradian supergroup of metamorphic rocks dating to 700 million years ago in Connemara/Joyce Country in County Galway and the Nephin Mountains in County Mayo. The connections the rocks have with the local natural landscape of blanket bog and the cultural heritage of the ancient pilgrimage to Saint Patrick at the pass are also explored.

The whole Western Way is now part of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT)

The Atlantic Ocean is only about 100 million years old. Before then, the two continents North America and Europe were linked. Essentially, the Appalachian range in the USA extends into the mountain ranges of Galway, Mayo and Donegal and into the mountains of Scotland then (called the Caledonides). These geological connections are particularly emphasised at Mám Éan in County Galway in the Joyce Country and Western Lakes Geopark.

The Mám Éan Geotrail offers a great asset for the JCWL Geopark and the local communities of Maam, Recess and Leenane, expanding the interpretation already offered in the geopark region. It shines a new light on the prime outdoor tourism infrastructure that is the Western Way and connects it to North America through the IAT not only through the human connections but also thanks to its geology.

The Mám Éan Geotrail was commissioned by JCWL GeoEnterprise (the cross-community group representing the JCWL Geopark communities in the Geopark), funded by Geological Survey Ireland’s GeoHeritage grant and produced by the JCWL Geopark in association with Comharchumann Dhúiche Sheoigheach (CDS) Teo, in partnership with National Parks and Wildlife Services and County Galway Rural Recreation Officer based in Forum Connemara.

The Mám Éan Geotrail was launched in January at Ionad Pobail an Mháma with two guest speakers. Brian McConnell, retired principal geologist at Geological Survey Ireland, highlighted the geological connections with North America. Frank Conroy of Maam community gave a fascinating account of the local history and folklore linked with Mám Éan and its use down through the ages by the local community in Maam.

The launch was followed the next day by a well-attended guided walk over the length of the Geotrail led by Benjamin Thébaudeau the Geopark geologist, Brian McConnell and Carole Reynolds of Connemara National Park. The three guides provided insights at various sites highlighting the local rocks, biodiversity and archaeological features on display.