Pontoon where the great lakes of North Mayo – Lough Conn and Lough Cullin meet – is one of Mayo’s most famous beauty spots. It is also a walker’s paradise with two lovely woodland walking trails that give magnificent views of both lakes.
The best-known walk is through Drummin Wood, and the lesser known trail is nearby at Laughil Forest walk, which is part of the Foxford Way.
With spectacular and elevated views of both Lough Conn (Lough Con, hound’s lake) and Lough Cullin (Loch Cuilinn, holly lake) the start of the Laughil Forest walk is a short distance from Pontoon Bridge Hotel – just off the R310.
It is best to park in the roadside car park, located on the Castlebar side of Pontoon bridge, and walk the short distance along the main road before turning right which brings you up a narrow lane to the trailhead.
Starting from the Pontoon side, you can exit the forest on the R315, Castlebar to Crossmolina road, and loop back via Healy’s Hotel. However, in recent years, I have avoided this route because it takes you onto the busy Castlebar to Crossmolina road.
Wild strawberries are plentiful
The woodland walk ends at a holiday cottage overlooking Lough Conn and it’s from here that I turn back to retrace my footsteps back to the Pontoon entrance.
The winding trail takes you along the tree-lined shores of Lough Conn and through some beautiful native woodland along a hilly trail. After heavy rainfall, walking boots are needed as parts of the trail can be very wet.
Laughill wood has something to offer no matter what time of year you visit.
In the winter, the sunlight breaking through the trees lights up the beautiful winter colours of the bronzed ferns, bare trees, and golden and brown leaves strewn along the path.
And in summer, you can feast on wild strawberries which are plentiful along the gravel path and enjoy the magnificent views of Lough Conn and across to nearby Drummin Wood where there is also a lovely loop walk.
But no matter when you visit, the gurgling streams that flow along the trail are like music to the ears as you stroll through a corridor of trees such as Sitka Spruce, Lodgepole Pine, Douglas Fir, Noble Fir, Japanese Larch, and native Irish broadleaf species.
It is hard to believe that a section of Laughil wood was badly damaged in the forest fires of May 2011, but it has now recovered fully and there is little trace of fire damage.
As you return to the starting point, you will have a panoramic view over Lough Cullin, all the way across to the Parke side of the lake.
The Laughil wood is part of Coillte managed, Conn Forest, which also includes woodland in Cloughbrack, Pruglish, Ballymayock, Doonbreedia, Tobernaveen, Massbrook, Carrickbarrett, Drummin, Clossaghroe, Corlummin, Cuinbeg Gortnadrehy, Lisaniska, and Shraheen.