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My Favourite Drive: Tom Dennigan maps out a hidden lakeside route through Mayo

‘It’s as spectacular as the best of the Wild Atlantic Way, yet you won’t find it in a guidebook.’

The shores of Lough Corrib, Co Mayo.
The shores of Lough Corrib, Co Mayo.

Journeys, even everyday ones, can mean a lot. Tom Dennigan is General Manager for Continental Tyre Group Ireland. As someone with a passion for motoring, Tom told TheJournal.ie about the drive that means the most to him.

First up, describe the drive.

It’s a drive in the West of Ireland between two Mayo towns, Westport and Cong. I live in Longford so I have easy access to the west coast, and I’ve driven every element of the Wild Atlantic Way countless times in the last 15 years or so, either by car or motorbike. Despite that, I only discovered this particular route by chance about a month ago.

We were out with the bikes on a Saturday and needed to get back home a little earlier than usual, so rather than coming back through Castlebar and Swinford and the normal places, we mapped out a shorter route around the lakes. From Westport we drove southeast towards Ballinrobe and then through Toormakeady, a small Gaeltacht area that’s probably best known for being the birthplace of actor Mick Lally.

It’s a comfortable one hour drive, and we had Lough Mask on one side, Lough Corrib on the other, making for some spectacular lake and mountain views. I was so blown away by what we had found that I brought my wife on the same drive just last week, and it was just as beautiful by car.

shutterstock_636666736 Exploring Cong, Co Mayo. Source: Shutterstock/Jon Chica

Is there a view or a moment that sums it up?

There’s a T-junction just after you pass Toormakeady with a hairpin bend that means you need to almost turn back on yourself. You end up looking back out over a small lake there, Lough Nafooey. The first day we drove the route, we stopped at that point, and we just couldn’t believe what we had stumbled upon. You’re looking out across the lake into the mountains, with the road winding down to the left, and on a clear day it’s just a joy.

When I’m on the bike, I’m not working, so I’m focused more on the drive than on where I’m trying to get to. Biking is a social experience. There might be two, three or four of us out on a Sunday morning drive. We fit in a stop for coffee, and we’re never in a hurry – if someone stops to get a better look or take a photo, we’ll all stop with them. I have a Triumph Tiger 1050, which is a great bike for long journeys, but it’s not made for top speeds or wild terrain. I’ll put it like this… if it was a car, it’d be an executive saloon, not an off-roader.

What was it about the journey that made it special?

I think it was the sheer joy of discovery, of finding a scenic stretch of road we never knew existed. It’s as spectacular a route as the best of the Wild Atlantic Way, yet you probably won’t find it in a guidebook. If there was a local tourist body in Toormakeady, I’d be telling them to promote that drive, one hundred percent.

More My Favourite Drive: Ray Furlong travels to an ancient lighthouse to scuba dive

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