A spot of wild mushroom foraging in the Irish woods with Leitrim Landscapes

Often the hardest thing about a walk is getting started. Take too long admiring the view from Tawny Lust, especially if you’ve come for a break from a hectic city life, and you could find you lose will to move. Time seems to slow down here. The air is silent and fresh, the hills and fields of Ballinabehy mountain Munakillin stretch in front of you untroubled by pylons and motorways. It would be oh so tempting just to pull up a chair, sit down and look out at green expanses stretching away to the horizon…

You’d be missing out however, on the thrill afforded by not just looking at the landscape, but getting into it and discovering it up close. To do this there can be few better guides than Nuala Mcnulty and Tina Pommer, who together run Leitrim Landscapes guided walks throughout the region. (Nuala also lives in Tawny Lust and rents out the adjacent self catering accommodation).

Tina may have been born in Germany, but she loved this land so intensely when she first visited it that she has long since made it her home and has become an expert on the region’s archaeology and nature. Nuala, on the other hand, was born just 500 metres from where Tawny Lust is situated, and has been a passionate walker of these hills all her life. Whatever your interest they make for knowledgeable and effervescent guides.

Archaeology and history lovers can explore everything from Neolithic sites at Tullyskeherney to the unusual Lurganboy church, whose walls and roof were built of corrugated iron in 1862 (and itself is found with the remains of a 16th century earthen star fort). Others might prefer to look for local holy wells, or take s spring walk through woodlands carpeted in swathes of wild bluebells and primroses. The best option of all though, and where Tina’s knowledge really comes into its own, is to go on one of their foraging walks.

Depending on the time of year, you’ll be able to discover (and gather) all manner of different fungi (I watched in amazement as the giant bolete that I had just found turned veiny blue the moment it was torn from the ground). Tina showed us her own secret route to discover the chanterelles, ensuring we took care to follow her tracks so as not to damage the ground where this most revered of mushroom can be found. There might also be puffballs and honey fungus, along with invaluable lessons in identifying what you can and can’t eat. For the sweet-toothed the hedges are rich with wild strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. And rarely a few steps go by without Tina pausing to explain the various uses of the different plants she discovers, encouraging you to pick and smell and taste as she does. It’s a sensual, revelatory experience, connecting you to the world around you in ways we have mostly forgotten.

Best of all, as this is a foraging walk, you don’t bring back just photos and memories. In my short time walking with Leitrim Landscapes and staying at Tawny Lust, we had a soup from foraged nettles, a salad filled with leaves we had gathered, drank wild raspberry juice and – of course – we warmed ourselves with a nourishing mushroom soup. And after all this there was still time to sit and do nothing but take in the view, only now with tired feet and a full tum, easily the best way to really appreciate it.

Need to know: Walks, which generally last around 3-4 hours, are available to day visitors, costing €25 with children half price. However to really immerse yourself (and properly relax, its worth staying a few days at Tawny Lust too), there are several walking packages, costing €119/per person based on 3 sharing for 2 nights and 2 guided walks. Tawny Lust is located on the R.283 off the N16 between Sligo and Enniskillen, 6km from Manorhamilton, 23km from Sligo and 20km from Enniskillen, 190km from Dublin, 150km from Belfast. For more information see the Tawnlust Lodge listing on greentraveller.

For a detailed guide to how to travel to and from Ireland by train/ferry: How to travel to Ireland without flying

For contact details and availability, see greentraveller’s full listing of Tawnylust Lodge

Read the original review and many more on Greentraveller, here.