Uggool Sands: The struggle for accessibility and safety

Located in the heart of The Lost Valley, over one and a half miles from the nearest public road is a very impressive looking extensive beach area, magnificent to look at, but quiet dangerous for the unwary. Some sections can be liable to significant quicksand, and high tides come in at the back of the beach cutting of retreat and then proceed to cover the entire area. Powerful tidal currents at the mouth of the fjord often result in strong rip currents at the beach. Benign tidal conditions change dramatically without warning especially during high tides and as such the beach is unsafe for bathing.

silver strand and uggool beach


An Irish Water Safety, risk assessment report concluded that, ‘‘Uggool Beach is a dangerous beach”. The Safety Assessors also concluded that the route into the valley was “fraught with hazards and risks”, and that, “the idea of gaining access to the beach via the headland is a non runner due to the many dangers involved”.


Indeed the Bourke family who despite their familiarity with the area have on many occasions been lucky not to lose their lives trying to access their valley, were well aware of these inherent dangers, magnified under winter conditions.


On one memorable occasion they took Court action against the Irish Land Commission to try to get them to help. The

Land Commission claimed in court, that the cost of an access roadway was such that a reasonable contribution to it would be beyond their means and “it would be cheaper buy a Helicopter”.


A report in the Sunday Independent newspaper (January, 1971) over 50 years ago, gives some indication of their plight, but unfortunately no assistance what-so-ever resulted.


Download a copy of the article here



Today thanks entirely to their own efforts, there is a safe convenient access to The Lost Valley. Down through the ages however men have lusted after priceless gems and The Lost Valley is a rare jewel indeed. Immediately upon completion of the roadway the Bourke’s were confronted with unimaginable claims of right of access, organized by a national hill-walking organization based in Dublin.


This group conducted a campaign of false allegations and rumour, repeated and multiplied for over 25 years. Their complaints have gotten absolutely nowhere but they did involve the Ombudsman who included in his annual report an account of what he refers to as “a three-year investigation into the Uggool issue”.


At no time during this 'investigation' were the Bourke family contacted or their views or explanations sought. When they contacted the Ombudsman’s office to enquire into the basis for his findings, no justification whatsoever was provided. They were not permitted a meeting with the Ombudsman or any of his staff, nor has the office corrected the record to this day, and as a result this totally flawed report is still being used to justify slander. Letter's to the Mayo News newspaper (June 21, 2000) following the publication of the Ombudsman’s report, reflect local community feeling.


Download a copy of the article here


The campaign of intimidation continued. This report by well known columnist Brenda Power in The Sunday Tribune newspaper (22-12-02) gives an overview of events. Download a copy of the article here.  


In this post truth age, proven facts it seems can be freely contested whenever these conflict with our interests.            Here are two Facts.

( 1 ) The Lost Valley of Uggool is the registered private property of the Bourke family, right down to the sea. Hence, the wiring on the rocks cannot be removed as there are no public rights of access whatsoever. ( This can be easily established by a visit to the Land Registry Office. )                                                     

( 2 ) In November 2013 the 5 judge Irish Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the Lissadell case that trespass could not establish a public right of way in Irish law, unless the landowner dedicated the way to the public. 


Public use at Lissadell was multiples of that at Uggool which was traditionally confined to a few adventurous ramblers on fine sunny summer weekends. With the rising affluence of the 1980's the valley was indeed ''discovered'' and visitors frequently soon returned with 9 or 10 of their friends to enjoy its wonders. It quickly became obvious that left unchecked this would destroy the very essence of this unique national treasure, undoubtedly result in serious injury to unwary visitors attempting this dangerous journey and make effective farm management absolutely impossible. Perfectly legitimate moves to control access resulted in the launching of a 25 year campaign of vilification by people who should have known better and could have shown a modicum of respect. 


The Lost Valley is a national treasure of social and economic history, preserved by its remoteness and inaccessibility and sustained through the livelihoods of over 8 generations of the Bourke family. To expose it unprotected to the wear and tear of the modern world would destroy it in a very short time and once destroyed, such places can never be replaced. 


The Bourke Family opened ‘The Lost Valley’ to the public in June of 2015 as a unique, totally authentic visitor experience and are committed to providing the highest standards of service and experience to each and every one of their guests.

Public access is carefully managed. Only pre-booked guided tours are permitted in the valley. All visitors are led along a looped green road, this ensures the sustainable use of this high nature value landscape and provides protection to its sensitive eco-systems while allowing the traditional sheep-farming that created and sustains these eco-systems to continue. It also insures that all visitors get to experience the unique wilderness aspect of The Lost Valley.


uggool sands beach

Mind Blowing TripAdvisor Review


What attraction in the world has a huge private beach, the highest mountain in Connacht, a waterfall, lost famine villages, Ireland's only Fjord, a history lesson and a sheep dog demonstration all in the same place? The Lost Valley! I have travelled a fair bit of the world and this place blew my mind. Breathtaking.


Date of Experience: July 2020


Amazing in every way! TripAdvisor Review


An absolutely marvellous day, from the moment we arrived, excellent in every way.
Location, tour, storytelling, scenery, hospitality, highly recommended for all ages and well worth the price. A lovely family run business. Well done and keep up the great work.


Date of Experience: August 2020

Moving, Awe-inspiring Experience Tripadvisor Review


The Lost Valley is an absolute must! I've been to Ireland several times and had never heard of it before but my friend who lives in Mayo, recommended we go and I am so glad that she did!


The pictures cannot fully capture the beauty of the landscape, Sean, the tour guide, who is the son of the man, Gerard, who started the Lost Valley tours on their sheep farm, had so much knowledge and was engaging and very passionate about preserving the history of the people who suffered so horrifically during the famine. It felt all the more more genuine/authentic as this was a part of his own family history. The Bourke's going back to pre-famine times in that area of the Lost Valley. It was like we were in an outdoor classroom or museum and you didn't really notice until the end how much information he had shared and we had absorbed. The sheep dog demonstration was also very interesting!


Thank you for an absolutely amazing experience I would highly recommend to anyone who is traveling the Wild Atlantic Way well worth the detour!


Date of Experience: May 2023