The Doolough Famine Walk, County Mayo

Series 35 - Episode 1 The Doolough Famine Walk, County Mayo



Over two days in March 1849 a hundred-plus-strong group of desperately poor and dispossessed people in Ireland’s County Mayo made a journey on foot, during the tragic potato blight, to gain food and lodgings in a poorhouse in the small town of Louisburgh.

They had walked through the night, for many of them over 13 miles, in the hope of salvation. When they arrived in Louisburgh it was, literally, a “no room at the inn” situation and they were directed on, a further 11 miles, to the grand manor house in Delphi, home to their local landlord.

In this new series on historic walks, Clare Balding  joins three people with a direct connection to the Doolough Famine Walk. She discovers that while they are safely ensconced in waterproofs and good shoes, their 19th-century forebears walked barefoot and in sackcloths.


Clare Balding travels to County Mayo, Ireland, to retrace the steps of those who walked from Louisburg to Delphi in 1849 at the height of the potato famine in the hope of receiving aid. Hundreds of people come from all over the world each year to walk the 12 miles - now known as the Doolough Tragedy Famine Walk - in memory of those who died of starvation along the route. Clare talks to Joe Murray, who organises the event, Mary O'Malley, whose forebears suffered during the Great Hunger - or An Gorta Mor - and by Professor John Maguire, who puts the famine into historical context.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Clare Balding
Producer Lucy Lunt