I had decided to do yet another trail in the border area but this was to be from the northern side of the border. So I got up early on a Saturday morning and headed once more towards Lough Allen. This time I was heading past Blacklion to park up on the edge of The Cuilcagh Mountain park. I was planning on quite a long loop – the vast majority of which was to be off-road and a lot of it was proper cross-country walk with no real trails.
So after a night of heavy rain and intermittent showers on the way up I arrived just before 9. As is usual for me lately, I had to ignore a trail closed sign as I wasn’t going to turn back after driving 90 kilometres.
The trail started out on hard gravel path good enough to take a jeep and started gently climbing into the hills. The scenery was definitely of the upper moorland variety and the facilities were quite good with benches every kilometer or so and a couple of boardwalk paths out into the bog.
The waymarkers were neat and tidy and in reasonably plentiful supply. After about 3 kilometeres I came to the reason for the path closed sign – Fermanagh County Council were busy putting in about two kilometres of boardwalk that went right up the mountain – including a stairway going up about 100m of very steep climb.
It was all a fine piece of work but not quite finished. The woodwork was done but the anti-slip wire mesh was yet to be put in place. So I was presented with a bit of dilemma but convenience got the better of my sense of right and wrong so I set off along the new boardwalk. It helped that there was nobody around.
Anyway, the woodwork took care of most of the climbing and left me within a kilometre of the cairn at the peak of Cuilcagh Mountain. Unfortunately, it was pretty misty so there wasn’t a lot to see. Occasionally, the fog cleared enough to allow me to see the next waymarker or the cairn itself.
After visiting the peak, I turned to the north east and started descending almost immediately. Unfortunately, I missed a waymarker in the fog, so ended up going down quite a steep grass slope with a bit of cliff by way of interruption half way down. I slip-slided my way down and made it down in one piece and a bit damp. There were still bits of snow in sheltered spots on the northern sides of the mountain.
After making it down, I spotted the well-made track down the side which would have made for a much easier descent. I guess I’ll know the next time. I stopped for a quick coffee and lump of chocolate in a convenient resting spot before heading on across the moor.
The next few kilometres were a rather damp boring blog-slog across the moor following compass bearings between waymarkers. The track was pretty well set up though and there were neat and strong bridges across most of the streams and rivers that route crossed.
Aside from the odd stream, it continued on without interruption across moorland for about 5 kilometres until the route came to the interesting little valley of Legacurragh. This looks like a glacial feature.
At this point I took a little detour as there appears to have been a new trail added since my edition of the OS map came out so I wandered a few hundred metres off course before I realised what I was doing. I’d say I added about a kilometre to my journey with this episode of stupidity.
Around Legacurragh, there were quite a few odd holes in the landscape. Mostly they seemed to be 40 or 50 metres across and about 10 to 15 metres deepd. There were quite a few smaller holes around as well – you would need to be very careful about straying off the trail as you could quite easily disappear down a hole and do yourself an injury.
As the ground started to descend towards Florencecourt forest park, the odd tree seemed to manage to cling on to side of the mountain. This little stand seemed to be doing so quite heroicly.
As I descended towards lower ground, the day began to brighten up a little and the biting rain and mist that had been blasting away for last hour eased off just as I was entering forestry where it wouldn’t have been as much of a problem.
The route took me onto a forest track and I figured it was getting time to stop for a spot of lunch. I was expecting the abundance of benches I’d seen on the ascent but there wasn’t much in evidence. Eventually after a couple of kilometres I came into the forest park and spotted a convenient stump to rest on and had my lunch.
The 7 or 8 kilometres of bog-slog had taken their toll and my Gore-text boots had decided to let in water for the first time in the two years I’ve owned them. It possibly hadn’t helped that I’d stuck my feet down a couple of holes along the way. I didn’t bother trying to dry myself out though – just left well enough alone. I wasn’t cold anyway.
I had the option of a short-cut or of following the Ulster way through the forest park and as it was still relatively early, I took the longer option. There was a pleasant network of forest tracks but the waymarks had vanished so I’m fairly sure I didn’t follow the official route.
I walked about 4 km through the forest and parkland which was a bit of variety before I started to ascend back towards the mountains to complete the loop walk. I spotted a holly-bush along the way that still had a cluster of red berries so it was’t just ours that got left alone by the birds for some odd reason this winter.
The weather really started to deteriorate as I ascended back towards high ground and I really started to get soaked. I ended up putting the camera away to avoid damage and just slogged on through it.
The route ascended along a forest path which went quite a distance into the hills before terminating in this little saddle between two hills. From here on it was a bit of a slog through moorland. I spotted a group of walkers in the distance and I slowly gained on them.
Somehow I lost them and I ended up joining the road with a bout 1.5 km to go to the car. Along the road, I spotted them again – they had obviously taken a bit of a short-cut. I caught up with them and had a bit of chat. I reached the car without much further ado – quite soaked after my day’s walking. I managed almost 29 km for the day.