County Fermanagh’s “Stairway to Heaven”
One of the largest expanses of blanket bog in Northern Ireland can be traversed on a one mile boardwalk – Locals call it the “stairway to heaven” – and when you’ve hiked it for yourself, you’ll see why, especially after the steep climb to reach the 2,185ft summit of Cuilcagh Mountain.
“Cuilcagh”, from the Irish word meaning ‘chalky peak’, is County Fermanagh’s highest mountain and sits right on the border of County Fermanagh and County Cavan.
Cuilcagh Mountain is located in an area with a unique habitat and forms part of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark – another wonderful visit in the area. The first part of the walk passes through a fascinating limestone landscape, often referred to as “The Fertile Rock” due to its flower-rich pastures. Visible along the trail you will see abandoned Irish cottages, dry stone walls and potato cultivation ridges (“lazy beds”) all remnants of Ireland’s past heritage.
Continuing along the gravel vehicle track the landscape starts to change to blanket bog where the unmistakable, flat-topped ridge of Cuilcagh Mountain is visible in the horizon. In the spring, an abundance of bog cotton carpets the bog in a blanket of white, while in late summer the purple moor grass glistens with shades of red and purple.
After 4km, you start your ascent of Cuilcagh Mountain. The way is negotiated by a section of boardwalk, providing protection to the sensitive blanket bog beneath.
Access to the summit of Cuilcagh Mountain beyond the Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail viewing platform is not permitted. Visitors are asked to keep to the designated path and to remain within the confines of the viewing platform.
The habitat in this area is fragile and walkers are requested to respect the environment and not to stray from the designated route.
Your final ascent is via a steep section of steps, these are not for the faint of heart! As you steadily climb you meander and weave your way through a rugged boulder landscape to eventually reach the viewing platform. The viewing platform positioned precariously at the edge of the mountain plateau offers breathtaking views over the surrounding landscape and an opportunity to take a well-deserved rest before starting your decent.
4.6 miles/7.4 km to the summit (14.8km round trip)/approximately 4 hours to complete.
Start at/Finish at:
Cuilcagh Mountain park car park. Please note: This car park is privately owned and there is a charge for parking. The charge per car is approximately £5/€6.
Coaches are advised to contact the landowner directly (this can be done by ringing the Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre on +44 (0)28 66321815, you will be asked to provide a contact name and number which will be forwarded to the landowner to contact you.
NI Explorer.com provide some fantastic images and great footage on their website of the Cuilcagh Boardwalk to view in advance of exploring Northern Ireland and here is a short YouTube video from NIEXPLORER.COM
How to get there:
Follow the signs for the Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre from Enniskillen – Take the A4 Sligo Road from Enniskillen. Turn left onto the A32 Swanlinbar Road. Turn right onto the Marble Arch road. Turn left, still following the signs for the Marble Arch Visitor Centre. Along this narrow road, there will be a sign on your left hand side for the Cuilcagh Mountain Park.
Check the weather and pack smart – Have a fully charged cell phone; Water; Snacks; Wear layers of appropriate clothing, waterproof jacket and correct footwear/waterproof hiking boots. Bring a camera for the fabulous views.
Leave word with someone about where you are going and approximately what time you expect to be back.
Never leave any items or valuables visible inside your parked vehicle.
You might like to treat yourself and dine at the luxurious 5 star Lough Erne Resort, located 15.7 miles from the Cuilcagh Mountain car park.
Another dining option is the Tully Mill Restaurant – Set in west Fermanagh, 7 miles from Enniskillen, Tully Mill is nestled at the foot of Benaughlin and Cuilcagh mountains in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark and neighbours the National Trust Florence Court estate. Tully Mill complex is a converted 18th Century water powered corn mill that was once part of the Florence Court Estate. Tully Mill restaurant offers a relaxed and intimate dining experience with quality food. The menu is traditional with modern twists, local and seasonal produce are used where possible. Other local attractions include Belleek Pottery, Castle Coole Estate, Enniskillen Castle and Cavan Burren Park, to name just a few.
Phone 999 or 112 and advise the emergency crew whether you need an Ambulance, the Gardaí (police), Fire Brigade or Mountain Rescue.
Cuilcagh Mountain “Leave No Trace” principles are:
- Plan ahead and Prepare.
- Be Considerate of Others – Respect landowners, their property and their livestock.
- Don’t stray from designated route, preserve natural habitats and leave wildflowers undisturbed.
- Travel and camp on durable ground.
- Park in designated areas.
- Take care not to damage monuments, walls or buildings.
- Leave What You find especially the limestone pavements – Leave it as you find it!
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Minimize the effects of fire
Minimize your impact on the environment. Leave nothing but footprints & take nothing but photographs.
Embrace a Giant Spirit & explore Northern Ireland.
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Tourism Ireland’s video is brimming with easy to reach trip ideas to get you around Northern Ireland. The only tricky thing will be choosing which trip to take… and how many!
Footage of Cuilcagh Legnabrocky Trail courtesy of http://niexplorer.com
Go n-éirí an bóthar leat!
Note: Featured image at the top of the blog is of Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail, Stairway to Heaven, County Fermanagh © Tourism Northern Ireland
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