Eh, so how do you pronounce that and where is it?
Clearing out a few hundred phone pics one day, I stumbled across 5 screenshots of this place, each one about a month apart and each one created with the intention of reminding me to get to this place asap.
Onto Google I go…”Mountain. Boardwalk. Northern Ireland”. Search.
How do you pronounce that?
NOTE ADDED April 2018: PARKING is now possible for £5 per car. On public holidays, expect to see over-spill into the Marble Arch Caves car park. Also, at the TOP OF THE BOARDWALK, access to the mountain top is blocked off by a low fence. We advise you not to climb over this, as the area is still recovering from the increased visitor numbers to the popular tourist attraction. Remember also to LEAVE NO TRACE - if you spot a bit of litter, pop it in your bag and earn some good karma.
Last, make sure you follow Marble Arch Caves Geopark on Facebook for the latest (click here)
From pretty much anywhere in Northern Ireland, set off in the direction of Enniskillen in County Fermanagh. Once there, you'll see signs for the famous Marble Arch Caves Geopark - follow these as they guide you south-west out of the town and into the countryside...
Eventually you'll end up on the Marble Arch Road. You'll pass the entrance to Florence Court National Trust on the left (another one for the list, check it out), and then the entrance to the Marble Arch Caves on your right. Head on past this and around 1km down the narrow road the car park for Cuilcagh Mountain Park is on your left..
THE CUILCAGH LEGNABROCKY TRAIL
Cuilcagh, from the Irish meaning “chalky peak”, is Fermanagh’s highest mountain and sits right on the boarder of Co. Fermanagh in the north and Co. Cavan in the south of Ireland. Legnabrocky is the rural townland just to the north of the mountain’s summit and is where this walking trail begins.
In July 2016, the area gained popularity with the addition of a 1.6km boardwalk – created to protect the rare blanket bog beneath it from erosion caused by walkers as they made their journey across the 33km 'Cuilcagh Way'.
PACK A BAG
The pic above shows the extent of the facilities here. No toilets, no shops for snacks and drinks - just a few picnic benches and some bushes to hide your modesty if needs must. Also, while the 1.6km photo-perfect boardwalk may be the reason you’re there, the overall trek from the car park to the top of it is around 7km – that’s about 3 hours there and back, taking it easy.
So get prepped before you come. I'd recommend you bring water, snacks, and depending on the time of year - extra layers of clothing/waterproofs. I definitely wouldn’t recommend 6-inch heels, though trainers are fine for getting to the top as the terrain is mostly gravel path through farmland up to the boardwalk. If you want to go any further at the top of the mountain, definitely bring walking boots.
HERE WE GO
Hurdling the first farmer's gate and onto the gravel path, in no time the low winter sun was blinding, but made for some great pics.
Not too far up the first gentle hill, you'll see a boardwalk heading off to your left. This is just a short circular loop which quickly joins back with the trail you were originally on. A good one for kids or (and kidults that want to learn about wildlife), but if time's not on your side just skip on past it.
Back on the main path again, it's worthwhile taking breaks and checking out the viewpoints as you start to gain height.
After about 45 minutes of fairly easy climbing, you'll reach the start of the boardwalk. Just about visible in the distance you should be able to see the faint line as the boardwalk creeps up Cuilcagh Mountain. Yes, you're climbing to the top of that mountain. You'll be grand.
As you look back you'll see the landscape stretch on for an eternity.
You'll also notice the pics are gradually getting darker - we set off at around lunchtime which was cutting it fine for making it back before the sun set.
Still epic views though!
The stance here needs explaining - though it's easy to give food & drink prep advice in hindsight, I failed on the food front and was hungry before leaving. This is the packet of Percy Pigs I had to borrow from someone to keep me going. Forever in their debt.
LET THE FUN BEGIN
Arriving at the foot of the steps, you'll notice the introduction of a handrail - it's about to get a little bit tougher. As the steps zig-zag up the mountain though, there are lots of small platforms for you to catch your breath and take in the views. If it's a sunny day, the place will likely be busy, so you'll probably end up using these points to let others past on the narrow boardwalk - a great excuse if you don't want to admit tiredness (like me).
At each point, it just gets better and better...
As the boardwalk twists round to the left, you'll get phenomenal views of the imposing mountainside, massive boulders and Lough Atona.
TOP OF THE WORLD
You've made it! You're now 550m higher than where you started - which is about two-thirds of Northern Ireland's highest mountain, Slieve Donard, in the Mournes.
If you want to go any further than this point, hiking boots are advised - unless you love the feeling of soggy, mucky trainers - and best to have done a bit of research in advance (and don't forget the note at the top of this article - check before you go if the route after the boardwalk has been reopened). You can download Walk NI's handy guide of the area here.
With the sun quickly disappearing, we didn't hang around too long at the top. Back down the steps we quickly went in what felt like a movie chase scene. As the light got darker, ominous clouds started to form over the mountaintop and in no time it was invisible - case in point for expecting the unexpected when it comes to the weather here.
Until next time Cuilcagh!
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