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Leghowney, Donegal, Ireland

Leghowney Loop Scenic Walk

A slow climb is rewarded with epic views of Donegal Bay & the Bluestack mountains.

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 4.3 miles / 6.9 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Dog Friendly
 
Overview: The Leghowney Loop Scenic Walk starts off punishing you with little to see and a lot to climb, but perservere and you shall be richly rewarded. We have taken the shorter of the walks on this trail, but the more adventurous out there should take a left turn at Point 10 for a longer walk.

The starting point is Leghowney Community Hall which has car/coach parking for approximately 200 spaces. These walks have been recently developed by the hard working Leghowney community in co-operation of Coilte (Irish Forestry Service). Leaving the Community Hall, follow the signs with the swirling logo of the walk. The first stage leads you through a forest taking you upwards towards the mountain top. This is the hardest part of the climb and is not suitable for buggies or youngsters under 10. The pathway levels out and it is an easy stroll from there onwards. From the top, the views are stunning of the surrounding countryside - Donegal Bay, Bluestack Mountains, Lough Eske and Ben Bulben in Co Sligo are just some of the many landmarks for the walker to savour.

The shortest route takes approx 1.5 hours and the longer route 2-2.5 hours of a worthwhile walk. Coming off the mountain, you enter onto a quiet country lane for approx the last 1.5 km of the walk. For the more serious walker, by taking a right turn at the Meenadreen windmills at Point 7, it is possible to link up to the Ulster Way.

It is possible to avail of refreshments at the Community Hall with teas, coffee,soup etc available by prior notice. In the future the community group hope to have full meals available for coach parties etc. Toilet facilites and seperate changing areas are also available. Simply email the contact form on the Leghowney web site on the right hand column to arrange details.


Tips: This is an moderate walk requiring sound fitness and should take no more than an hour and a half, but allow more time to take in the wonderful flora and fauna of the area or if doing the extended walk. It is worth bringing a camera and binoculars for the upper part. Better still, make a day of it and bring a picnic to eat overlooking the valley.

On the second part of the walk after the wind farm, you are at on a public road so remember to walk towards traffic and if possible, wear a high visibility jacket. Move in if possible on seeing approaching traffic. Both children over 10 and dogs will be able to enjoy this walk, but due care is needed - use a leash for the dog on the main road section.

If you are downloading, we recommend the use of the EveryTrail Pro app, which allows for offline map usage of the guide.

Please spread the word by liking this on Facebook immediately below. Follow the Leghowney Looped Walk on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LeghowneyLoop

Points of Interest

Parking
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Leghowney Community Hall

Your walk begins at this famous hall with ample parking outside. We have included a map with directions as to how to find the hall itself - it is just outside of Donegal Town on the Barnesmore Gap side of town. An added bonus is that every second and fourth Saturday from 11am to 1pm, there is a highly regarded community market in the hall here. Why not time your walk to coincide with one of these markets and take in the walk afterwards?

Follow the swirling looped signs for the walk, as per the image below. You will be making a slow ascent until you get to the gates of a forest which will be on your left.

http://www.countrymarkets.ie/our-markets/north-and-west
Junction
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Turn left for the forest

Turn left here making your way past the gate on the left hand side. This area is owned by Coillte, the Irish forestry service and you will need to factor in the odd work vehicle going by.

The bad news is that there is a slow steep climb ahead of you with not much of a view for some time. The best thing to do is hear the babbling brooks on each side of the road and take in the fresh country air. As Dolly Parton sang, you can't have a rainbow without the rain and perhaps its best you get the tough forgettable part out of the way at the start so you can enjoy one long stretch of wilderness and scenery.
Animals/Wildlife
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Still climbing

We weren't kidding were we? It does get easier and by now you will be starting to get a glimpse above the trees of a vast wilderness that awaits. No longer in Leghowney, you have moved into the townland of Leghawny. On your left, look out for a derelict house and imagine what life must have been like for the occupants on a cold night in November in years gone by!
Mountain
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Higher ground

By this stretch, the terrain evens out a little giving some relief to your calf muscles. The scenery also improves - look out for one tree on the left that has an eery magic about it. Legend has it fairies used to congregate here so don't be surprised if you feel you are being watched! To your left is the townland of Clogher - a great vantage point for those thinking of going offroad.
Mountain
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Towards the Turbines

Finally, you will truly start to see what all the fuss was about. When you get first sight of the turbines or more formally the Meenadreen wind farm, you know you have climbed the hardest part of the walk. Note the abundance of tributaries that bring all the fresh mountain water to Lough Eske and in turn via the Eske river to Donegal Bay which you soon be able to see.
Viewpoint
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Straness

The full panoramic wonder of the bay area is before you. More so than climbing from Lough Eske, you get a real sense of the magnificence of the terrain from the Ox mountains in Sligo through to the Fermanagh hills and onto the Bluestack mountains from up here.

Please note that if you have dogs with you, make sure they are on a leash from this point on as you are entering onto farmland once you come down to the T junction. The success of the walk is dependent on the goodwill of the landowners and they are dependent on you ensuring your dog does not frighten their sheep!
Junction
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Turn right at Turbines

As you come close to the turbines, look out for the signs telling you to turn right. Turning left is only advisable if you are on the Ulster Way, soon to be part of the world famous Appalachian Way. Once again look out for another derelict house on the right and imagine a few months in it away from everything.

As you take the left turn, look out for the byre on the left. At the right time of the year, expect to see and hear young lambs bleating for their mothers at a decibel level that defies their size and age.
Water
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Along the stream

You'll be following the path of one of the mountain streams on your left from now until you get to the main road at Aughlim. Along the way, other tributaries will join it to give it greater strength in its journey to nearby Lough Eske, for which we have produced a separate nature guide for.
Landmark
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Farm life

With your dog secured to a leash, enjoy this section of the walk along brambles and briars before coming along to pastures on the left with frolicking sheep in the Springtime.
Junction
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T junction

Point 10 by the bridge is where you will be turning left if you wish to take the longer route - please see the picture below. The longer route adds another hour to your journey, but for even more spectacular views of the bay area, it is worth it. As with this route, once you make your way down to the main road, you will be taking a right back to the Community Hall.

If you are talking the shorter route, carry on straight along this narrow road.
Viewpoint
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Scenic splendour

For many, this is the highlight of the walk - a stunning vista for sea, mountains and green valleys verge to give the lucky walker a visual treat that will stay in their memory for some time to come. If you are lucky enough to this walk on a sunny day, you will see a view of Irish countryside that easily matches and many would say excels the rest of the country. Welcome to the hills of Donegal!
Viewpoint
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The valley below

This upward walk also allows the walker to get a bird's eye view of the lush valley between the Community Hall and here.
Viewpoint
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Along the hedgerow

Many ususual trees that could easily feature in a Harry Potter film can be seen along the way here. The river has moved to your right hand side and has been picking up force since we first met it at the T junction by the turbines. Look out for more disused buildings as you begin your descent down into the valley.
Junction
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Turn right back for hall

Before you know it, you will be getting to the main road in the townland of Aughlim. Ensure you turn right here to allow you to return safely to the Community Hall.
Information
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Community spirit

Once you take the left turn, you're home and dry with the good news being that the remaining terrain winds gently with none of the earlier pain in the forest. You'll be walking against the traffic of course and ensure you pull well in for oncoming traffic. As you make your way back to the Community Hall, you'll be walking past the homes of the community. Leghowney is a close knit community with everyone knowing everyone else. Get chatting to them if you can - they're a wealth of information.

The Community Hall has a reputation far and wide for excellent rural comedy shows performed every year around St. Patrick's Day time. Local writer Joe McGarrigle, himself a famous performer in his day, had these words to write about it: -

"The club's annual stage production has always been an eagerly awaited event. Initially it was a "one night stand" and with the limited accommodation available many patrons failed to gain admission and were disappointed. Consequently the club had no choice but to extend its run to two and even three nights. Rehearsals were a leisured affair and were only part of a night's social get-together. The rest of the time was taken up with ceilidhe dancing, card playing, or perhaps learning the Irish Language... as one member put it, "some of us had to cycle miles to attend so we always made a night of it". On the night of the show itself the patrons certainly got value for their money. The programme consisted of a fairly lengthy concert, followed by the play itself, with a one-act comedy, described as a "farce", thrown in at the end. In recent years both the concert and farce have been dispensed with. The Leghowney Drama Club never lost sight of its primary aim...to entertain. This is probably why they never troubled to take part in drama festivals. The club members have invariably presented good healthy rural comedy like that to be found in George Sheil's plays, most of which have been produced by the club...'

We hope you've enjoyed this trail. James McCrudden ensures us that more local waymarked trails are to follow so watch this space in 2014.
Pictures in this guide taken by: navigatourist

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Leghowney Loop Scenic Walk Map


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