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Ardara, Ulster, Ireland

The Bluestack Way Part 4

The final stretch takes us along the fish-rich Owenea river to Ardara.

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 7.5 miles / 12.1 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
 
Overview: The final stretch of the Way is relatively flat, largely following the path of the Owenea river from Glenties to Ardara, two of the most beautiful towns you'll find in Ireland, both with a deep sense of civic pride. It's not surprising then that each has produced two of the most iconic personalities of the county in the form of Jim McGuinness from Glenties and Anthony Molloy from Ardara. Jim we'll have mentioned already, but Anthony has a unique position in Donegal GAA football in being the first Donegal captain to ever raise the Sam Maguire cup back in 1992 (young Jim was on the panel that day).

Once again, you're exploring completely different terrain. With the winding river's stepping stones and the abundance of hawthorns often associated with the fairy folk, we also take the opportunity to tell you a bit about the fairies. Many a man may laugh at the notion of such a thing, but few if any would ever cut down a fairy tree.

This guide was produced for Donegal Walkers Welcome with the aid of funding from The Heritage Council.


Tips: PLEASE NOTE: This App is primarily intended as a means of enjoying the lore and history of the area. While it follows the route of the Way via GPS, it should be used as a supplement to, not a replacement for, proper map and compass reading. Full advance preparation should be made of the route with Ordinance Survey maps that should be taken with you together with proper equipment, apparel and sustenance. We can recommend the following professional guides: Patsy McNulty +353(0)877941234 (for Parts One and Two), Brendan Proctor (for Parts Three and Three Alternative) +353(0)863373031 and Bradas McDyer (for Part Four) +353(0)863530537.

This guide and each of its associated guides is subject to acceptance of the navigatour™ Licence Agreement whose link can be found on the right hand column of this page. Please inform navigatour™ of any changes or improvements that can be made to this App in the future: info@navigatour.ie

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

Points of Interest

Junction
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Leaving Ballybeg

Just as Gar had to leave Ballybeg in 'Philadelphia Here I Come', we must leave the beautiful town of Glenties to complete the Way. With any luck you'll be back for the MacGill festival, the Harvest Fair or just to base yourself for a future visit.

The starting point of Day Four is opposite the Limelight nightclub up Main Street and is of course signposted as you'll see in the picture with our guide and local Mountain Rescue co-ordinator, Bradas McDyre.

You'll be walking some 400m along the road and taking a left in the direction of Ardara and the imposing mountains around it. On the T-junction itself, you'll see the circular skid marks left by boy racers - this somewhat pathetic activity is known as 'donuting' and the cars that caused them are easy to spot; garish souped up twin cam motors with exhausts like bazookas. You'll hear them before you see them and if so, step well in off the road, not out of respect, but safety.

In our audio piece, we tell you about an airneal - the sort of event the Mundy girls would have had spontaneously when the mood took them.
Audio
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Airneal
Animals/Wildlife
map

Gorse

Following the walk approx. 3km from Glenties, the roadway is flanked by gorse or whin bushes with their bright yellow flowers. In May and June, when the blooms are most prolific, you will find colonies of a little known Irish butterfly - the Green Hairstreak. A careful look along these Gorse Hedges by the roadside will often produce good numbers of this fast-flying insect. Upon alighting on the yellow flowers, the closed wings reveal a 'metallic' sheen which characterises this beautiful butterfly. Along the riverbanks, look out for the Common Blue butterfly in June/July.

In our audio piece, Dan Gallagher tells us about how Glenties would have been thronged with sheep during the annual Harvest Fair in early September.
Audio
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Harvest Fair
Viewpoint
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View of the mountains

To those of you who are looking hungrily at the imposing mountains across the way, the good news is that there is a highly regarded waymarked walk called Sli Cholmcille that takes in the mountains to the left - Mulnanaff, Crocknapeast and Common Mountain (the horse shoe) going down to the base of Glengesh before taking on the beasts that are Crockuna, Meenacurrin and Slievetooey.

Look out for Adrian Hendroff's excellent book called 'Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim Mountain and Coastal Hillwalks - a walking guide'. These are dealt with as Walks 15 and 16, with Walk 17 being simply called 'Ireland's finest coastal walk' and no, Slieve League is Walk 18. Here's hoping we've whetted your appetite - it's the best walking book of its kind in Ireland, a case study in practical and intelligent information with some fun festooned throughout.

Going in the direction of Loughros Bay, we tell you more about Grainne and Diarmuid who are believed to have fled there in Irish mythology escaping Fionn McCumhaill.
Audio
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Grainne
Water
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Metal bridge

From this laneway, the route turns left into a field and goes directly to the riverbank. Follow the waymarkers carefully along the river, crossing many bridges and walkways as you head towards Ardara. Some of the bridges were built to facillitate anglers using the river, but most were built for workers at the nearby Bord na Mona peat extraction works to get to and from their place of work. One of these bridges, a rail crossing, was used to transport the extracted peat from these extensive peat boglands.
Audio
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Diarmuid
Water
map

What the river can tell us

According to Michael Gallagher, the river in all its moods, was a very accurate forecaster of weather conditions; the sounds of a flood being heard from upstream when the river was low, meant a flood in the near future that was known as “Tuile Bhreige’ or false flood. The colour of the water was also a guideline – black and murky water with froth on the surface was a sign of heavy rain imminent while when the sand and pebbles were clear visible in the river bed, that meant fine weather on the way. If spa water begins flowing from a bog-hole, a long break in the weather is approaching. Twinges of arthritic pains can be felt in ageing joints, and sometimes in joints not so old, before the onset of heavy rain.

The experienced angler can predict the weather, from his success or failure in landing trout or salmon. If after a flood, the fish do not rise to the bait, he knows more rain is on the way.

In our audio piece, Bart tells us how Ardara has both the Owenea and the Owentocker river flowing by and how it got to have its very own glamourous West End.
Audio
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A village of two rivers
Water
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Owenea fishing

The Owenea River runs for some 13 miles, draining Lough Ea in the west of the Croaghs, into Loughrosmore Bay at Ardara. The Owenea is primarily a spate river taking around one to two days to run off after a good flood. The season on the Owenea runs from 1 April to 30 September.

The Owenea is one of the best salmon rivers in the county. The river has a run of spring salmon, grilse, sea trout and has a resident stock of small brown trout. The fishery consists of nine beats on the bottom eight miles of the river with good pools spread throughout the whole river. The river has a lot of nice fly water with the majority of fish being caught by this method. When in condition the river is one of the best in the country for grilse. The main grilse run starts in July with salmon right to the end of the season.

The fishery has access for disabled anglers along a section of beat 3. There is an ongoing programme of maintenance and upgrading of access, angling structures, habitat restoration etc. N.B. Shrimp and Prawn are strictly prohibited.

Permits
Adult day permits €35
Juvenile (under 16) day permits €15
Weekly (seven-day) permits €175
Bookings/Further information
Single-day and multi-day fishing products are available. Please ensure that you also purchase a licence if you book your fishing permit online. To fish on the Owenea you must hold a fishing permit and a fishing licence.
Bookings are non-transferable. Rods are assigned to beats on a first come first served basis. Payment can made by credit or debit card, including Visa, MasterCard and Laser.
Bookings and in-season information available through:
Owenea Angling Centre, Glenties Hatchery, Glenties, Co. Donegal. Tel: (074) 9551141. Fax: (074) 9551444. Email: nrfbglenties@eircom.net
Off-season information available through
Northern Regional Fisheries Board, Station road, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal. Tel: (071) 9851435. Fax: (071) 9851816. Email: info@nrfb.ie
Audio
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Owenea fishing tale
Information
map

The Irish Storyteller - an seanchai

Local writer Seumas MacManus collected and told of the gentle people in his book, 'Donegal Fairy Stories'. Writing on Old Lammas Day from Donegal town in 1900, his preface starts:- 'tales as old as the curlew's call are today listened to around the hearths of Donegal with the same keen and credulous eagerness with which they were hearkened to hundreds of years ago. Of a people whose only wealth is mental and spiritual, the thousand such tales are not the least significant heritage...

...the professional shanachy (sic) recites them to a charmed audience in the wake house, in the potato field, on the green hillside on summer Sundays, and at the crossroads in blissful autumn gloamings, while the green marge rests his hearers' aching limbs...he would wish that this world might for a few hours, give him their credence on trust, consent to forget temporarily that life is hard and joyless, be foolish, simple children once more, and bring to the entertainment the fresh and fun-loving hearts they possessed ere the world's wisdom came to them. And if they return to the world's wise ways with a lurking delight in their hearts, the shanachy will again feel rejoiced and proud for the triumph of our grand tales.'
Audio
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Seanchai
Information
map

Fairy lore

Fairy lore is prevalent in Donegal, albeit not to the same extent it was over 100 years ago, which some sceptics tie in with the development of modern technology to entertain us and the diminishing of native poteen making and of tales spun around to keep people away from certain places with a well placed fairytale.

There are stories right across the county of people who have come across them in their travels. Well documented stories exist for places in south Donegal, from Pettigo to Carrick. Our audio piece tells us more about them and the poem below may be known to many of you. It was composed by Ballyshannon poet, William Allingham.

The Fairies

Up the airy mountain, Down the rushy glen, We daren't go a-hunting For fear of little men; Wee folk, good folk, Trooping all together; Green jacket, red cap, And white owl's feather!

Down along the rocky shore Some make their home, They live on crispy pancakes Of yellow tide-foam; Some in the reeds Of the black mountain lake, With frogs for their watch-dogs, All night awake.

High on the hill-top The old King sits; He is now so old and gray He's nigh lost his wits. With a bridge of white mist Columbkill he crosses, On his stately journeys From Slieveleague to Rosses; Or going up with music On cold starry nights, To sup with the Queen Of the gay Northern Lights.

They stole little Bridget For seven years long; When she came down again Her friends were all gone. They took her lightly back, Between the night and morrow, They thought that she was fast asleep, But she was dead with sorrow. They have kept her ever since Deep within the lake, On a bed of flag-leaves, Watching till she wake.

By the craggy hill-side, Through the mosses bare, They have planted thorn-trees For pleasure here and there. Is any man so daring As dig them up in spite, He shall find their sharpest thorns In his bed at night.

Up the airy mountain, Down the rushy glen, We daren't go a-hunting For fear of little men; Wee folk, good folk, Trooping all together; Green jacket, red cap, And white owl's feather!
Audio
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Fairies
Animals/Wildlife
map

Back to the bog

The Bluestack Way makes its final river crossing at 'Iron Bridge' in the townland of Glenconwal. Take a final look at the panoramic views over Loughros Mor Bay and the rising mountians of Meenacurrin and Slievetooey in the distance.

Just by the bay is a place known far and wide as Kentucky - Bart Whelan tells us why in the audio piece.
Audio
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Kentucky
Landmark
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Owenea Bridge standing stone

Upon getting onto the R261, you may wish to turn right and view the nearby Owenea Standing Stone, a massive block some 3.5 metres high in a scraggy field behind a ruin. Folklore says that Fionn McCumhaill threw this shoulder stone from “Clo na Cleire Mountain” and it landed here. When you get to the brown sign on the right saying Owenea river, cross the stile right beside it and turn left to see the standing stone - you have the landowner's permission to be there.

In our audio piece, local Bart Whelan tells us the colourful story of Fionn's reason for throwing the stone - not just a warrior, but Ireland's earliest eco warrior it would appear!
Audio
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Owenea standing stone
Junction
map

T-junction

Directions
You'll be taking a left at the T-junction to bring you into the last stop of Ardara.
On leaving the river, the route makes its way to the main Ardara to Narin/Portnoo road, the R261. At this road, you turn left to make the final kilometre of the Bluestack Way into the village of Ardara - well done and here's hoping you've made it to the end in one piece!

Taking the right would get you to the beautiful coastal villages of Narin and Portnoo - we could not complete the Way without having Bart Whelan tell you one of the great tales of the area, the early days of Narin golf club and its unusual golf hazards.
Audio
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Narin golf club
Landmark
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Ring fort

The end of the Bluestack Way is at Ardara on the Atlantic coast on Loughros Bay. Ardara - Ard an Ratha (pronounced 'Ardra') means Hill of the Fort, named after the large ringfort situated above and overlooking the village. Located behind the national school at the top of the town, the ringfort is approx. 28km in diametre and enclosed by an earthen bank and ditch. it was probably home to a single family and dates from AD 500-800.

Our pictures show you the wall and gate to look out for to access the Ardara fort. Make your way over the gate and up the hill to see the fort.

There is an even more impressive ring fort a few miles away, just outside of Portnoo called Doon Fort.

Wondering what else to see in the area? Ask about any one of these wonderful sites: -

Iniskeel Island, St Connell's Church and two Cross Slabs; Narin's championship 18 hole Golf Course, Kilclooney Portal Dolman; Cloney Wood Forest walk; Massrock at Morganstown; Owenea Bridge standing stone (see POI 7), Ardara Fort at Hillhead, Evie Hone stained glass window, Drumbarron Hill scenic view, The Dorleens, Loughros Point, Maghera Caves, Assaranca falls near Maghera, Glengesh Pass and Ard an Amharc.
Audio
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Ring fort
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Ardara fort
Junction
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Heritage town

The capital of festivals not just in Donegal, but possibly Ireland? We're not going to list out all of the festivals here - you'll know of the Cup of Tae festival and maybe the Walking festival, but rarely is there a week that goes by in the Spring and Summer that there isn't some sort of celebration in the town. Not a bad way to pass time!

The area is famous for its spectacular scenery, beautiful unspoilt beaches, and the hospitality of its people. Ardara is a designated Heritage Town and also a well known centre for the manufacture of Donegal homespun tweeds and knitwear. We are great fans of Kennedy's of Ardara for their very nifty knits - see their website on the right hand column. Great trad music is to be heard around the town and a visit to Nancy's for seafood and music is a must - it's just been crowned national Pub of the Year by the Georgina Campbell guide book.

The Diamond has been a market place since the 1700s when George Nesbitt had livestock and tweed traded on the first day of the month. Today, the fair is held annually, usually around Whit weekend.

In the Heritage Centre, you'll hear a good telling of the role the county played in the weaving industry. There's a hand loom weaver on site and an audio visual guide upstairs as well as a small cafe. It doubles up as a Tourist Information centre. Open Easter-September, Monday to Saturday 10-6, Sunday 2-6.

Our audio piece comes from Jennifer in Nancy's famous award-winning pub telling us that Ardara is recognized as Ireland's best village by the readers of The Irish Times no less.
Audio
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Nancy's
Pictures in this guide taken by: © Mark Flagler, Flagler Films, navigatourist

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