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Tullynaglack, Ulster, Ireland

The Bluestack Way Part 3 - alternative route

In the event of poor weather, take this safer route to avoid the mountain.

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 8.3 miles / 13.4 km
Duration: Full day
Overview: If the weather is poor or you are not feeling up to a hike over the 412m Cloghmeen Hill, then best to take this alternative route instead.

At the old ruined cottage, this route follows the track away from the main Bluestack Way mountain route and heads south-west down the Eanymore valley parallel to the Eany Beg river. Following this track for approximately 2 km gives the walker fine views across Donegal Bay on a clear day. Young plantations of conifers are fast becoming the prominent landscape feature of this area.

Besides the spectacular view towards the bay, there are some great tales that we'll be telling you along the way. We'll be showing you the location for starting a canoe ride down the challenging Owentocker river and you'll be passing close by a recorded episode of a pooka - a demonic sprite that has thankfully not been seen or heard from in nearly 200 years. We'll also be walking by the Bog Hotel, a shibeen that has garnered its fair share of press in recent years.

All in all, don't feel you'll be missing anything by taking this route. Like most parts of the Bluestacks, there's a story around every corner.

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:

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Points of Interest


Towards Donegal

After the old ruined cottage, following this track for approx. 2km gives the walker fine views across Donegal Bay on a clear day. Young plantations of conifers are fast becoming the prominent landscape feature of this ares.

A right turn through a gate at the bottom of this track leads you north again toward the mountains. On climbing this track you enter an area of traditional peat extraction on an area of lowland blanket bog, much of which lies derelict, but some turf banks are clearly visible and still worked today. After a further one kilometre, the walk goes across country and follows the waymarkers over the bogland. Care must be taken to follow the chosen route as this area can become very wet in some seasons and it is not advised to deviate from the marked pathways.

This area is also a working upland sheep farm and is in private ownership. Care must be taken to leave all gates as they are found unless signs indicate their closure and only cross fences using the stiles provided for this purpose.

Towards Donegal – John Boyd

The halo of sun now hldes the hills
Of Donegal, while here I stand
Watching the gathering cloud that falls
Over those hills nightly, like a fan
Unfolded in an orient tale.
I have never known those lost hills
Nor their people; nor the soft tongue
Spoken there; nor the silence that falls
With soldered sun; nor valleys along
The crackling coast now bare of sail
Or smoke of ship; Yet I can tell
My children legends woven there
In winter’s woe; and telling feel
The spell in the wondering stare
Of candid eyes captured by the living tale.

Our audio piece has John telling us how the valley we have come through is in fact the result of glacial deposit.
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J Glacial deposit

The hungry month

Patrick Campbell writes that 'scarcity would still be felt in and around the small mountain farms until midsummer or even the end of July. Indeed July was called ‘the hungry month’, ‘the lean month’ (the old Irish speakers named it Iul an ghorta’) ‘the shaking of the bags ‘ which when emptied were left ready and waiting for August and the golden harvest. Then the saying was ’we’ll soon be on the pig’s back’ for Lunasa Eve is at hand. In Donegal, St. Cron’s Day, 7th July was the day set to dig the first basket of new potatoes – it is said that 'potatoes are early if dug for the feast of St. Cron’. Another proverb around our mountains was ‘Let St. Patrick set the potatoes and King Billy can dig them’ meaning the early potatoes planted on 17th March, the feast of St. Patrick, could be ready for digging on the 12th of July, the date of the Battle of the Boyne.

In our audio piece, we tell you about the Irish superstition that is the hungry grass.
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Hungry grass

Heather, bees and views

The route joins a track of the townland of Cronagrass below Binbane mountain and curves round southwestward to join the main Frosses to Glenties road (R262). Along this section of the route can be found Ling heather moorland. Cronagrass was once populated; evidence of which can be found in the many ruins in this townland. In the past the heather was used to house honeybee stocks to produce Ling heather honey; a prized product and a very fine honey with a bittersweet flavour and a full bouquet. Ling honey is not runny but sets to a jelly and is much sought after by the coinnoisseur.

Spectacular scenery
Kinfaela gives a comprehensive description of the panorama that is on offer from standing atop Leagan’s Hill (Liagan Hill in his book) on the Ardara road just outside of Inver. It deserves to read in full from his classic 1867 book 'The Cliff Scenery of South West Donegal', but we will give you the section that concerns us on The Bluestack Way: -

'North of Drimhome appear the mountains of Pettigo and Lough Derg rising still higher and higher til they reach Barnesmore. Next in succession rises Cruach-Gorm (Blues Stack 2213 feet) looking like the hugh dome of some monster cathedral. It is the second in height to Mount Errigal among the mountains in Donegal (third in fact we believe, after Muckish). Then sweeping in a semi-circle towards you there appear, in one continuous range, the peaks of Cruach-an-airgoid (Silver Hill, 1967 feet), Carn-na-Bhaodhan (pronounced 'ween' meaning Calf Hill) which has a comlech at the summit, and lastly Binbane (White Peak, 1490 feet) within two miles of us. Here there is a break in the communication, occupied by a plateau of moorland directly to the north of us. To the left of this, or northwest of where we stand, and at a distance from Binbane of about five miles rise the ridge of Mulmossog, three miles long, which at its westerly extremity allows a gap or nick to intervene between itself and the Cronarade range to admit of the passage of the road between Killybegs and Ardara. This passage is called the Nick of the Ballagh.

Then follows the rocky chain of Cronarade, which at its western end forms a bold promontory at Towney Head. In the opening already referred to, between Binbane and Mulmossog, you can distinctly discern the main ocean. On the left of this portion of the background may be observed the mountains of Lettermackaward, and the island of Arranmore. The whitish grey pyramidal-shaped peak towards the right of Errigal (2452 feet) the loftiest mountain in Donegal, and the dark rounded mass near it in Muckish (2190 feet)'.

In our audio piece, Michael Gallagher opines why people had more energy in the old days.
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What folk used to eat

Geology of the valley

The panorama looks north to the western part of the Bluestack mountains. The most westerly mountain is Binbane, the long ridge to the east is Cloghmeen Hill which passes into the more rugged peal of Carnawen. The windfarm at Meenaguse and the mountain to the east of this is Binnasruell. The rocks that form the mountains are 600 million years old and are made up of quartzites – sandstones that have been heated and compressed by the earth's forces and become even harder and more resistant to erosion.

All the low hills in the foreground are underlain by 325 million year old Carboniferous age Drumkeelan Sandstone. The low ground south of the Bluestack mountains is also underlain by 325 million year old shales, limestones and sandstones. The elevation of the ground also controls land usage e.g the lower and drumlin-covered ground has subsistence farms and irregular settlements. The area has also more modern land uses such as windfarms and commercial forestry while mountains are used for the rough grazing of sheep.

A major geological fault has brought older rocks of the mountains into contact with younger rocks of the foreground. The trace of this fault runs along the beak in slope of the mountains. The shape of the mountains is controlled by the rocks that form them. For example, Binbane has a gentler slope to the west, which becomes steeper towards the summit. This is due to different rocks one of which is more resistant to erosion than the other.

In our audio piece, John tells us how this area was once a tropical ocean.
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J Tropical ocean

Beware of the Pooka

You'll be coming out onto the R263 main road from Frosses to Glenties here. Take a right and walk against the traffic until you get to Sir Arthur's Bridge.

In the village of Killian not far from Binbane, Kinnfaela tells the story of the Pooka, which infested the district around 1817. The Pooka was a ghost, which showed himself regularly every evening about dusk. His appearance was that of some shapeless monster, apparently without head or limbs. His mode of locomotion was neither walking, jumping, crawling, nor flying, but rolling himself along as one would impel a cask or barrel. For two years inhabitants within three miles of Killian would hear his horrid cry with all the regularity of the setting of the sun. No one could expect to go outdoors after dusk without being sure of meeting him. Anyone who did confront him could expect to be found dead of fright the following morning.

Kinfaela continues ‘A man called Bryan MacGuire who lived in Tiawar and needed to go to Meenagran for a creel of potatoes met the Pooka on his return. He sustained a deep shock to his nerves, but being a religious man, he committed himself to the protection of heaven. He could not go forward as the Pooka was in his path, and was keeping up such a horrid bellowing as would prostrate poor MacGuire, had not the aid of religion supported him.

So blessing himself, he manfully accosted the Pooka, who thereupon lost some of his terrors for his questioner. They entered familiarly into conversation with each other, the result being that the monster confessed himself a spirit from the ‘vasty deep’ and imparted much information to MacGuire respecting the other world, and his own mission upon earth. Whatever secrets the latter learnt that night were never divulged. In the end MacGuire exorcised the unclean spirit and duly consigned him to some place of confinement, to which he made his exit immediately, giving forth from his capacious lungs one shrill piercing shriek, as a parting farewell. But the shock was too much for poor human nature. MacGuire languished and died within the year, but the Pooka was never again heard in Killian’.

Picture of Pooka by Unkraut.

Our audio piece elaborates on the superstition of the Pooka.
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The Bog Hotel

On a corner of the R262, you'll see a number of buildings on the left. You're looking at The Bog Hotel belonging to Patsy Brogan. No, it is not an hotel and no, it is not a bar. Sort of. Patsy Brogan and his young Polish fiancee, Daria Weiske, fought the law and the law lost in trying to call this place a sheebeen or illegal drinking den. If you are lucky enough to get into it, you can find out for yourself.

Patsy has maintained the fully-fitted pub in a shed at the back of his home – dubbed the Bog Hotel – is where friends and tourists can call in for a drink and claims he does not charge for drink, preferring to refer to the place as a ceili house. Personally, I'd keep walking as these days he only lets in people he knows well.

In our audio piece, we introduce you to another man who grew up at the foot of Binbane mountain, Dan Gallagher, who tell is like it is. He had a farm in nearby Tullynaglaggan.
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Dan Gallagher

The Bluestack Mountains North Range

The Bluestack Mountains, North Range – Name, Irish Name and Meaning

The most westerly section of the range is well named with only a few nameless stacks: -

1 Cronaslieve - Cró na Sliabh, The Sheltered Place of the Mountains
2 Binbane - Binn Bán, White Peak
3 Luaghnabrogue - Luach na mBróg, The Price of the Shoes
4 Meentacreeghan - Mínte Creachán, The Smooth Places of the Little Bushes
5 Cloghmeen Hill - Cruach na Cloiche Míne, The Stack of the Smooth Stone
6 Carnaween - Carn na n-Éan, The Cairn of the Birds
7 Croankeerin Cró an Chaorthainn, The Sheltered Place of the Rowan Tree
8 nameless
9 Meenacloghspar - Mín na Cloiche Sparra, The Smooth Place of the Sharp-pointed Stone
10 nameless
11 Meenaguse - Mín an Ghiúis, The Smooth Place of the Pine Trees
12 nameless
13 nameless
14 nameless
15 Binnasruell - Binn na Sruthail, The Peak of the Flushing Stream
16 nameless
17 nameless
18 Lavagh More - An Leamhach Mhór, The Big Marsh Mallow (or The Big Bright Calm Spot)
19 Lavagh Beag - An Leamhach Bheag, The Small Marsh Mallow (or The Small Bright Calm Spot
20 Doocrow - Dubh-Chruach (Dúchruach), Black Stack
21 Tullyhonwar - Tulaigh an Chon Mhóir, The Low Hill of the Big Hound
22 Crockbrack - An Cnoc Breac, The Speckled Hill
23 Meenakilwirra - Mín na Cille Muire, The Smooth Place of the Church of Mary
24 Meenawannia - Mín an Bhainne, The Smooth Place of the Milk

25 Tullynevil - Tulaigh Nimhiúil, The Low Hill of the Poison (or... of the Poets)
26 nameless
27 Tullynaglaggan - Tulaigh na gCloigeann, The Low Hill of the Skulls
28 Tullybane - Tulaigh Bhán, The Low White Hill
29 Tullynadoobin - Tulaigh na nDubh-Bhinn, The Low Hill of the Black Peaks
30 Doobin - Dubh-Bhinn, Black Peak
31 nameless
32 nameless
33 Meenagushoge Hill - Cnoc Mhín na gCuiseog, The Hill of the Smooth Place of the Reeds (or Stalks)
34 Cronacarkfree - Cró na gCearc Fraoigh, ) The Sheltered Place of the Red Grouse
35 Crockbrack - An Cnoc Breac, The Speckled Hill
36 Cullaghcro - Cúil Chruach The Nook of the Stacks
37 Croaghanarget - Cruach an Airgid gan ainm, The Stack of the Money
38 nameless
39 Silver Hill - [“Cruach an Airgid” féach Iml. 3] The Stack of Silver
40 Binnacally - Binn na Cailli, The Peak of the Old Hag
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North range

The legend of Castlemeara

To the south west of our current location lies the ancient castle of Castlemeara. According to Kinnfeala, residents of the area believed that the three last remaining Danes after the Battle of Clontarf, a father and two sons, were condemned to be hurled into the nearby lake by the victorious Irish.

They were kept in close confinement at Castlemeara and were promised their freedom on condition of revealing the mode of manufacturing beer from heather - a secret in the possession of the Lochlanni or Danes. The old man promised to disclose the secret on condition that his two sons be despatched first.

The Irish were rather surprised at the father's requiring the previous death of his own sons as an indispensable condition; yet, so bent were they on getting possession of the secret, that they willingly complied. But no sooner had they done so than the crafty Dane asked to be thrown in the lake after his sons. 'Not unless you refuse to tell us the secret' answered the Irish. 'Then I refuse!' responded he haughtily. 'Why did you insist upon your sons being put to death before yourself?' they asked. "Lest they reveal the secret after my death' replied the defiant Dane. Upon this a weight was fastened to his neck and he was thrown into the deep pool, carrying the secret with him.

In our audio piece, we hear from Dan Gallagher telling us about a sheep farmer from these parts who may not have had much education, but knew everything there was to know about sheep.
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Knowing the sheep

Mountain mist

According to weather postman Michael Gallagher, the mist clearing from the top of the hill in the morning is a good sign for the rest of the day. If there is mist over rain or valley, looking like grey smoke, a good spell of weather is expected. Smoke from a chimney rising in a straight column to the heavens, predicts good weather, but if it is seen coming down to the ground it bodes no good. In Summer, warm and humid conditions with inky black clouds in the sky presages a thunderstorm.

In our audio piece, we tell you about holy wells - you're never too far from one in County Donegal.
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Holy wells

Sir Arthur's Bridge

You'll be getting off the R262 and heading right at Sir Arthur's Bridge, rejoining the Way form the back of Binbane. we suspect the Sir Arthur in question was Sir Arthur Chicester, a landowner whose son was to become the Earl of Donegall - note the two 'l's in the spelling!

In our audio piece, we hear from Dan Gallagher, who would have been very familiar with having to pass Sir Arthur's Bridge for education and entertainment purposes.

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Out and about the foot of Binbane

Owentocker river

The Owentocker is regarded as one of the best Grade IV rivers in the northwest.

According to canoeist Neil Fox, 'the starting point is at Lough Nillan bridge which is on the Alternative route and is marked on our guide. It’s a 35m/km gradient that travels for five kilometres. The Owentocker or commonly called ‘Ardara River’ is steep, narrow, rocky stream. The runoff is immediate so it must therefore be raining heavily in order to consider launching onto this river. Given the required flood conditions, this is probably one of the best mountain rivers in the area.

There is no time to warm up, and the first two kilometres to a metal frame footbridge is continuous and difficult mountain paddling. Watch out for wire stretched across the river. Short flatter sections of Grade II and one Grade IV drop, lead down to a small bridge. This is a good place to take out if a second run on the more continuous section is preferred. In the remaining 2km to the finish, there are many technical rapids. One in particular, a narrow constriction should be inspected'.

Our audio piece from local man Dan Gallagher is a gem. As a good Catholic, he always fasted the night before taking Holy Communion in Glenties, but nevertheless had no problems doing some poaching in the river or 'pooching' as they called it. It's not a sin if you don't see it as one we guess!
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Saint and sinner

Rambling House

Our audio explains what a rambling house is. Patrick Campbell writes 'Those rambling hours and the old men’s tales were my greatest enjoyment, as I listened with excited eagerness to Big Owen Ward tell of his years in Colorado and his weeks on the sea in sailing boats, going and coming home from America. How often they told of the lonesomeness of mountain homes when a boy or girl emigrated, how they associated the emigrating from those mountain homes of such and such a neighbour’s child with the day or the day before or after the birth or death of another neighbour. In this manner those old mountain folk compiled their mental calendar and they could relate happenings of distant years as if they had just happened the day before'.

In our audio piece, Sean McMahon gives us a good overview of a rambling house.
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Rambling House

Getting back on track

At this point, you'll rejoining the main Bluestack Way, meeting up at the Owenea river. You'll be carrying on over the the bridge into deepest Doobin and along the Casan down into Glenties.

In our audio piece, we tell you about All Soul's Day and its customs in these parts.
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All Souls' Day
Pictures in this guide taken by: © Mark Flagler, Flagler Films, navigatourist

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