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Limestone Brook Bridge, Ulster, Ireland

The Bluestack Way Part 2

Enter the heart of the Bluestacks from Lough Eske to Letterfad via the Eglish valley.

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 10.0 miles / 16.1 km
Duration: Full day
 
Overview: Local poet William Allingham may well have had Lough Eske in mind when he wrote his poem, 'Four Ducks on a Pond': -

Four ducks on a pond,
A grass-bank beyond,
A blue sky of spring,
White clouds on the wing;
What a little thing
To remember for years-
To remember with tears!

Starting off at Lough Eske Castle by the banks of Lough Eske and at the base of the magnificent Bluestack mountains, the second part of The Bluestack Way App meanders by the shore before rising to give you a panoramic view of the area right across to county Tyrone before entering the valley of Eglish, passing Owenboy and getting us as far as Letterfad bog before settling for the night at The Bluestack Centre. We'll be telling you a bit more about the area along the way, but we'd advise you to be on the look out for a myriad of sights and sounds that Mother Nature has on offer out here.

This guide is one of the six guides available on the 'Bluestack Way App' - simply click on the link to the Bluestack Way App to have access to all six. From there, you'll need to download each guide separately. We recommend using the EveryTrail PRO app for offline access.

Some of the treats you can expect to find on today's walk are the (possible) sighting of golden eagles, Californian redwoods, red deer, blue hare and every sort of flora from marsh marigolds to cuckoo flowers, meadowsweet to umbellifers. You're in a place of immense beauty and fresh air where lichen grows freely as it does where air is truly fresh and where everyone from Fionn McCumhail to friars, gentry to bandits have visited and savoured.

It's now your turn as we tell you all you'll need to know about an area that contains both the biggest and the smallest townlands in Ireland, its abundance of wildlife and its connection with the Beatles, a place where the greatest of all medieval books was completed and theories of the lough being connected to Lough Ness have been expounded. Anyone in the know will tell you there's nowhere else on Earth quite like Donegal and in turn, there's nowhere in Donegal quite like Lough Eske.

This guide is indebted to the knowledge and assistance of the area's leading guide, Patsy McNulty. If this guide has whetted your appetite, enjoy the real thing complete with the banter and turn of phrase that comes from a seasoned pro - contact Patsy on +353(0)86 7941234 about walks all around south west Donegal. Thanks also to Moya and Alex Reid for their encyclopedic knowledge of the area's flora and fauna.

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

Landmark
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Famine pot

Day Two
You'll be starting Day Two where Day One finished - by the gates at the back of Lough Eske Castle. You'll by carrying on down the hill until you see the stone marker for Harvey's Point on your right.

Famine pot
Straight after the Harvey’s Point T junction is the Famine Pot on the left. As you approach this major landmark, look out for some California Redwood in the Coillte wood near the Famine Pot. They're relatively young trees so don't expect to see the likes of the massive beauties around the Big Sur in the Golden State.

From this pot the impoverished locals were fed during the Great Hunger of the late 1840s. There's further signage about the area by the pot, as well as a good car park and a looped walk starting right beside the pot.

The famine of the 1840s or the Great Hunger, caused by a complete failure of the potato crop, was the most devastating event in 19th century Ireland. The famine pot at Lough Eske reminds us of that sorry period when a million people died of starvation and famine related disease and another million plus were forced to emigrate from the likes of The Hassans near Donegal Town, many of them to die in the coffin ships before reaching their destination.

Up until very recently, the area still had a handful of locals who could recount some poignant tale in their own family which has been handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation. Jim McMullin, from Meenadreen was one such local who recalled many harrowing stories told to him by his grandfather who was one of the lucky ones to live through the famine and die naturally in 1911.

The ancient local residents are long gone, but won't be forgotten. Their biggest mark being the wedge tomb in Winterhill and the Cairn tomb in the nearby townland of Tawnavorgal.

Other people who left an indelible mark on the landscape arrived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and, over the next two hundred years were to put a name on every stone, cliff, lough and stream that was to be found in the 147 stacks or hills around here - the Stack of the Big Man, The Mountain Breast of the Three Streams, The Low Hill of the Skulls, the Stack of the Lake of the Disappearing Water and the Hill of the Smooth Place of the Mice were all named by them.
Junction
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O'Donnell's stronghold

Turn left for Harvey's Point
Coming back from the Famine Pot, you'll be taking a left here down towards the lough and to Harvey's Point.

As mentioned, the roads here are busier than perhaps the road builders intended so be careful and keep well in off the road when you hear a car approaching. As you make your way down, you’ll notice a derelict edifice through the woods on the right – this was once the O’Donnell’s stronghold in the Lough Eske area. We'll tell you more about them along the way.

In our audio piece, we tell you about the mythological warriors, the Fianna, who used to hunt in these parts.
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Fianna
Water
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Fishing on the lough

Eske angling centre
There can be few more enjoyable pastimes than angling. John Buchan observed that the charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive, but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope. The lough and its tributaries are popular for fishing, especially for spring salmon, sea trout and char, with the season running from 1 March to 31 September. Tight lines!

For information in-season (1 May to 30 September) contact: Eske Angling Centre, Lough Eske Demesne. Tel: 0749740781. , As the centre will not be open all the time for the 2012 season, you can also contact the Fisheries Office in Ballyshannon first to check opening hours.

For information off-season contact: Northern Regional Fisheries Board, Station Road, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal. Tel. +353(0)719851435

Licence Fees in 2014
National Annual Licence e120
District Licence e58
21-day Licence e46
One-day Licence e32
Juvenile Licence (under 17) e18

Permit Fees in 2014
Note: You must have a permit as well as a fishing licence.
Daily Adult Permit e30
Daily Juvenile Permit e12
Weekly Permit (seven days' fishing e150)
Permits are available for collection from the Eske Angling Centre, Lough Eske Demesne, just before Harvey's Point Country hotel. Tel: +353(0)749740781.

Boat Hire for Lough Eske
Boat hire is e35 per day not including engine. This price does not include your angling permit. If you are fishing then you will need a fishing permit. Boat hire and an angling permit for one person is e50 inclusive. To purchase boat hire and angling permits for two people the cost is e80 inclusive. Maximum of two people per boat.
Water
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Tranquil waters?

You'll be by the lough's shores by now. Out on the shore you'll see O'Donnell Island, which was once a home to the O'Donnells of nearby Donegal Castle. From here, one of the most famous journeys in Irish history began on the 11th September 1607. Rory O'Donnell and his immediate family left their castle on Lough Eske that morning to walk for three days through the mountains to Rathmullan on the north coast of Donegal. There they joined with the O'Neill and Maguire families to sail to Spain on 14th September in what has became known as 'The Flight of the Earls', the final journey of the great Gaelic chieftain society which had ruled Ireland for the previous fifteen hundred years.

On a slightly less poignant note, the national daily, The Irish Daily Star, published a story entitled 'Look out, it's Eskie!' back in the summer of 1998, claiming monster sighting in the lake. Staff and residents at Harvey's Point told the reporter that at 2.30pm on Sunday 28 June 1998 they saw an unidentified object moving about 300 m off the shore. Some people suggested that the Lough Eske Monster was a publicity stunt by local impresario, Zack Gallagher. He, however, has always denied this and has gone on record as saying he believes in the existence of such a beast - and will tell you so if you buy him a beer to discuss the harrowing event! The less fanciful version is that a lost seal swam the short distant up the River Eske from Donegal Bay that day.

Other locals interviewed, such as bed and breakfast owners Annabel and Kieran Clarke, repeated some of the local folklore when they told the paper that some lakes in Donegal are said to be connected by current to Scotland, trying to make a link with the much more famous Loch Ness Monster. A look at a map does give credence to this theory - Gweebarra on the way to Dungloe is said to be a continuation of the great fault line that cuts through Scotland's Lough Ness, in effect the biggest crack in the world. The late Kieran Clarke was Ireland's finest piano technician. Besides clients such as Brendel and Argerich, he was the man who ensured the piano in Abbey Road studios sounded good. Quietly salute him next time you hear The Beatles' 'A Day in the Life'.

Following on from our anecdote about monsters in the lough, Patsy tells us what exactly a dubh dorachor is.
Audio
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DD
Water
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Lough Eske Reeds

This is great place to savour the surrounding hills and you will get the closest view of the lough itself on the walk. Look out for flags, bulrushes, water lilies and reeds, as well as flowering rushes on the lough itself. The incoming rivers of the lough (and their meaning in Irish) are: -

Clashalbin River (The Gully of the White Mare), Lowerymore River (The Big River Abounding in Elms) , Corabber River, (The Humpy, Muddy, Boggy River), Clady River (The Mountain Stream) with the Eske River (The River abounding in Fish) taking the water the 3.5 miles to the sea.

The lough's islands are Pigeon's Island, Grania's Island, O'Donnell's Island and Roshin Island. O'Donnell's Island is regarded as the smallest townland in the country at one acre - the largest, Tawnawilly mountains at over 6000 acres is also out here, neither with a single human occupant!
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Flora of the area

You're now moving away from the main traffic as the road narrows. It's a great place to tell you about the flora of the area. You should be looking out for the following along this section: -

- Whins, ferns (whins and ferns give the area its most typical colours gold and bronze)
- Bluebells (in woods in late April/early May especially near nearby Ardnamona)
- Montbretia (import now naturalised around ditches, lovely in August/September)
- Lichens ( grey lichens on old stone walls evidence of purity of air of Bluestacks)
- Marsh marigolds, cuckoo flowers, meadowsweet, umbellifers, irises
- Buttercups in moist meadows
- Selfheal, bird trefoil, oxeye daisies, clovers in drier fields.

It's said that lichen could tell early man of which direction he was facing - with lichen growing on the southern face of rocks as it got its daily sun! Come the Autumn, this whole area is an excellent place to forage - just make sure you know what you're picking.

In our audio piece, Alex Reid tells us to celebrate the microcosm of Ireland that is Lough Eske.
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Microcosm of Ireland
Water
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Lough Shores

Lough shores
These waters will be remembered in history as the place where the O'Donnells fled Donegal in 1607, but seeing as we're in a poetic vein, here are the words to O'Donnell Abu by M.J McCann to mark better times - O'Donnell's victory in Ballyshannon in 1597, the melody of which is still used by RTE radio as their signature tune every morning around dawn.

The words and music of “O’Donnell Aboo” were composed in the 1840s at a time when the castle lay in ruins, the O’Donnells dispersed all over Europe and the whole population was virtually downtrodden by tyranny and famine. During the 1840s, Thomas Davies, a leader of “Young Ireland”, urged Irish poets and songwriters to contribute patriotic ballads to his paper “The Nation”. In Davis’ own words, “We will endeavour to teach the people to sing the songs of their country that may keep alive in their minds the love of fatherland”. Among the songs Davis published was a poem written by Micheal J. McCann (1824-1883) called “The Clan Conel War Song-1597”, otherwise known as “O’Donnell Aboo”.

“O’Donnell Aboo”, like many other 19th-century ballads, was a nostalgic look backwards at the former glories of Ireland, a ballad upon which people could pin their hopes. The tune to which it was to be sung, Roderick Vick Alpine Dhu, was a traditional one, but a military bandmaster from Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Waterford, called Joseph Haliday, composed a new tune to fit the words and it was Haliday’s tune which was to gain favour and become the tune so well-known today. It’s a strong, virile march melody full of pride and determination and it fits the words very aptly: -

Proudly the note of the trumpet is sounding
Loudly the war cries arise on the gale
Fleetly the steed by Lough Swilly is bounding
To join the thick squadrons on Saimer's green vale
On every mountaineer, strangers to flight or fear
Rush to the standard of dauntless Red Hugh
Bonnaught and Gallowglass, throng from each mountain
Pass onward for Erin O'Donnell Abu!

Princely O'Neill to our aid is advancing
With many a chieftain and warrior clan
A thousand proud steeds in his vanguard are prancing
'Neath the borderers brave from the Banks of the Bann
Many a heart shall quail under its coat of mail
Deeply the merciless foeman shall rue
When on his ears shall ring bourn on the breeze's wing
Tir Conwell's dread war cry, O'Donnell Abu!

Wildly o'er Desmond the war wolf is howling
Fearless the eagle sweeps over the plain
The fox in the streets of the city is prowling
And all who would scare them are banished or slain
On with O'Donnall then, fight the old fight again
Sons of Tir Conwell are valiant and true
Make the proud saxon feel Erin's avenging steel
Strike for your country O'Donnell Abu!

During the first few decades of the present century there was a Donegal writer of considerable note - Seosamh Mac Grianna of Rann na Feirste - who, although principally known as a novelist, made a singable translation of the song calling it “Ó Domhnaill Abú”. It appeared in the Ranafast Irish College songbook, “Abair Amhrán”, in the 1940s and hence it filtered through into schools and social gatherings as a song in Irish.

Nevertheless, it was the original McCann version that endured the years as a rousing school song. Even to this day national schoolteachers throughout Ireland teach “O’Donnell Aboo” to their classes and many generations of Irish people can still sing it proudly and cherish fond memories of their childhood and school days.
R.T.É, or Raidió Éireann, as it used to be known, used part of the tune of “O’Donnell Aboo” to begin their early morning programmes – the official signature tune. Its phrase was repeated over and over again on harp and celesta (sounding rather like a musical box) and every household in Ireland was awakened each day from its slumber to the gentle strains of “O’Donnell Aboo” on the radio. If people didn’t already know the tune, they certainly knew it after that.
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Coming to the woods

Coming to the woods
As you turn left away from the lough, you'll be walking with the gentle gush of the Clady river on your right for company. Now might be a good time to tell you of the trees to view in the area.

Our next stop is the Ardnamona woods walk, which is well worth the diversion. Look out for the old mill in the wood. This mill was once used for electric supply to the Ardnamona estate. Also of note in the Ardnamona area is the vestigial oak from the prehistoric forest, now Duchas Reserve, beside the lake's north shore, once part of Ardnamona. The Clarkes were keen landscapers and cultivated rhododendra and Azalea in Ardnamona gardens, which is on the State recommended list.

Other tress and growth of note in the Lough Eske area include: beech, birch, ash, wild cherry, hazel, rowan (mountain ash), blackthorn, whitethorn, willow (black sally and white), sycamore, alder, elder, yew, Scots pine, larch and the wild rose.

You'll have already noted the specimen Cedar of Lebanon at the front of Lough Eske Castle. Good bog oak has been found out here - it can be dug out of bog on the hillside remains of primeval forest.
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Ardnamona woods walk

Ardnamona woods walk
Want to go off road and sample a walking path that loops around large oak, hazel and holly trees in a woodland that is left in its natural state? You've found it at the Ardnamona woods walk. Look out for mosses, bluebells, wood sorrel, streams and the lakeside to enjoy on this delightful walk developed by National Parks and Wildlife Service. The wood is also home to red squirrel, badger, fox and mink. Dogs are only allowed if kept on a lead. Allow one hour to complete this separate walk.

On your right you'll see a two-story house. Turn into entrance of the house crossing the bridge over the Clady river, go past the house. About 100m on the left, you'll see parking facilities. The house is private property- don't go asking them questions!

Walk Directions - see the map attached.
A-B. There is an information sign inside the gate. At the first junction go straight and the route ascends gently up to junction B, where the trail turns down to the right.
B-C. The path winds steeply down for a short while, and crosses a number of little streams. Watch out on your left for one great example of new branches growing vertically from an old fallen trunk. Then you arrive at the shore of Lough Eske, with stunning views over the lake and the magnificent Bluestack Mountains rising behind it.
C-D. As you continue along the path you cross another footbridge. The route has a few short steep sections, but the beauty of this natural broadleaf woodland will more than compensate you for the strain.
D-A. At the top of the path you are back where you started, with the entrance gate on your left.

Our audio piece is unconnected to the woods, but gives us an insight into the customs that occurred before Lent commenced in days gone by.
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Shrovetide
Information
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Up the hill

Up the hill
As we approach the old friary location, we'll tell you of another interesting fact about the area. Lough Eske is the only recorded place in County Donegal where a Síle na Gig was found - you'll have seen more about it on the Information Board by the Famine Pot. These are stone carvings of women with exposed genitals, most often found in churches, usually near the doorway, or castles - in this case, on O'Donnell Castle.

Far from being erotic carvings, the women portrayed tend to appear old and are certainly not titillating, some hold their genitals apart, others seem to be screaming. Síle-na-Gig are not unique to Ireland, they are found throughout the British Isles and in France and some parts of Germany also. Lots of theories have been put forward about their origin. Some say they are illustrations of the effects of the sin of lust or symbols to ward off evil. Another theory is that they are goddesses of birth or fertility, pre-Christian artifacts in spite of their being mainly found in churches.

In many cases it appears as if the carvings are older than the buildings in which they are found, possibly moved to their new locations at the time a church or castle was built, which would seem to support the pre-Christian theory. Many men of the church were horrified at the look of them and had them removed, so credit where it is due to the friars out here who allowed it to remain. Once moved from the island to Lough Castle, it disappeared over a 100 years ago and hasn't been seen since. Someone has a unique artifact on their mantlepiece!
Junction
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The Friary

Directions
As you approach the top of the hill, you'll be taking a right following the signs for the Bluestack Way.

Friary
This area is commonly regarded as the site of the old Franciscan friary, indeed the townland is called Friary. As Catholicism was suppressed in Ireland, the Franciscan community was banished from their friary in Donegal Town. They moved to their new home in the wilderness of Lough Eske, as it was described in a letter by St Oliver Plunkett to his Superiors when he was Bishop of Ireland. From their new home, these Monks dressed in their long brown robes, walked through the hills to bring the message of God to their parishes and far beyond. St Oliver Plunkett also desribed the lough eske friary as "The best kept convent in all of Ireland" in a letter he wrote to Rome when visiting Lough Eske in 1672. The original letter can still be seen in The Vatican archives. This is strong evidence that the Franciscan Order were still in Lough Eske 40 years after the Annals of The Four Masters were published.

Beer hop vine
This plant grows in the manner of ivy and it is believed its feather-like fruit heads are used to flavour beer brewed from barley. This plant grew wildly in the friars' time and lay unrecognised for years after their departure until a clean up operation was taking place by the Office of Public Works. Alfred Timony from Revlin just outside of Donegal Town retrieved a cutting and planted it in his garden. His grandson, Maurice Timony (whose shop we recommended for buying maps) became aware of its provenance and brought a piece to Glenveagh National Park for verification. It now forms part of the National Plant Archive and is grown today in both Glenveagh and Killarney National Parks.

Brothers Path
One of the routes they took was a path known as 'Casan na Brathra', the Brothers Path, which led from Lough Eske through the Bluestacks to Glenfin, no easy walk on the best of days. This path, still to be seen, was marked by piles of stones, every quarter of a mile or so, with a white quartz stone on top, which could easily be seen in rain or fog, to guide the brothers on their way. Indeed, it was probably in this Friary, where the final chapters of the 'Annals of the Four Masters' were written, effectively the first complete history of Ireland.

Lake Circuit
Another nearby walk of note is The Lake Circuit. This walk starts on the Bluestack Way and moves into the hills. It is a pleasant circuit walking in the hills without too much height gain. Taking in the views and ambling around four lakes nestled in between the mountains. This is a track and hill walk and suitable for people with moderate levels of fitness. This walk can be used as an introduction to hill walking.

Our audio piece salutes the efforts of the Four Masters to compile the Annals. In an age where everything is done with the click of a mouse or the touch of a button, their manual dedication to the task was momentous.
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Friary
Junction
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Ascending the valley

Directions
You'll be turning left and climbing towards the Bluestacks. Get ready to start ascending as you make your way towards Eglish.

Our audio piece gives us an early indication of what to look out for from the Bluestacks' most ubiquitous resident, the humble sheep.
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Sheep types
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Final view of Lough Eske

View of Lough Eske
If you manage to get a good day, this is a chance to see why the place enjoys a reputation of scenic splendour. Down below you is Lough Eske or Lough Eask from Irish: Loch Iascaigh or Loch Iasc (meaning somewhat prosaically "Lake of the Fish"). The lake is about 900 acres (3.6 km2) in size and is surrounded to the north, east and west by the Bluestack mountains, which occupy most of central and eastern County Donegal right into neighbouring Tyrone.

The lake and its tributaries are popular for fishing, especially for spring salmon, sea trout and char, with the season running from 1st March to 31st September.

View of the wind turbines
The wind turbines you can see across the lough are right on the border with the United Kingdom; that's how close you are to County Tyrone. By the 1970s the serious recreational walker had arrived at the Bluestacks and was coming from Tyrone. They were as yet a very small but very dedicated group. In hindsight, they were before their time in more than one way.

Information
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The Otherworld

On a quiet road by the side of a mountain in a part of the world that translates as 'church', our carefully selected audio piece tells you about what the ancient Irish called 'the Otherworld'.

The Otherworld has been described in Irish poetry and tales as being a land of paradise, happiness, and summer. It is often described as a series of islands where the various deities and ancestors live. Many mythological heroes, such as Cúchulainn and Bran in The Voyage of Bran, journeyed to Otherworld realms.

The Irish believed in an Otherworld, which they described sometimes as underground, such as in the Sídhe mounds, and sometimes located on islands in the Western Sea. The Otherworld was variously called Tír na mBeo ("the Land of the Living"), Mag Mell ("Delightful Plain"), and Tír na nÓg ("Land of the Young"), among other names. It was believed to be a country where there was no sickness, old age, or death, where happiness lasted forever, and a hundred years was as one day.
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Otherworld
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Punctual eagles

Towards Eglish
Known as Leana Mor, this little used road soon becomes an unsurfaced track and affords the most striking views back over Lough Eske as you climb to a height of 300m. To the north are the dramatic granite slopes of Na Cruaha Gorma and the cliffs providing the backdrop to Lough Belshade. Looking over the bay one can see the mountains of Sligo, Leitrim and Fermanagh. The keen observer may catch a glimpse of wild goats in this valley on the steep sided slope of the ridges. These are part of a small herd of feral goats that roam in the more remote areas of these mountains. Patsy however, will tell you to be on the lookout for golden eagles that can be seen swooping around the mountains. He’s even brave enough to say the eagles are a timely and efficient bunch and forecasts they are best viewed at 11am. So there.
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Blue Stack and eagles
Mountain
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The Bluestack Mountains, North East Range

The Bluestack Mountains, North East Range

We have two audio pieces - Moya Reid reciting the names in Irish of the North East range and Patsy McNulty telling us about the bog on the right.

The mountains to the west of Barnesmore are in full view of your current location with a colourful variety of names for about 70% of the stacks: -

62 Croaghbarnes - Cruach a’ Bhearnais, The Stack of the Gap
64 nameless
65 Altagaranduff - Alt an Ghearráin Duibh, The Hillock of the Black Colt
66 nameless
67 Croaghloughaderry- Cruach Loch an Doire, The Stack of the Lake of the Oakland
68 Croaghagrannagh - Cruacha Gránna , Ugly Stacks
69 nameless
70 nameless
71 Cruach Bhéansáin - Benson’s Hill
72 Croaghmeen - Cruach Mín, Smooth Stack
73 Croaghmeenare - Cruach Mín-Fhéir (or Cruach Mhín an Áir), Stack of the Smooth Stack (or Stack of the Smooth Place of the Massacre)
74 nameless
75 nameless
76 Croaghconnellagh - Cruach Conallach, Stack of the Tribe of Conaill
77 nameless
78 Tawnawully Mountains - Cruacha Thamhnach an Mhullaigh, The Mountains Stacks of the Grassy Upland of the Highest Point
79 nameless
80 Croaghnageer - Cruach na gCaor, The Stack of the Sheep
81 nameless
82 nameless
83 Croaghanirwore - Cruach an Fhir Mhóir, The Stack of the Big Man
84 nameless
85 Cronamuc - Cró na Muc , The Sheltered Place of the Pigs
86 nameless
87 Brown’s Hill – Cruach de Brún,
88 nameless
89 nameless
90 Pollakeeran Hill - Cruach Pholl an Chaorain, The Hill of the Hole of the Bogland
91 Croaghbrack – Cruach Breac, Speckled Stack
92 Clogher Hill – Cruach an Chlochair, The Stack of the Stoney Place
93 Barrack Hill - Cnoc na Beairice
94 nameless
95 nameless
96 Croaghanierin - Cruachán Éireann (or Cruach an Fhuaráin), The Litle Hill of Ireland (or the Stack of the Cool Spring)
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Winning turf
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North east range
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Eglish valley

Eglish valley
Turning northwest and descending from the end of Banagher hill, we reach the townland of Eglish (Eglais, a church). Tradition indicates that a wayside school was situtated beside a brook which passes under the Eglish road. In recent years there were eight families living here; the ruins of their houses are still to be seen along with the remaining houses in the lower valley.

At the end of this road, the Eglish valley opens out into the Eany valley. From the road junction, the Eglish river flows south west through the lower valley where it later joins the Eanymore river. At this vantage point, the full extent of the work of the last Ice Age can be appreciated as below the Eany valley opens to the ocean. The small rounded hills which are dotted on the land between here and Donegal Bay are drumlins. Drumlins, a name derived from the Gaelic for small rounded hills formed as the earth was shaped beneath a glacier as it trundled downslope. The long axis of the drumlins point to the direction in which the glacier once moved. The south-westerly flow of the ice that covered the land during the last ice age over 10,000 years ago, is well illustrated by the long axis of the drumlins.
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Eglish
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Heavenly peace

Patrick Campbell had this to say about Eglish: -'Here in Eglish we really have the tempting challenge for the hiker, and the fisherman has to but step from the road as the river flows alongside it. The majestic cliffs and high spinks seem to come so near to meet and greet us and to invite us to their tops in order that we might see the amphitheatre of lakes dotted along like mystic mirrors with their streamlets racing over those cliffs, creating spectacular waterfalls on their way, and finally coming together in the valley far below to form the Eany river. The fascination of the pure and bracing breezes among those cliffs and the Heavenly peace of those Cruacha Gorma lend to that landscape charm and beauty which change at the will of cloud and sun, sending mighty shadows, and at times showers, along those emerald braes'.
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Living in Eglish
Landmark
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Lime kiln

Lime was used in agriculture to reduce the ph value of soil. In our audio piece, Patsy tells us a bit more about the lime kiln you'll see on the left of the path as you descend through Eglish valley.
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Lime kiln
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Plane crash

Upon leaving the Eglish Valley the main portion of the Bluestack mountains are on the right: rising to a peak of 671m the ridge is known locally as Na Crucha Gorma or the Bluestack. It was on the North Eastern slopes of this ridge that a Sunderland Four-Engine RAF plane or Flylng Boat crash-landed at 11.45pm on 31st January 1944 in stormy conditions. Seven members of the 12-man crew were killed. It is at the top of theis ridge that one will find the youngest of the ignaceous formations in the Bluestacks called Dollarite.

Although Ireland was neutral, in World War II or 'The Emergency' as it was euphemistically referred to here, an agreement was made with the Allies allowing British aircraft to fly over part of County Donegal to carry out Atlantic patrol duty. After thirteen hours of hazardous flying in a severe storm, they had attempted to reach nearby Castle Archdale in Fermanagh. Sections of the wreckage remain to this day and a plaque commemorating the tragic events reads ‘to the end to the end they remain’ from the poem 'For the Fallen' by Laurence Binyon.
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Belshade fault

The trace of the Belshade fault trends down the Eglish valley and lies at the foot of the hills and marks the contact between the Carboniferous rocks and the Barnesmore granite, the hills in the centre and west are Precambrian Lough Mourne Schists. The contact between the granite and the schists lies in the little valley between the two ridges. The rock types can be differentiated at a distance by the steep faces that form in the granite and the sloping faces that represent the Lough Mourne Schists.

Along the ridges to the west are two knobs of rock. These are smaller granite outcrops related to Barnesmore granite and their distinctive knobbly shape indicates their difference from the Lough Mourne Schists. The slope profile of the western part of the ridge changes from steep at the top to shallower at the bottom and marks the trace of a second fault – the Boundary Fault. Coinciding with this change in slope is a change in vegetation that is reflecting the underlying rocks. The heather-dominated lower slopes of the western part of the hill are Carboniferous sandstones while the grassier parts are Upper Mourne Schists. Travelling down the valley, there are examples of houses abandoned during the famine, lazy beds and stone kilns used to burn limestone to provide fertiliser.
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Stockinghead
Water
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Sheep dipping

After crossing the Eglish river, you'll see an unusual structure on your right - Patsy is at hand to tell you what exactly it is.
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Sheep dipping
Building
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Meenataggart Hall

Directions
Exiting the Eglish valley turn right and follow the road across the Meenataggart river. At the next junction the main road turns left but the Bluestack Way carries straight ahead. The old tumbled down shed on the right was once a thriving dance hall known locally as Meenataggart Hall.

Meenataggart Hall
Meenataggart Hall was one of the three community halls in the area where dances and meetings were held on a regular basis until the 1950s. People came on foot and by bicycle from a 15-20km radius to attend the dances on a Sunday evening. Dances started at 8.30pm and ended at midnight. The admission charge was 6d (3 cents). However, Christmas night dances went on until 2.30am and cost 1 shilling to attend (6 cents).

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Dancehall
Mountain
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Blue Stack Range

Blue Stack Range

Amazingly, the actual Blue Stack mountain range has only five named stacks: -

41 Sruell - An tSruthail, The Flushing Stream
42 nameless
43 nameless
44 nameless
45 nameless
46 nameless
47 nameless
48 Croaghgorm - Cruach Gorm, Blue Stack
49 nameless
50 Mullaghnadreesruhan - Mullach na dTrí Sruthán, The Mountain Breast of the Three Streams
51 nameless
52 nameless
53 nameless
54 Binmore - Binn Mór, Big Peak
55 nameless
56 nameless
57 nameless
58 nameless
59 Glascarns Hill - Cruach na nGlas-Charn, The Stack of the Green Cairns
60 nameless
61 nameless

With such a dearth of Irish words to translate, Moya is joined by poet Francis Harvey for his second Bluestack-inspired poem called 'The Song'.
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Bluestack range and The Song
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Meenawilderg's famous son

Patrick Campbell was born in Meenawilderg in 1911 and from an early age developed a deep interest in his surroundings. A generous and thoughtful man, his writings reflect a natural turn of phrase that the locals used in everyday vernacular. A transgression was thus excused as ‘God bless the poor creature, sure he was sore tormented by a nagging wife’ and so on.

Patrick got a wake up call on being hired out to farmers from the Donegal Hiring Fairs that took place every May and November. He worked ten 6-month consecutive contracts with farmers in many parts of south-west Donegal, attaining a greater understanding of human nature and the need to improve his own station in life. We’re grateful to his Estate for the use of material from his two classic books, 'Rambles around Donegal' and 'From Silent Glens to Noisy Streets' – try and get your hands on either one as mandatory research prior to walking the Way!
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Patrick Campbell
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The Gasur Mors

Patrick Campbell wrote that the menfolk of the Crugha Gorma 'were experts in sheep stock and famous for their knowledge of those mountains and hills. Their sheep dogs only understood commands in the Irish language, and like many other mountain districts in Donegal, it has never been known of anyone to leave Sruhill without refreshment in plenty. In the summers of the 1920s on Sunday evenings, I often witnessed a house full of visitors and sheep farmers, all enjoying the big bowls of good strong tea and beautiful pot-oven cake, capped with the finest home-made butter. The big decorative bowl was filled so generously that if you were to slip your spoon in it, you would have to seek the assistance of your knife to fish it out. Those were the times we enjoyed such refreshments which were given by people whose hearts were as big as their hills, those great people the Kennedys and Kennys of Sruhill, the Gasur Mors (the big boys).

The green braes to each side of the Grey Mare’s Tail, which are continually watered from its spray, give a pleasant freshness to that mountainside, and a tasty run for mountain rabbits which are always plentiful there. This is the early source of the Eanymore river which ends in Inver Bay and provides the earnest fisherman with many pleasant hours. It also, no doubt made an impression on many emigrants who left its shores and the feeling of those people can be felt in the words of the songwriter, Patrick Ramsey in his song ‘The Banks of the Sweet Eanymore': -

How I dream of that dear place, as if it were for me
The purling rills of Sruhill Hills, perhaps no more to see,
It’s far away I deemed to stray across the western tide,
To view those hills and other rills far away from Eanny’s side

The shape of the valley was cut from a V-shaped river valley by a glacier in the ice age. The erosion by the ice cut away the lower sections of the streams on the sides of the valley and now form ‘hanging valleys’ with waterfalls. The Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall is an example of this. The rocks of the sides of the Sruell valley are the Lough Mourne Schists and the Barnesmore granite at the end of the valley.

Our audio piece tells us more about this great landmark.
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Grey Mares Tail
Water
map

Eanymore river

Directions
Follow the roadway to the white house: the path that follows the fencing on your right almost to the end of the field. It then swings left and leads the walker to a gate through the next fence and then downhill to another gate and the ruins of an old farmhouse, then to the bank of the Eanymore river. For a short distance the pathways follow the river bank before crossing the Eanymore water. Crossing the river one is treated to an impressive sight of the falls and rapids of the river cascading across the rocks. This sight is all the more impressive when the river is in spate. The river gets its source higher up in the Bluestacks; it boasts a good quantity of salmon, brown and sea trout.

In our audio piece, Patsy tells us about the colour of the water from the Eanymore.
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Yellow river
Viewpoint
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Sruell valley

Grey Mares Tail
Follow the path straight from the river for approx. 20m then right along the laneway to the main road. Once at the road, turn right towards the mountains, following the course of the Eanymore on your right. Walking along the road towards the mountains one can see into the Sruell valley with an impressive waterfall on its left slope, known locally as the Grey Mare’s Tail. This fall has its source in a lake on top of the mountain known as Lough Asgarha in the townland of Binnasruell.

Sruell comes from sruth meaning stream. Flora bog cotton, butterworth, St. Patrick’s cabbage, tormentil and wild violets. To the left of the Grey Mare’s Tail is the 505m Binnasruell. Beyond it is a walk into the Sruell valley up to 671m Lavagh More and 650m Lavagh Beg. Lavagh translates into Leamhach referring to elm, which was once common in Irish woodlands. Also once common was elm, which suffered from overuse by humans, especially the Vikings, and Dutch elm disease.

Patrick Cambell writes ‘Sitting by the window in the Kennedy home, attention is drawn to the Scardan, that big waterfall on the north mountain in the Sruhill townland. This part of the townland north of the river has been locally called “far Sruhill. Ruball na Larach Baine (The Grey Mare’s Tail) which this fall resembles so much, begins its long journey from a mountain lake named Lough Eascartha which is tucked in a valley behind one of the high cliffs on the north Sruhill side. This cliff or spink is called the Cock of Sruhill or Coilleach na Sruthaille. The stream from this lough runs in an irregular direction and spills over the cliff from a height of about 1,800 feet and falls into another stream which runs southwest from Sruhill gap. This waterfall can be seen from a considerable distance and while in spate sends a foam all along its precipitous course.

Our audio piece tells us some more about the lakes above the waterfall.
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Grey Mares extra
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Professor turned sheep farmer

Local writers such as Paul Peppergrass, Patrick MacGill and Seamus MacManus emigrated to America but one American bucked the trend and came to Donegal leaving behind the leafy arches of Harvard for Meenaguish deep in the Bluestacks between 1970 and 1984. Bob Bernen wrote two books out of his experience, Tales from the Bluestacks and The Hills, which recall his experience of the lifestyle and stories he heard from the area.

In the Foreword to the first book, Bernen wrote: ‘Ten miles north of Donegal Town, in the extreme north west of Ireland, runs a range of low, rounded hills known as the Blue Stacks. Technically they are classed as mountains but to the ordinary eye, they look like hills. Their name – taken from the Irish name of the highest peak – Croagh Gorm, is fitting, for from a distance they always appear a deep, purple blue, even on the clearest days. Around these hills lives a small group of farmers whose lives continue to be rooted in the eighteenth-century patterns, or earlier. Technologically and agriculturally their methods scarcely reveal modern influence. Today, we read about ancient and medieval technology which can still be seen in use on Blue Stack farms, some of them home-made in forms that have long since disappeared elsewhere. Machines are seldom used.

Into this bit of anachronous farming community a modern man and his wife moved, to farm sheep and to live in the manner of their neighbours. Some of what they heard, saw or experienced is recorded in the following tales. The tales are therefore unlike fiction, which falsifies in order to achieve a greater effect. The aim here has been to preserve a true picture of some aspects of Blue Stack life at the moment of its final disappearance, and as it fades into the modern world around it.’
Dealing with individual stand-alone chapters, the books present a picture of a community farming without machines, the interaction of men and animals and a deeper understanding of the life around them and of the earth and the living things that come from it.

In our audio piece, Patsy tells a little bit more about the man and his best friend from the hills, Nothar.
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Tales from Bluestacks
Viewpoint
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Meenaguse Lough

Meenaguse Lough sits on a glacial deposit and together with the small lake to the east may represent ‘kettle hole’ lakes. These lakes formed as the ice sheets retreated, leaving behind large blocks of ice, isolated from the main ice mass, which were partially or completely buried by sand and gravel. When the ice melted, hollows were left which now often contain lakes. The derelict house on the north side of the road with abundant fuchsia surrounding it was the residence of the aforementioned Bob Bermen during the 1970s.

In our audio piece, Patsy tells us a funny story about the house with no road.
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Turbines and Jimmy Burke
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Turf cutting

Patrick Campbell wrotes: -'On our way we pass by a famous bog in Clogher where in my young years was used extensively by large farmers who came several miles to cut and save turf, and paid them two shillings and sixpence per day. They claimed that a mountain man would cut more turf in one day than they themselves would cut in two days. They usually save the turf themselves and towards the harvest time it was not unusual to see up to ten horses load of good black turf homeland bound, as the sun was sinking behind the hills. What a charming scene or picture this made, with fine well-groomed horses and bright red painted carts fitted with high turf creels and well crivined* loads of good dry black turf. There was a contented look on each man’s suntanned face, as he sat and smoked his pipe on a sack of hay on top of his load of turf, and listened to the hollow sound of cartwheels as they rolled over the stone-surfaced road in the silence of an autumn evening’.

*The crivin is the ‘top’ on a creel of turf.

Our audio piece comes from local guide, John McGrory, who tells us a bit more about this famous bog. It has a few names as you'll have seen!
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J Clogher bog
Viewpoint
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The Bog

Directions
At the next road on the left, the pathway swings into the hills. Some distance up this road, the walker meets a gate and a little further on, you turn right towards the hill top. Follow the tarmac path to the gate and long the straight rugged path to the next left turn. Walking along this bog road, one can see where active turf cutting takes place. Here the peat is extracted from the bog, then dried and stored for winter fuel. To the right hand side of this road no turf cutting takes place as it is a special area of conservation. Follow the pathway left through this turf cutting area, stay on the path which swings left and onwards downhill past a little cottage on your left and further on through a gate to the main road where you again turn right towards the mountains.

Ace turf cutter Patsy tells us some more about this stretch of bogland.

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Turf
Information
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Bog flora

The blanket bog has the typical abundance of ling heather and sphagnum moss as well as a variety of other mosses and lichens expecially Cladonia impexa growing on the stems of the heather. Even at higher elevations looking down over Meenaguse, people have planted trees along boundaries close to houses to provide wind breaks. Fuschia, a plant introduced to Irish gardens in the late 1700s from South America is the favourite plant here. Bog myrtle is common.

In our audio piece, Patsy tells us why fuschia is so popular in these parts.
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5P Fuchsia
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Saving the hay

Patrick Campbell had happy memories of a hard day's work out in this valley: 'After the saving of the turf and hay, we children looked forward to the day of the gathering in and the building of the haystack. For weeks we talked of this day of days in glee on our way to and from school, the day when a meitheal of neighbouring men would gather to a mountain home and help make the haystack and secure it against winter storms. The meitheal took place from one mountain to another until all the hay cocks were safely gathered in and built in stacks in gardens or haggards.

There were very few horses around our mountain in my school days, so the hay was all carried on men’s backs, but even at this heavy work there was competition and fun. Men worked in pairs and tied their hay burdens with tether ropes. Their arms were then put in behind the ropes and each man helped the other man up to his knees and onto his feet with the heavy load of hay on each man’s back. The pair of men who would move a tramp cock of hay in the shortest period of time and with the least number of burdens became the champions of the meitheal and were entitled to pride of place at the haystack party.

That would be a night to be remembered, a mixture of old and young, where young would have a chance to listen to songs of their parents and grandparents and the older folk would hear and listen to the latest songs from the young folk. In most mountain homes, there was some sample of Irish or Scotch whiskey – Paddy Flaherty, John Jameson or John Powers – or perhaps here and there a sup of the good auld mountain dew kept in the hole in the wall near the kitchen bed.

In our audio piece, Helen Meehan tells us more about how people used to tend to this valley in the olden days.
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Agriculture in the valley
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Forest

As we wind our way down to the main road, we pass through one of the many forests you'll encounter along the Way - Patsy tells us more about them.
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Forest
Junction
map

End of Day Two

Directions
Note: at this point one might wish to turn left and walk to the Hostel accommodation at the Bluestack Centre. Approx 3km away is the village of Letterbarra where the Bluestack Centre is located adjacent to the legendary O’Neill’s pub. Just a taxi ride away is the beautiful village of Mountcharles which has both a vibrant local community and one of the best restaurants in the country, the award-winning Village Tavern - see http://villagetavern.ie/ for more.

In our audio piece, John McGroary tells us more about the art of planning permission in these parts.
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J Planning permission
Building
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The Bluestack Centre

Bluestack Centre
A stay in the Bluestack Centre hostel is a great opportunity to see how a community can pull together and get things done. The building of the centre itself was from the vision and perseverance of a few locals and today, the place is at the heart of this rural community nestled deep in the Bluestacks. During the week, they have everything from dance classes to sewing classes, bingo to amateur dramatics. The staff is ably lead by Rosemary Ward and they are most accommodating – just ask. Need a sprain seen to? There’s a man down the road who can help. Need to get a lift into town? No problem. The place is well maintained with all mod cons and free WiFi. You’ll be well set for the toughest, but arguably most enjoyable part of the Way over the hills and down into Glenties.

Tel/Fax: +353 (0)74 97 35564
On Call Phone +353 (0)87 7822441
Email: info@donegalbluestacks.com
http://www.donegalbluestacks.com/
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The Bluestack Centre
Building
map

O'Neill's of Letterbarra

It's a place like this that has made Ireland what it is; where issues are discussed, good pints are devoured and maybe a bit of music will come along. A landmark local hostelry, even if the original boss is no longer behind the bar.

On our audio piece, John McGroary tells us a little bit more about the institution that is O'Neill's pub.
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O'Neill's pub
Water
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Upper Eany More canoe ride

This bridge is the starting point for a challenging piece of canoeing as far as Inver.

According to Neil Fox, if the rain is dancing on your windscreen, the Eanymore is one of the best river trips in Donegal. However, it is only worth considering during a heavy consistent downpour. If you can see a small rock in the centre of the river 20 metre downstream of Letterbarra Bridge, the level is too low.

The first 1.5km of the trip is fast flowing Grade II, although some good playholes can be found if the flood is high enough. The real fun starts upon reaching a concrete footbridge - from here to Drumagraa Bridge and beyond for a kilometre the rapids come at a constant Grade III, and in high water some grade IV. There are some excellent surf waves and playholes, but the breakouts are small and it is all too easy to let these opportunities slip by as the water races down the valley. Things ease off a little as the Eany meanders the remaining 2 km to the take out.

Many people have passed through these parts over the years - in our audio piece, we hear of one such traveller who came at a perilous moment in the nation's history back in the 1920s.
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IRA boys on the run
Pictures in this guide taken by: © Mark Flagler, Flagler Films, navigatourist, mikerubino

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The Bluestack Way Part 2 3 Day Forecast

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