Hidden in the depths of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful county is Cuilcagh Mountain. So stunning, it could easily be mistaken as part of The Lord of the Rings set. The mountain sits on the border between counties Fermanagh and Cavan and is a UNESCO Global Geopark.
Cuilcagh Mountain is the highest point in Co. Fermanagh at 666 metres/2182 feet. I still think Topped Mountain near Lisbellaw is higher, but I won’t argue (I recently visited Topped Mountain). Cuilcagh is loosely translated to ‘chalky’; an odd name for a mountain that is composed of shale and sandstone.
I recently had my first venture up Cuilcagh with Mum and Dad. The mountain and surrounding geopark are local to where I grew up, but had neglected to visit. I have been to neighbouring Marble Arch Caves multiple times and had been dragged through the Cladagh Glen on numerous occasions for Geography field trips at school. (Update: I like to go there out of choice now; beautiful waterfalls).
On a day the sun was shining brightly, we made our way past the entrance to the Marble Arch Caves and into a car park for walkers of the Legnagbrocky trail.
The trail begins walking along a road for service vehicles for the park. Sheep graze along the road, resting from the sun under trees with their lambs. Their comfortableness with humans allows you to get relatively close to them.
As the road ends, the boardwalk begins.
The boardwalk was opened for public use in 2015 and drastically changed accessibility to Cuilcagh. Previously, walkers trudged along blanket bog and up steep climbs. Today, the boardwalk goes along 1.6 km above the bog before reaching a mountain staircase of 450 steps (I cannot confirm this number – I forgot to count myself).
You are advised not to deviate from the boardwalk, however, that is asking me to. I found some hidden water pools and pockets of life within the wilderness of the mountain.
It doesn’t take you to be a marathon runner to achieve the summit of Cuilcagh but mastering the steps to the top will require a basic level of fitness.
The sun stayed out when we arrived at the top of the steps and the only thing left to do was find a perfect rock to have our sammiches (read: sandwiches) on. Looking at the view of Fermanagh on a sunny day, I have to say there is nowhere that impresses me more.
The route is not circular, so you must backtrack on yourself to return to the car park. That means walking down 450 steps. On a plus side, it is a completely different workout.
Cuilcagh is one of the best walks in Co. Fermanagh to take. While we went on a day the sun shone (I had tan lines…), the weather on the boggy mountain is changeable and it can do so quickly. It isn’t a walk you should do in your flip flops and make sure you bring a drink (I do recommend the sammich at the top of a mountain tradition).
Location: Follow directions to the Marble Arch Caves (43 Marlbank Road, Legnabrocky, Florencecourt BT92 1EW). After passing the entrance, continue on the road and on your left is a car park signposted ‘Cuilcagh Mountain Park’; this is where the walk begins/finishes.
More information: Walk NI