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Fermanagh's Stairway To Heaven

Friday, 04 August 2017
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It’s been dubbed the Stairway to Heaven because of the spectacular views that are available to climbers when they follow the Legnabrocky trail to the summit of Cuilcagh Mountain, the highest point in Fermanagh. The county’s latest landmark attraction has caught the imagination of social media outlets like Youtube and Instagram and is now drawing some 20,000 visitors a year from all over Ireland and elsewhere.

Yet as Simon Gray from the Marble Arch Caves Global Geo park explains, the trail was built not for public access but to preserve the area’s upland blanket bogs. In the 1990s, the district council initiated a programme of drainage to prevent hill water flooding the caves.  In order to facilitate the works they constructed a 4 mile pathway which was later adopted by hill walkers and nature lovers who then ventured further into the blanket bog. In 2014, with the help of EU funding, it was decided to construct a 3 mile long protective broad walk that zig zags then climbs the slopes in a series of steep steps. This allows visitors to enjoy the landscape without disturbing the bog, its rare arctical pine plants  or the rare birds such as the golden plover who nest there. Working at times in the harshest of weather conditions, the county Tyrone firm Alexander Ltd built the mesh covered wooden broad walk in just eight months and the 9 mile trail was opened in 2015.  

Several of the Fitness Instructors at the Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel Leisure Club who have climbed the trail gave us their impressions.  Chris Crilly warns that it is more of a hike than a walk and is not for the faint hearted. While the trek is good for all round aerobic fitness it also requires stamina.

Though the recommended time for the walk is 3 - 5 hours Tara Foy claims it took her just one hour to climb up and one hour to come down again. “In many ways the walk down is just as difficult. You think you are nearly there and then you come to another corner. Some of the steps are shallow and others steep so that too is a challenge.”

Ceri McManus wanted to climb the trail because it was gaining so much publicity on social media. “Watch out for the weather”, she warns. “The day we climbed it was clear when we started out but then further up it turned cloudy.”

Hugh McNulty appreciates the work that has been put into the trail and especially the boardwalk which is truly impressive. “You would travel miles to see such a place yet here it is on our doorstep,” he exclaims. “The landscape changes from grassy slopes with grazing sheep to rough scree and boulders.Along the way there’s a bronze age cairn and a glacial lake. You might glimpse a fox or an Irish hare  As you climb up you do get out of breath but when you reach the top and turn around the view is genuinely breathtaking.  On a good day it is possible to see the Sligo mountains, Upper Lough Erne, The Atlantic ocean and the counties of Cavan, Leitrim and Donegal.”

Are you planning on taking on the Cuilcagh Boardwalk challenge this Summer? Why not make the most of your trip to the Fermanagh Lakelands and enjoy a break here at Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel & Lodges! Indulge in a hearty Fermanagh style breakfast to set you up for Cuilcagh and look forward to relaxing in you luxurious room after tackling the Boardwalk. Book you stay online here