Based in the heart of the Sperrins, Northern Ireland 
Sperrins Hillwalking Club

Sperrins Hillwalking Club
PO Box 45
BT80 8YU

Gortmore to Hell's Hole and Avish to Eagle's Hill

The first walk of the 2014-2015 programme was enjoyed by 18 walkers on the 9th ...a glorious November Sunday. After the previous rainy days the weather for this time of the year couldn't have been much better ...clear ,dry warm and a few sunny bits too.! Bishops Rd named after Bishop Hervey bishop of Derry in the 1700 is a lovely Rd to journey.

We started our walk from the Gortmore viewing point on that road . At the view point stands one of the six individual works of art commissioned by limavady Borough.The sculpture here called Manannan Mac Lir the Celtic Sea God created alot of discussion and interest on the day.Regarded as the Irish Neptune Manannan was not 'angry 'on Sunday and the 'corduroy 'lines as the waves met the shore without any roughness annoyed no one. There was plenty of information on the boards at the view point and ..romantic poetry too.

From the viewpoint here we turned left walking along the cliff top overlooking Benone Beach,Lough Foyle and Inishowen Peninsula.There was alot to see and do ...count the caravans at Benone Complex.Watch the train as it made its journey through Ballerana and Magillan route to Belfast ,see the sand dunes and want to be younger. view Magillian Prison and find the ferry terminal from where the boat goes across to Greencastle ..... On we went through the grassy fields that were mostly dry underfoot.As we walked we were aware of Binevenagh towering above. In the fields Jjust below the cliffs there were lovely stone walls contrasting to the large level fields that stretched down to Lough Foyle.

Some were almost covered in water while there was evidence of harvesting in a few fields ....the more knowledgeable members maintained it was for carrots., an industry started up in Magillian by Fr Shields many years ago. On we walked towards Hell's Hole a very distinctive gulley carved out of the mountain.

It seemed quite dry .There was some discussion re the depth........ Lets say you would be down a good bit .It is not publicly accessible. We then retraced our steps across the fields in preference to walking on the road and had our lunch back at the picnic tables at the view point where some made themselves too comfortable had too much lunch or talked too much. From the viewpoint we turned right this time over the stile and we were soon in the townland of Avish.

We seemed closer to the sea and could hear the waves now.There were some rushy wet parts , a few small water falls and evidence of stone walls.Looking over Benone strand we were aware of the distinctive sweep of the beach towards Magillan .We didn't meet any of the feral goats that roam about. From Eagles Hill much of the North coast should have been on view unfortunately not at that particular time 1pm but we did see Mussenden Temple Downhill Estate The Bann and Portstewart.

We walked back across the fields. It was a great walk approx 5 mile... some said 'A tonic' 'Breathtaking ' Gorgeous One of the Best ...It was a great way to start 2014 -2015 programme. The weather had been ordered but the journey to' Hell with the Hole' mightn't always be as pleasant and Manannan Mac Lir mightn't always be as quiet next time . 

9th Feb 2014

Dungonnell Way, Cargan. Co Antrim

 The weather forecast wasn't great but 16 of us turned up anyway for our walk in Dungonnell Way. I think we all had cabin fever and were prepared to risk the elements whatever what. Weren't we lucky! Not even a skiff of rain. 

 We met at the garage in the village of Cargan (between Ballymena and Cushendall). Started the walk from Dungonnell Dam and had a good brisk walk along the tarmac road taking in the views east across the Dam to the sea. Very nice. After the warm up we headed off the road into Glenariff forest. A lovely time of year for a forest walk with the spring growth evident all around us.

We stopped for lunch on the felled logs just before the second road crossing with a view of Trostan in sight. This time, although we were tempted, we left Trostan for another day and headed up again thorough the forest, past the waterfall and out on to the Skerry East Road road. This straight tarmac road provides magnificent open views across to Cargan and beyond. We stopped briefly to contemplate the Iron Monument at Drum Wood before heading back to the cars. The Drum is one of The Woodland Trust 'Woods On Your Doorstep' woodlands created to commemorate the Millennium.

  We'll not mention the few diversions some had before and at the end of the walk! Many laughs were had! Great day out!

Liz Cullen

12 Jan 2014

Sawel and Dart

Eleven members braved extreme conditions of low cloud and howling winds to attempt this walk. Passing a hearse en route to our start point right in the heart of the bleak Sperrins did not bode well, but we continued on anyway. We did well to get close to the top of Dart although many of us were too busy keeping our heads down and protected from the wind to be able to see where we were.  

We turned back when conditions were deemed too unfavourable to continue. "Onwards and downwards!" with no lunch.

Although it was disappointing to be unable to continue the walk it was a testament to the enthusiasm of our club members who turned up at Park village prepared to give it a go!

Slieve Donard, Sunday 8th Dec 2013

Sunday saw the club leave its beloved Sperrins and head SE to the Mournes with the aim of summitting Slieve Donard which at 850m is the highest point in Northern Ireland and 19th highest in the island of Ireland. We chose a linear route from Donard carpark along the Glen River to the saddle and then after summitting descending to the carpark at Bloody Bridge.

Six members availed of this walk and despite facing a very strong headwind to the saddle the small group made good time setting a steady pace. We stopped briefly at the saddle to rehydrate before the final steep ascent to the summit. The large cairn on top was a welcome sight in the mist and on reaching it we huddled down behind the wall to have our well earned lunch break. On the descent the low cloud lifted affording us some nice views of coast and surrounding peaks. As with all our walks, there was more than the exercise to be enjoyed--there were various topics debated, ranging from optimum nutrition to what defines obesity and dwarfism--and also the variety of coffees/ice creams and cake we would be enjoying apres walk. It was a great day's craic in good company despite limited views with low cloud and a strong head wind which nevertheless made it a good physical challenge and test of stamina.

Many thanks to Liz/Janice for leading and to Carmel for her photos, GPS trail and stats--which can be accessed on our Facebook page.

Gerry McLaverty

Altbritain circuit
10th November 2013

Despite a very cold start and some icy roads to contend with en route to the meeting point, conditions on the Altbritain circuit could not have been better. With bright sunshine and a fast paced initial ascent through Altbritain forest, and up the slopes of Glenedra, our group of 14 walkers were not long warming up. This was in contrast to the first snow fall of the season (and John's  first snow ball) which added some excitement to our opening walk of the new programme for 2013-14. We were rewarded at almost every stage of this route with crystal clear views- firstly over the rest of the snow dusted Sperrins but also to Slemish and Knocklayde in County Antrim- and then to the Derryveagh mountains to the West and the Mournes to the east (all directions approximate!). 

As ever it wasn't long before thoughts turned to food and drink. We stopped for lunch at Mullaghaneany allowing refuelling as well as good views towards Saul and in the distance Muckish and Errigal. Another tea stop was required later to help keep everyone's energy up and giving a chance to appreciate one of the most spectacular views in the Sperrins in my opinion. Spelhoag with sweeping views over Dunlogan, Draperstown and far beyond to what feels like the rest of Ulster but is in fact wide sections of counties Derry,  Antrim and Down extending ahead of us.  The experience was made all the sweeter by a piece of Sheena's chocolate and beetroot cake and two separate sightings of a grouse. The best savoury recipe idea of the walk went to Christine's home-made roasted tomato and basil soup. We took a moment to remember a lunch box which accidentally met it's demise some years ago when it fell off the steep edge of Spelhoag followed by a futile search and rescue attempt by John. Hopefully the contents had been eaten before it fell.  

We were delighted that some of the regular club members were joined on this walk by veteran hillwalker Chris and three new walkers with a keen interest in photography. The walk was very ably led by Sheena McGrellis and Patricia McCloskey (both on home ground)who kept us all on the right track in their own quietly confident way. Chris helped ensure everyone was well orientated by checking knowledge of the highest point of Sleive Gallion and that no Lough's had moved position or changed names.  A new descent off the hill was suggested and no-one objected to us deviating from the traditional route to take in some different views as we all headed back, satisfied, to our original departure point .

Although I have walked the Altbritain circuit on a number of occasions with the club, this Sunday's walk rates as one of my most enjoyable outings to date and a great way to start the new season's programme. 

Gráinne McMacken

Crownarad 20th May 2006


Crownarad is about 10 km southwest of Killybegs, Co Donegal off the R263.  For our Club this was a walk that had never before been attempted. 


Our meeting point was a viewing area (G 670 758) above Fintragh Bay on the road from Killybegs to Kilcar.  All the omens for a good day's walking were present with the sun reflecting from the water in Donegal Bay and fine views over to Sligo and beyond.  On the far coast the breakers, whipped up by the fresh breeze, could be seen crashing on the shore.


At our starting point  (G 664 788) and on the lower slopes of Crownarad there was evidence of very dense forestation in the past but this all had been recently cleared.


For the first kilometre we had the benefit of tracks and a bridge over the Glennaddragh River laid by An Coillte.  At this point we made our way towards the saddle between spot height 381 and the trig point 493 keeping to the higher ground so as not to lose height, to a point on the slope above the saddle and then south to the trig point.  These two legs provided the steepest walking on the route.  As a result of the amount of rainfall in the previous days the ground was quite wet underfoot, even on the high ground, and care had to be taken not to become ensnared in marshes denoted by the very green sphagnum moss.


From the trig point through spot height 471 there is almost 2 km of a ridge walk with some of the most amazing views available in this part of Donegal.   Down below us to the south could be seen Fintragh Beach and across Donegal Bay the escarpment of Ben Bulben.  Some of the views available to us were of the Bluestacks, Slieve League and Killybegs deep-sea fishing port.  Embedded in the ridge was a spar from a British flying boat.  This could be seen silhouetted against the skyline from quite a distance away.


While the sun shone most of the time it was very windy along the ridge and we could see rain clouds in the distance.  We did have one heavy shower although by the time we had put on our wet gear, as so often happens, it had cleared away.


For our descent we contoured our way downwards, taking care to avoid crags and keeping as far as possible to sheep tracks.


 The total walking time was a little over 4 hours with a distance of 10 km and a height gained of 390m.   The consensus was that it was good walk with many possibilities of being adapted to a much longer route.   While on the day navigation was not difficult no one should undertake a walk such as this without appropriate clothing and the ability to read a map and use a compass.




Rathlin Island 27th May, 2007


On 27th May 16 walkers made the boat trip to Rathlin. It was a beautiful day for walking. However in order to make the most of the day we took the bus out to the West lighthouse and began the day with a bit of bird watching. The RSPB were there to help distinguish between puffins and kittiwakes etc. The scenery on the 5 mile walk back to the bay was incredible with views of the island itself and across to the north Antrim coast, Donegal and the Mull of Kintyre. We had our lunch as we watched the seals basking on the rocks. Some chose the unhealthier option of chips etc from the chip van!! There was then time to walk the 2 miles to Rue point- another beautiful walk past Ushet lake where the annual model yacht race takes place and on to watch more seals sleeping on the rocks and slipping gently into the water. Everyone agreed that it was a brilliant day. If you ever want to 'get away from it all' Rathlin is the place to go.


Anne B




Buncrana Coastal Path  -  1st July 2007



This weeks ramble took seven of us along the very scenic, and historically interesting coastal path that runs next to the Swilly from Castle Bridge, or Swan Park, at Buncrana, and along the beaches of Porthaw, Stragill and Linsfort. The weather was warm and balmy with a soft breeze. A refreshing shower blew in from Fanad on our return journey – a shower we walked through and into a hot afternoon sun. Soaking up the sunshine we dandered along and sat on a few of the thoughtfully placed summer benches to take in the views across the lough. Our eyes followed the ferry which tugged its way from Buncrana to Rathmullan, and were drawn upwards to the distinctive bumpy Knockalla ridge, and down to the beaches at Portsalon and around to Fanad Head. 


The walk brought some in the party back in years to school outings, picnics at Loreto House, (now used as a Centre for Peace and Reconciliation) walks on the beach, and the chance to see, (or even just imagine) the nuns going for a dip. School was out today, but this walk some 40 (or so!) years on, itself started out as a bit of a history tour.  A few landmarks along the way were worth noting.


To begin we crossed the distinctive arch structure of Castle Bridge built in early 1700s and were then immediately faced with Buncrana Castle, built in 1718 on what was the original settlement site of Buncrana. Wolfe Tone was reportedly housed here before being transported to Dublin jail after his arrest of the Swilly coast in 1798.  The stone 'jug' in the car park was possibly a gate lodge to the Castle, and some think it could even have served as a small jail.  Next, sitting by the Crana River, is O'Doherty's Keep, originally home to the O'Doherty's,  Lords of Inishowen, and built in early 1400s, or earlier.  Along the path the fortification that is Ned's point, came into view. This is one of seven forts in Lough Swilly which made the Swilly one of the most fortified entries in Ireland.  Our next stop was at the grave of Friar Hegarty, killed during the penal years, and whose head is reportedly to have bounced a number of times leaving visible indents in the ground. Despite a finger tip search no indents were found.


We followed the path on through banks of dwarf oak, willow, ferns and heather and noted a couple of purple orchids along the way.


This is an easy and well maintained coastal path walk, suitable for all, with options (tides permitting) to extend along the lovely beaches of Stragill and Linsfort, empty and peaceful beaches which provide plenty of interest with their Dalradian shist rock formations dating back 600 million years – give or take a few years. 


The walk could be shortened or added to by using the road links at a number of points along the way. A few eateries and hostelries in the town could on the other hand extend it.


 Sheena and Patricia



Ards Forest Park    12th August 2007


On Sunday 12th August 7 walkers met at the Capuchin Friary within the Ards Forest Park, Cresslough, to embark on the club's first walk there. We firstly paid a vist to the Friary and then set off on out 4 hour walk. As we set off seals and salmon were seen close to the water's edge- not a common sight for Sperrin Hill Walkers!


Our journey took us on paths through shrubbery, then onto lovely small beaches, rocky shorelines and then into the forest- this was particuarly pleasing to one of our walkers who seems to have developed an interest in trees. We returned via the beaches just as the rain came on.


We had wonderful views of Doe Castle with it's history involving the Flight of the Earls, the Downings, Dunfanaghy and the Derryveagh mountains.


The walk and the banter was enjoyed by all and the walk will be on again in the near future.

Ann McCullagh

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