Tag Archives: bluestack ramblers

hike: lough belshade (bluestacks)

On Sunday last week I went for my second guest walk with the Bluestack Ramblers Walking Club. My first was out to Inishbofin Island a few weeks ago. Before joining the Club I wanted to try a mountain walk to see if the group dynamic would be any different.

Turning up at the meeting point it was nice to see some familiar faces from the first day, to be recognised by some and to see some new faces also. The group demographic was quite similar but tilted more towards the older 60+ range. This surprised me as I expected a younger group on the tougher walk. There was also a good few more men this time and the mix worked well for socialising.

from bluestack ramblers facebook page

The walk started high above Lough Eske just outside Donegal Town. It followed part of the Bluestack Way before heading off into the lower slopes of the Bluestack Mountains. The initial terrain was gravel track before changing to a grassland and bog mix. Ground underfoot was damp and boggy at times but easily manageable. I was surprised how much easier going it was in comparison to the terrain on Barnes Gap. I think this area has been used much more for sheep grazing which has kept the heather at bay and kept the grass at a shorter length.

On the way up we were following a faint track that was either a reasonably well established hiker track or a sheep highway. Either way it was a convenient guide to a small river crossing with a waterfall, that must be impressive in Winter, and a climb up a small gully that brought us to the first of many small lakes.

lough nacollum

Retaining the height we had gained we continued along the lower slopes of the main Bluestack ridge and were soon at a great viewpoint high above Lough Belshade. We had a great view of the basin the lough sits in and a great feeling of the surrounding higher hills.

wide angle view

With a slight breeze and a great view this was to be our halfway point for lunch. However, the breeze quickly dropped away allowing the dreaded midge to rise, resulting in a very hurried lunch break and putting us quickly back on the track.

The way back was slightly different. We dropped down to a slightly lower level to wind our way among a few of the other small lakes and streams. This was a really nice walk back and I was surprised at the number and variety of little loughs as well as the small waterfalls and streams wending between each of them.

lough fad


lough anabosin

We soon arrived back at the gravel track and dropped down to the parking area where we started and I took the opportunity to enjoy the great views of Lough Eske that I missed getting ready to hike earlier in the day.

This hike was a very different experience for me. With it being a guided walk all the concerns about route and navigation were removed. While I was equipped and aware of my location, in case I got separated from the group, I didn’t have to worry at all about where we were going and I was able to relax, enjoy the scenery and chat to other members of the group.

While I won’t give up solo walking I’ve decided that I’m going to enjoy being a member of this club and have already signed up. There’s a hike every Sunday and I’m planning to go on a more challenging walk next week up Dooish in Glenveagh.

Header image by Pixabay from Pexels

hike: inishbofin island (donegal)

The lesser known island of Inishbofin lies off the Northwest coast of Donegal between Magheraroarty and Tory Island. Not to be confused with the better known island of the same name off the coast of Galway. Inishbofin is the anglicised version of Inis Bó Finne, meaning Island of the White Cow.

I’ve been thinking about joining the Bluestack Ramblers Walking Club for a few months now. I’ve enjoyed getting back into hillwalking and hiking but, while I enjoy my own company and do enjoy hiking solo, I’m very conscious of the fact that I spend way too much time alone and need to expand my social circle. This club seemed like a good contender. When I looked at the calendar and saw they had a walk planned on Inishbofin I couldn’t put it off any longer. This is somewhere I’d never go alone and I figured it would be a good walk to get a feel for the club dynamics. The highest point of the island is only 33m so I knew hill fitness wouldn’t be a problem.

The club allow 3 walks as a guest before you have to join so I registered to join this walk and rocked up to Magheraroarty Harbour feeling a little nervous but also excited. I soon met the group and was surprised to see so many ladies and also that I wasn’t the only fresh face. A fella John was on holiday to visit his parents and decided to come along.

Of the 14 walkers there were 9 women and 5 men. Most in their late 50s, early 60s, one guy about 40ish and one woman the same. She was South African originally, living here 23 years. Another woman was Dutch, here just under a year. One woman from Dublin has a holiday home in Donegal and a Yorkshire man who is retired and here about 25 years. A very diverse group!

Getting to the island involved approximately 20min in a small ferry and as the seas were pretty rough it was a challenging crossing with a lot of chop, big swells and spray. We were also caught in a heavy shower so I was glad to finally reach the island with a queasy stomach and slightly wobbly legs. Back on land the weather was improving and after a chat about the history of the island we were off.

We completed almost 8km on a walk around the coast of the island. We didn’t actually get to the highest point (but came close) but it wasn’t about that today. I found the group very friendly, welcoming and chatty. I spoke to most of them on the walk and we had a nice lunch stop on a sheltered stony beach where my gas stove was a big surprise and got a lot of interest.

The pace was relaxed which allowed everyone a chance to socialise and also take lots of photos. I also took quite a lot of footage on the GoPro so hope to have a video at some stage. My favourite photos are below.

muckish to errigal from magheraroarty

inishbofin ferry

tiny church

one of many abandoned homes

tory island in the distance

an bó finne – the white cow

looking out to errigal

The trip back was just as rough as going out but this time I stood close to the front. Being on my feet helped a lot with the very strong swell and I ended up really enjoying the experience. It was a nice way to end the day.

The club have a walk planned every Sunday for the next while and there are two hillwalks that definitely appeal to me. I think I’ll go on those to see how that affects the makeup of the group and then decide what to do about joining. I think I will join though.

Header image by Pixabay from Pexels