Standing at the junction of the road and lane where I’d said goodbye to the Dutch couple earlier today I had a decision to make. I could walk on down the road to the car park and finish with a pretty good 11km hike for the day or I could turn right and add on another 4.5km for a great day. Looking down at my soaking wet legs and watching water bubble and run out of my boots I was tempted by box #1 and to come back another day for Mullaghbolig. My legs were tired, I was soaking wet and I had a painful blister on my right foot from walking in wet socks so I had all the excuses I needed. However, I managed to drag a “fuck it!” attitude from out of nowhere and started squelching up the lane.
The sun was back out and it was pleasantly warm walking along the gravel track with a good view South towards Gortin and Mullaghcarn prominent in the distance. The fields either side were filled with sheep busily wondering who I was and I could see the track curving around the side of the hill in the distance. After 10min my trousers were starting to dry out and I’d resigned myself to heavy wet feet until I was finished. I was enjoying myself so much that I ended up walking past the suggested access line for the top of the hill. Once I realised my mistake I backtracked the few hundred metres to the very obvious open gate at the end of a long line of conifers.
Heading into the field I spotted a faint track made by a farmer’s tractor and as it seemed to be heading in the right direction I used this as a marker. This was perfect as the tractor had worn down the majority of the heather leaving the grass a chance to grow and providing me with a spongy but easy surface to walk on.
A few hundred metres from the top I left the grass and headed in to the knee deep heather making for yet another fence line on the ridge of the hill. Turning east at the fence I made straight for the summit.
On any other day this would have been easy enough walking but my legs were dead by now and my feet felt like blocks of concrete. Multiple stops were required to get me the relatively short distance to the top. As I approached the summit Glenelly Valley opened out before me with brilliant views. In typical Sperrins fashion the summit was unmarked except for the meeting of a number of fences.
summit markers sperrins style
Reaching this summit felt like a huge achievement and I was so glad I’d decided to push on to here today. However, I was knackered and needing a rest. I pulled out the stove and made a cup of tea and enjoyed it while watching a heavy shower work its way up the valley below Mullaghcarn from Gortin. Thankfully I had time to relax and enjoy the view before the shower hit me on the way back down. Retracing my steps along the gravel track I was battered by rain and a stronger breeze than I’d felt all day. I was soaked again but caught myself with a huge grin on my face. I felt great, great to be alive, out in the elements and thankful to have the chance and ability to spend a day in the hills.
Back at the road I decided to head back on the lower Gorticashel Road which, although busier, also descends the bottom of the gulley that forms Barnes Gap. The added bonus was to miss the noisy dogs I’d met at the start!
Down through the Gap I was treated to many small waterfalls coming off the hill to my left while a bigger stream tumbled off the cliff to the right before forming a natural swampy bog at the bottom. The larch trees planted up the side of hill on the left were green with new growth and blowing in the soft breeze leaving the air fresh with their smell mixing with the wetland area across the road. It was a very peaceful and calming stroll back down to the car park.
Reaching the car park I was equally relieved to get sitting down at one of the picnic benches and to see that the Dutch couple’s car was gone. My nightmare scenario of them lost in the hills faded away.
Needing some time before changing and driving home I got the stove out for one last time. I made a well earned hot chocolate and sat enjoying it while watching the sun through the trees and listening to the breeze and birds singing. A very fine end to a hugely enjoyable walk.
On Wednesday the day started later than usual with a decision late the night before to head for the Sperrins but not enough time before bed to get organised. It fell to the next morning to plot the route and pack the bag. Thankfully all the info I needed was on Mountainviews.ie and I left the house just before 11am.
The starting point was the car park just below Barnes Gap (the Tyrone version) and the official starting point for the 20km Craignamaddy Loop and the 11km Vinegar Hill Loop. Although I overlapped with both these routes I was aiming for the open hill and the actual summits of Craignamaddy and Mullaghbolig. This car park is also on the International Appalachian Trail and had a nice and unusual marker post.
they didn’t stay clean and dry for long!
As I arrived a friendly Dutch couple were just setting off and cheerily called hello as they left the car park. Heading up the higher and steeper of the two road options (waymarked for Vinegar Hill) I passed through a farmyard and its collection of noisy but harmless dogs. Once I stopped and they realised I wasn’t going to rob the place they became quite friendly and were soon shoving each other to get petted. The farmer stuck his head out and we had a short chat about my plans for the day.
At the top of the road at the first junction I met the Dutch couple again looking lost. The many little roads had them confused but I soon had them sorted as they were following the same route as me for a short section. We had a very pleasant chat about their trip to Ireland and I answered some of the usual questions about living on the border. As I left them I was a bit concerned that they could get lost again but it was a good day and they seemed fit and well dressed so we wished each other well and went our separate ways.
After less than 1km I left the road for a gravelled lane with high hedges and a number of abandoned buildings. It was quite warm and with very little wind I had a very enjoyable walk as the lane wound its way around the side of Mullaghbane. I turned off this lane, over a farm gate and on to the now abandoned Central Sperrins Way. A dilapidated and overgrown stile with a very weathered marker told me I was on the right path.
This rougher track headed straight uphill and my puffing and panting was rewarded with lungfulls of air redolent with the heady aroma of sheep. The hills here are extensively grazed and it wasn’t long until I was being carefully watched by a herd. With so many sheep and the dogs at the start I was glad I’d left Rosie at home today.
The rough track eventually petered out just below the crest of the hill and I used a handy grassy ramp to skirt the high banking created by years of peat extraction to unnamed Pt 366. Looking at the bank it seemed to have been hand-cut which was impressive.
this poor sheep had a bad winter…
is it just in ireland that signs mysteriously end up pointing in the wrong direction?
At the top of the grassy ramp a fence follows the crest of the hill marking the boundary between two townlands. Ignoring the old marker and turning left, navigation became a piece of cake as the fence line runs all the way to the summit and beyond. On the way I had to skirt a couple of boggy spots and cross a few sheep fences. The first still had a stile in place before the old waymarked trail veered off to the right.
The remaining fences were a mix of easy to step over and gymnastics required to avoid unfortunate barbed wire injuries. The terrain was mostly soggy but easy following vague sheep trails through the short heather with only one short, steep scrambly section. Crossing the last fence I entered an area that hadn’t been grazed for quite a while and the heather and grass was soon up to my knees. Thankfully I only had to wade through this for less than 1km before reaching the summit. The top of this ridge is so flat I actually walked over the official high point. A quick 360 and I began to retrace my steps back along the fence towards Pt 366.
On the way over a couple of drizzly showers and one heavier passed over. The day was so warm with little to no breeze that I didn’t even bother stopping to put on a coat letting my light fleece absorb the rain and dry out quickly once it passed.
Halfway back I stopped for lunch in a small hollow. There was a rock formation that looked like it wasn’t completely natural. To my eye it could have been a collapsed tomb which would make sense as the townland boundaries would have been ancient territorial borders and stone structures would have been traditionally used for navigation and boundary markers. Today it was a pleasant spot to stop for lunch and let my imagination roam.
The return to Pt 366 was uneventful but the rain had now cleared up. Passing my earlier track up I kept following the fence line East through the same heather and grass, still following faint sheep trails and crossing so many old fences I lost count. This area seems to have been abandoned for grazing which on one hand meant the fences were all collapsed and easily stepped over but also meant the heather was deep and more difficult to walk through. It wasn’t long until my legs were soaked but once again I didn’t mind as it was so warm and pleasant.
where fences go to die
Eventually I reached the summit of Mullaghbane (not significant enough to register on Mountainviews.ie lists) and began descending back towards Barnes Gap. Eventually the hill became very steep but manageable with care. One small cliff had to be skirted completely. The heather here was very deep with lots of knee high juniper starting to take over. I was pleased to see quite a few Mountain Ash gaining a strong foothold also. They looked to have been grazed a bit, possibly by deer, and weathered by the recent winters but still surviving.
Reaching the bottom a large area of grass just needed crossing back on to the road. Feeling relaxed I wasn’t watching properly and ended up stepping into a hidden stream that was completely overgrown with a thick grass mat and bog. Before I knew what had happened I was in up to my unmentionables and still not feeling the bottom. Using my walking poles I was able to slowly turn and get enough purchase to drag myself back on to firmer ground. It gave me a bit of a fright but upon further investigation I was able to cross the boggy bit with a very large step and make my way up to the road.
10km completed and a decision to be made now whether to carry on to Mullaghbolig or pull the pin with boots that felt like concrete and soaking wet feet and legs…
Anxiety and dealing with it has been on my mind a lot recently. A recent event really annoyed me and then I read Reg Spittle’s book “Camino Sunrise”. I reviewed it a little while back but essentially he writes about walking the Camino and dealing with significant anxiety issues before and during the walk. He describes a lifetime of anxiety and how it affected his life, his interactions with others and how it prevented him taking part in many social events and activities.
His story really made me think. I’ve had a few issues with anxiety over the last number of years but thought it was a recent thing. However, a number of his memories made me look again at events when I was younger. I was always shy and socially awkward as a teenager and a young adult. I found it difficult to make friends (still do to a certain extent) and found new and unfamiliar people and events difficult to navigate. I would worry about what could or might happen, would be concerned about being unliked or doing something embarrassing that would leave me open to ridicule.
I vividly remember one event in my first year at college when I made arrangements to go to a student night club with a group. One of the girls was on my course and the others shared a house with her. We arranged for them to pick me up on the way as we were all walking and they passed my digs. I remember hiding in the house with the lights off, pretending not to hear them at the door and claiming the next day that I wasn’t feeling well and went to bed early. All of this was caused by an intense fear that I wouldn’t fit in with them.
Other small events come to mind over the years, usually to do with social events and you can imagine how difficult it was to start dating! I cringe now when I look back at the first few times I met girls that I liked but was frozen by a fear of rejection and humiliation.
In the last few years I’ve had episodes of anxiety linked to big events but also for surprisingly minor undertakings. I remember binning at least one Audax cycle due to a fear of not being able to complete the route and worry about getting stranded with no way home. In the last couple of weeks I had a similar experience that really annoyed me.
I’ve done a few short and reasonably easy hikes in the last year or so and I have been developing a hunger for more challenging mountain hikes again. I’ve rooted out all my old books and rediscovered a circuit of the Sruell Valley that goes into the heart of the Bluestack Mountains and includes the highest point along the way. I made plans and pencilled it in for one of my days off. I was really looking forward to this hike for the best part of a week and had everything lined up days in advance and even the weather looked good.
The day before this all changed. I started worrying about all the things that could go wrong. My fitness is shot to hell, I’m carrying 10kg more than I should and it’s been 10-15 years since I attempted a hike with this kind of challenge. I was worried about the remoteness of the walk and my total inexperience of an area I hadn’t walked in before.
The morning of the hike I had an early appointment and I also had to be finished and back home by a certain time. My early morning anxiety manifested itself in an upset stomach and when the morning appointment went on longer than expected I was in a high state of anxiety. I somehow managed to convince myself to go anyway but the whole way to the starting point I was running through reasons to call it off. One of my ingenious excuses was to lie and say it was too cloudy as I could see a lowish cloud base on the drive over. By the time I arrived at the start this actually was the case. A weather system had creeped in that consisted of steady, heavy drizzle and a very thick, dark and low bank of cloud over the whole range. I couldn’t see anything above 200m and it was foolish to contemplate the hike in those conditions.
Within 10min of making the decision to abandon the hike and on my way home I could physically feel the anxiety lifting. It was like someone opened a valve and let it all drain out. The knots in my stomach that had been there all morning unravelled and I felt like I was floating with the decision made for me. It brought a sense of relief but also huge anger. I was furious and felt that I’d let the anxiety beat me and simply used the weather as an easy escape. I’m still not sure if I did or not but it certainly opened my eyes to how anxiety could and had prevented me from doing something I should have enjoyed. Reading Reg’s book a few days later really brought it all home to me but also gave me an urge to beat it.
Within a day or so I’d come up with an alternative plan, to complete a different challenging hike of a similar level but one I had done before. In fact on the way home that first day I actually scouted out the start point for parking as I hadn’t been there for almost 15 years. On Sunday I did that hike.
It’s a hike up Barnesmore Gap climbing Croaghonagh from the steep side and descending by a very steep gully. The first few kilometres follow the track of the decommissioned Donegal Railways line that ran from Stranorlar through the Gap to Donegal Town from 1889 to 1959. Walking this track there is ample evidence of the old railway. There are many of the original telegraph poles still standing, there are stone retaining walls on the hill to protect from landslides as well as stone culverts to divert streams under the tracks. The ground is clearly modified to provide a flat surface for the railway and the gravel used to grade the line is still visible on many sections. There is a subtle feel underfoot of the regular humps where the sleepers would have sat to support the rails.
After approximately 3.5km a convenient sheep trail provides a reasonably easy location to cross the old stone wall and get access to the hill. This is where the hard work begins. The next 45min was a slog through deep grass and heather, dry and brittle from the winter winds and the last week of dry weather. This is trackless terrain that is best traversed using vague sheep trails to avoid the worst of the boggy ground and hidden holes that could easily result in a broken leg or twisted ankle. Around and between craggy outcrops, crossing a couple of small streams and climbing a steep, grassy ramp eventually gives you your first clear view of the summit having climbed approximately 280m in 2km. The final push to the summit dips and climbs across a mixture of peat hags, boggy grassland and eventually a short steep climb up an enjoyable rocky outcrop.
The rocky summit is spoiled by 3 masts surrounded by fences and support cables but the views are amazing. Despite the haze there were great views out over Lough Eske and Donegal Bay to St John’s Point and Slieve League just about visible in the far distance with the Dartry Mountains to the Southwest and Benwiskin and Benbulben clearly visible. Eastwards you are looking out over Lough Mourne and the bleak expanse of bogland stretching into Co. Tyrone as well as down the Finn Valley with the Sperrins clearly visible and the mountains of Inishowen in the far distance. Close by the craggy hulk of Croaghconnellagh looms just across Barnesmore Gap.
Lunch was had in the shelter of a large boulder with the wind thrumming through the mast cables sounding like a jet engine readying for take off. Out of the wind it was warm in the strong sunshine and I sat for almost 45min enjoying the view.
It’s possible to descend from the summit using the access track for the masts and forest tracks for approximately 5km. However, I opted for the much more direct option that follows a gully just below the summit that drops over the edge and the very steep drop back to the earlier approach trail. This is an incredibly steep and demanding descent that requires great care to choose the best line. Rushing here and a resulting trip or fall could have disastrous consequences. After the dry spell I probably had the best possible conditions for attempting it. Reaching the bottom my thighs and calves were throbbing with the effort and my knees were aching but looking back up I had an intense feeling of satisfaction for having done it.
The last 1.5km trace the original path in through the forest and back to the parking spot. A difficult, challenging but very rewarding hike.
In Wild Winter, John D. Burns, best-selling author of The Last Hillwalker and Bothy Tales, sets out to rediscover Scotland’s mountains, remote places and wildlife in the darkest and stormiest months. He traverses the country from the mouth of the River Ness to the Isle of Mull, from remote Sutherland to the Cairngorms, in search of rutting red deer, pupping seals, minke whales, beavers, pine martens, mountain hares, and otters. In the midst of the fierce weather, John’s travels reveal a habitat in crisis, and many of these wild creatures prove elusive as they cling on to life in the challenging Highland landscape.
As John heads deeper into the winter, he notices the land fighting back with signs of regeneration. He finds lost bothies, old friendships and innovative rewilding projects, and – as Covid locks down the nation – reflects on what the outdoors means to hillwalkers, naturalists and the folk who make their home in the Highlands.
Wild Winter is a reminder of the wonder of nature and the importance of caring for our environment. In his winter journey through the mountains and bothies of the Highlands, John finds adventure, humour and a deep sense of connection with this wild land.
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This is a beautifully written and really well narrated book. I absolutely loved listening to it and it felt way too short.
The author has an amazing talent for describing outdoor scenes and environments. His skill takes you away from your current location and firmly plants you in the spot he is describing. His love of the outdoor life and his passion for the Scottish Highlands is evident all the way through and is inspiring.
Not only does he take us to the Highlands but he allows us a glimpse of the strong friendships he has built since childhood and the struggle he had coping with the lockdown at the start of Covid.
This is a hugely positive and uplifting book and definitely my favourite audiobook so far.
I’ve read and listened to a lot of stories about long distance hikes over the last year or so. From Bill Bryson’s adventure on the Appalachian Trail (AT) to Cheryl Strayed on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and recently Reg Spittle’s second book about trekking in the UK and Europe. I’ve just started yet another PCT themed audiobook, by Barney Scout Mann, entitled Journeys North.
In the opening chapters Mann mentions how some hikers walk long distance trails in sections rather than thru-hiking the entire trail in one go. This has been mentioned in every story so far but yesterday it seemed to have found more fertile soil in my brain and I started considering my own options for section hiking.
Close to home I have a number of waymarked walks. Of Ireland’s 42 National Waymarked Trails there are 5 in Donegal. Of these the only one I’ve walked is The Bluestack Way. I walked the Glenties – Lough Eske section of this almost 10 years ago as a charity walk for the Bluestack Foundation, approx 30km in 9 hours was, and still is, my longest day’s walking.
Three long distance walks also pass near my home. The Irish leg of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT) approx 450km from the Slieve League cliffs in Donegal to Larne in Co. Antrim, The Ulster Way, a looped trail just over 1,000km that circles Northern Ireland and The Ireland Way that is also 1,000km from Castletownbere in West Cork to The Giant’s Causeway in Co. Antrim.
the international appalachian trail – ireland
the ulster way
the ireland way
All three routes meet and overlap at the border between Donegal and Tyrone and follow the same route until The Giant’s Causeway where The Ireland Way stops. The IAT carries on with the Ulster Way until Larne where it stops before skipping across The Irish Sea to Scotland.
Many years ago I read one of the few books on The Ulster Way by Alan Parker and first published in 1989. Alan was the first ever person to walk the entire Ulster Way in 1979. It’s a really interesting read for more than just the walk itself. Alan was a real old school hiker and used B&B accommodation all the way. It’s a fascinating glimpse of a different pace of life in Northern Ireland at the end of the 70s and surprisingly unaffected by The Troubles.
I was familiar with the Ulster Way having seen the signs on many occasions throughout Northern Ireland and reading this book gave me my first real desire to do a long distance walk. However, 30 days is difficult to fit into any life when work and family also need attention so unfortunately it never happened.
The idea though has never left me so it’s unsurprising that it was The Ulster Way that I turned to today to investigate the possibility of section hiking. WalkNI have a very detailed section on their website that details a variety of different 1, 2 & 3 day and 1 week suggestions and there are 2 that really appeal.
Belcoo – Belleek: a 47km section including the optional Lough Navar loop. This is an area I’m very familiar with and Lough Navar has an amazing viewpoint looking out over Lough Erne. Possible as a day hike but more enjoyable over 2 days.
Lough Bradan – Gortin: 60km and recommended as a 2 day walk. Being close to home this is a very familiar area and although I’ve walked or cycled some of it, most of the route would be new to me.
In the middle of a very wet, cold and stormy February it’s nice to look at these routes and dream of long days walking and camping in warm sunshine (ideally!).
I’ve had a small day bag for a good few years now that accompanies me on most hikes. I bought it in Lidl of all places for not much money. I usually only need a small amount of stuff and it’s comfortable, reasonably well spec’d and simply does the job. It’s pretty worn now though and for the last few months I’ve been trying to find a replacement.
So far I’ve ordered three different bags that I’ve returned for various reasons. Mostly the fit and/or quality wasn’t what I expected. Today though I think the search is finally over!
A fellow Irishman has a YouTube channel called “Rambling On”. The video below is his review of a Decathlon 40L bag that looks fantastic. However, I was looking for 20/25L max. In the last couple of weeks I spotted a 20L version on the Decathlon website, delivered today and it’s pretty much perfect 👌
In February 2019, award-winning writer Alex Roddie left his online life behind when he set out to walk 300 miles through the Scottish Highlands, seeking solitude and answers. In leaving the chaos of the internet behind for a month, he hoped to learn how it was truly affecting him – or if he should look elsewhere for the causes of his anxiety.
The Farthest Shore is the story of Alex’s solo trek along the remote Cape Wrath Trail. As he journeyed through a vanishing winter, Alex found answers to his questions, learnt the nature of true silence, and discovered frightening evidence of the threats faced by Scotland’s wild mountain landscape.
My Rating: ⭐⭐
I came across this book from a recommendation on Splodz Blogz a couple of weeks ago. Having just finished Wild and watched YouTuber Haze Outdoors’ videos of walking the Cape Wrath Trail I thought it would be right up my street.
This author and Haze Outdoors definitely seem to be very different characters but I was still surprised by the differences in how the two people approached the walk and their experiences on it. Haze very much camped for the majority of the trail and also immersed himself in the experience, the land and devoted his story to the experience of completing the trail. Roddie on the other hand used this book to talk more about his motivation for walking the trail and his own very personal experience which was more about a changing outlook on life that happened along the trail. He made extensive use of bothies along the trail rather than relying on camping and took almost 3 times as long. That was probably a consequence of the different times of year as much as the different walkers.
As I was expecting more of a trail story I was a bit disappointed by this book. I was expecting and hoping for something more like the aforementioned Wild or even The Last Englishman but didn’t get it. I thought that the book was written more as a way to justify the author’s expedition and to fund the cost of it. Now, that is his career and I can understand the need for it, but I think this was more of a personal journey that didn’t need to be a book. While I have sympathy for his struggles with anxiety I couldn’t help but feel that much of it was either self-imposed by his view of social media or coming from a totally unrelated source. Maybe if I had a similar struggle I could have related and empathised more.
I also struggled with the overly flowery language he used. It reminded me of Steve Backshall’s book Expedition that I eventually gave up on. This author had the same tendency to over describe the most normal of occurrences. Everything seemed to be the most wonderful or the most terrible rather than just depicting it as it was. His occasional forays into a very mystical view of nature and wildlife left me rolling my eyes and tempted to switch off.
This is the author’s second book based on walking The Cape Wrath Trail. It’s possible he didn’t want to rehash the story of the original but for me this approach simply didn’t land. I think I’d like to try his first book though and see what it’s like and how they differ.
According to Mountainviews.ie my closest recorded summit is a small hill (219m) just 6.9km in a straight line from home. In fact I can see it from my front door. The hill is officially called Meenavally but locally it is known as The Steeple.
On the top of the hill there is a small, squat and pretty ugly tower built with stone and lime. There is a door in one wall and an internal winding staircase that brings you to a flat area with a low parapet. In the centre of the upper floor there is a round opening with a metal grate that allows vertical access from the ground floor, almost like a chimney.
Over the years there have been many gruesome rumours about the tower on the hill. Stories are told of satanic rites and devil worship including disappearing children and human sacrifice. None of these rumours are true but the origins of the tower are still interesting.
The townland is called Tircallen and from the 1600s the area was part of a larger estate of the same name created during the Plantation of Ulster. It was purchased by Sir Henry Stewart in 1789 and in the early 1800s he constructed the tower as an astronomical observatory which was very much in vogue with the gentry of Ireland at the time. Unfortunately, there are no surviving records of Sir Henry’s so it isn’t known what observations he made or what contribution this tower made to scientific research of the time.
The tower is also called The Steeple after the hill but is also known as Mullaghagarry Tower after the name of the forest woodland it is now located in. The forest is a commercial forest owned and operated by Coillte. It’s likely that the estate was acquired by the government’s Land Commission in the 1930s for redistribution to local tenant farmers which was the policy of the time. The tower, however has survived relatively unscathed.
I’ve been to the tower multiple times on foot and also by bike as we used to use the area for night time MTBing a few winters ago. I placed a geocache in the area in 2006 to mark the date of 06/06/06. In 2007 myself and a few other geocachers took part in a documentary on geocaching for RTE’s Nationwide programme. It’s the second location in the video below.
Although I’ve visited the tower many times I want to revisit all locations afresh for my Local 50 challenge so on Sunday I went back. I used a different access point than usual and my plan was to create a looped walk of approximately 9km. However, my maps are really out of date now and the hoped for track petered out on private farmland that I wasn’t happy venturing on to.
I attempted to work my way around through the trees on faint paths but not knowing the area too well I ended up back out on the main track and at that point decided to make it a simple there and back walk but still ended up with 6km. Rosie the dog was with me and despite some very heavy rain showers we had a very nice afternoon.
Not much photography on this walk but I did film and the results are linked below if you want to watch. Thankfully I seem to have solved the audio sync issue I had before.
Altnapaste is 364m high and located on the Eastern edge of the Bluestack Mountains just a few kilometres west of Ballybofey. It’s a hill I’ve had on my radar since I first started looking at my Local 50 peaks on Mountainviews.ie a couple of months ago. A number of cycling routes pass near Altnapaste and although it’s not that high it is fairly distinct.
At the time I climbed it there wasn’t a specific GPS track but there were a number of logs giving good descriptions and waypoints and I managed to create my own track quite easily.
The first section of the walk is along a farm/forestry access lane so there was a good wide area for parking at the start. The first few kilometres on the track gave me a good chance to warm up the legs before I turned off track and onto the rough grass/heather hillside along the edge of a small pine plantation.
The hillside soon turned steep and the going was pretty tough with no track and deep grass and heather. After a few hundred metres the ground eased off a little and continued climbing until I reached a fenceline that was easily crossed. With a bright clear day I was easily able to plot the route ahead and crossed a flatter area before hitting a grassy ramp that climbed between two sections of the hill. Although the ground steepened the grass made the going a lot easier to manage and I soon reached a second fenceline. I knew this one went all the way to the summit and that I was only a few hundred metres from the top.
The final climb was once again through steep, rough ground, heavily overgrown with knee deep heather before levelling off on a rocky flat summit with a short walk to the summit cairn. The views were fabulous in all directions, especially to the west where the sun was starting to set and appearing below ominous grey clouds but creating one hell of an atmosphere.
The breeze was bone chilling and relentless so I didn’t hang around too long before I started to retrace my steps and returned the way I’d ascended, this time enjoying the great views that were mostly behind me on the way up.
At the bottom of the hill I diverted into the pine plantation to have lunch and some peace and quiet. I’d brought my gas stove to heat water for a fresh cup of tea. This is a recent change for me and one of the best things I’ve started doing out walking this year. A fresh cup of tea beats a flask any day of the week and is more than worth the little bit of extra weight in the rucksack.
This spot turned out far nicer than I expected from my very brief glance on the way up. Once through the branches at the edge the space opened out nicely with lots of deadfall allowing loads of light in and enough space to feel surprisingly open for a plantation. It was so peaceful out of the wind and I could have stayed there for hours. I didn’t think my mind needed clearing but that half hour definitely did.
The last couple of kilometres, back along the lane again, were a perfect finish with great views again of the sun setting behind the main Bluestacks. What a cracker of a day!
The reason I have delayed so long in writing this post is that I also filmed the walk. I finally got around to editing the footage yesterday to be able to add it to this post. Link below as usual.
I’m struggling to get the audio to align with the video. It’s out of sync on the original, synced up fine in the app and then seems out of sync again once finalised. I’m not sure if it’s my camera, the app or me but it’s very frustrating! I may try a different app next time to see if that works better.
edit (29.12.21): I think I’ve now worked out how to correct the out of sync audio and keep it in sync during the finalisation process. At least the morning commute was useful for something 😆