Walk of the Week: Dungonnell Way
The Dungonnell area lies on the watershed between the source of the Glenariff River, which drops six miles north to the sea at Red Bay, and the source of Glenravel Water, which flows south to meet the River Bann and on to Lough Neagh 30 miles away.
This rewarding walk commands spectacular views, both on the landward and seaward parts of the route.
The Dungonnell Way was an initiative led by the Glenravel Environmental Improvement Association and takes in Dungonnell Dam, Glenariff Forest Park and Skerry East Road, which is probably one of the most attractive, but least used roads in the whole of Northern Ireland. It is an outstanding opportunity to experience the isolation of the Antrim Hills without getting your feet wet as the entire length is on hard surface.
Cargan village is located 10 miles north of Ballymena on the Glenravel Road (A43) and eight miles south of Cushendall.
This walk can be started at various points on the circuit and walked in either direction. Car parking is available at Dungonnell Dam, in Cargan village, and at the Drum Wood. The walking route is fully waymarked with clear signage at all junctions.
This route crosses the main A43 Glenariff Road twice, as well as the quieter B43. Walkers are advised to take care crossing these roads.
Cargan lies at the foot of Slievenanee Mountain in Glenravel, one of the lesser-known Glens of Antrim. In the 1800s, Cargan was known as Fisherstown after the man who, in 1866, developed an iron ore mine within the village.
The ore was shipped to Barrow-in-Furness, at first by horse and cart to the dock, then from 1875 by railway to Ballymena and onwards. The railway closed in 1937.
Dungonnell Dam was opened in 1971 and provides a water supply for Waterfoot, Cushendall, Cushendun, Glenravel, Broughshane, Clough, Glarryford and parts of Ballymena. Covering an area of 30 hectares when full, the reservoir has a plentiful supply of brown trout.
Dungonnell lies within the Garron Plateau Area of Special Scientific Interest, designated because of its particular geology and peatland flora and fauna. The area also contains habitat types and species that are rare or threatened within a European perspective, earning it a further designation as a Special Area of Conservation.
Glenariff Forest Park covers an area of 1,185 hectares, of which 900 have been planted with trees. The forest contains spectacular waterfalls and is home to red squirrels. Four other waymarked trails of varying length wind through the forest following a circular route and are signposted from the Forest Park car park.
The Drum Wood, managed by the Woodland Trust, occupies an area of 8.5 hectares on gently sloping pasture and can be found just above Cargan village, sitting at the foot of Slievenanee Mountain adjacent to East Skerry Road.
The Garron Plateau is the biggest area of intact blanket bog in Northern Ireland. The site is rich in rare and notable plants including narrow-leaved March-orchid, bog orchid and marsh saxifrage. Other plants grow in abundance including bog asphodel, sundew (an insect-eating plant) and bog cotton.
The plateau is home to a large population of red grouse and serves as a good hunting ground for merlins, peregrine falcons, buzzards and hen harriers. This area provides a suitable habitat for snipe, curlew, lark, teal and mallard. Mammals include fox, hare, rabbit, badger and stoat.
The bog asphodel is a conspicuous plant growing up to 30cm on an upright stem. It has yellow star-like flowers that can be seen between July and September. Old folklore thought that if cattle ate it their bones would become brittle — however, this is more to do with the poor nutrients in the land it grows on rather than the actual plant.
For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com.
CAAN in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.
Walk Name: Dungonnell Way.
Area: Antrim Coast & Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Nearest big town to start point: Village of Cargan.
Distance: 9.5miles/15km circular.
Terrain: Forest tracks and public roads.
Access Restrictions: Visitors using the path should take extra care to conserve the special plants and animals by neither picking nor disturbing them, and staying to the way-marked route at all times.
Refreshments: There are refreshments available in Cargan village and Glenariff Forest Park.
Publications: Leaflet — Dungonnell Way available from Ballymena Tourist Information Centre, tel: 028 2563 8494. Ballycastle Tourist Information Centre, tel: 028 2076 2024
Walk Developed By: Glenravel Environmental Improvement Association, tel: 028 2175 8980
Map: Sheet 9 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series, available from LPSNI Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).