Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Walk of the Week: Gortin Lakes

This off-road gravel path around the Gortin Lakes offers superb views of the high Sperrins landscape.

The rugged countryside of the Sperrins region is some of the most beautiful in Ireland. The natural blend of peaks, forests, moors, valleys, lakes and rivers makes it an obvious favourite for walkers and ramblers.

Located in the west of Northern Ireland, the region is surrounded by the largest and least explored mountain range in the country. There are a number of other walking routes available within minutes. The Glens Forest Park offers several forest walks including a section dedicated to mountain biking.

Directions

The Gortin Lakes are located half a mile east off the main Omagh to Gortin Road, approximately one mile north of the Gortin Glens Forest Park. From the car park, the walk around the two lakes is laid out in the formation of a figure of eight and people can choose to walk in either direction. The gravel path around the lakes undulates gently, offering the tranquillity of the still, deep water on one side and the natural habitat and vegetation on the other.

The path is easily followed, with a number of seating benches placed so that walkers can take a rest and take in the majestic views.

THE BACKDROP

Set amidst the broad sweep of the Sperrins foothills, the Gortin Lakes had their origins in the late glacial period.

A retreating ice sheet dammed a lake, into which rivers brought vast quantities of sediment. The sediment was then deposited in a series of deltas. Today, this dry raised fan of material supports rich heath vegetation dominated by bell heather, which is home to the red grouse. Its dry ridges extend out like a delta into a sea of blanket bog, itself only some 4,000 years old.

Turf-cutters have unearthed the remains of a Bronze Age field network under the bog nearby, established at a time when the climate was different and the growing qualities of soil quickly became exhausted.

Perched among the glacial moraines (rocky debris or till carried along and deposited by a glacier), these lakes, known as kettle-holes, formed from melted blocks of ice abandoned by the retreating ice-sheet. They are the haunt of mallard, teal and the occasional nesting feral greylag goose.

Around the lakes, green and blue damselflies dart among the swampy vegetation, which includes the rare broad-leaved mud sedge. This is a place of open vistas, expansive bogland and the ever-present whistling wind — a fitting place for hunting falcons. The lakes are located within the Murrins Nature Reserve, managed by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

(Above information reproduced with permission of Land & Property Service, Crown Copyright 2009.)

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN), 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: Gortin Lakes.

Area: Sperrins Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Nearest big town to start point: Gortin Village.

Distance: 2.5 miles/4km.

Terrain: 1 metre wide gravel path.

Access Restrictions: It is advised that dogs are kept on a leash at all times.

Refreshments: The Foothills Bar & Restaurant in Gortin has a contemporary layout, with a snug front bar and a lavish and tranquil restaurant. The Brasserie Restaurant at Gortnagarn offers quality food and service in a modern contemporary setting.

Walk Developed By: Omagh District Council.

Map: Sheet 13 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).

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