Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Walk of the Week: Lough Fea

Lough Fea was originally opened as a source of water for mid-Ulster in 1965 and is now a popular picnic spot. It is a natural freshwater lough, on which boating and canoeing take place.

A pathway right around the lough leads you through the coniferous forest that surrounds this area of wild scenic beauty.

Lough Fea is set in wild mountain scenery, and is one of many delightful lakes dotted throughout the Sperrins region. Covering 180 acres, this natural beauty spot is an angler’s dream and also supplies the entire area and beyond with fresh water.

Directions

Lough Fea is situated five miles north of Cookstown on the Draperstown Road and south east of the Sperrin Mountains. It is also signposted from Cookstown/Moneymore dual carriageway.

The walk starts from the main car park on the B162 Cookstown to Draperstown Road. This walk is a circular route, surrounding the shores of the Lough, finishing back at the car park. The route can be followed either way around the shores and is clearly marked.

The backdrop

Desolate and beautiful are the best words to describe the 64 kilometres of the Sperrin Mountains stretching along the Tyrone-Derry border. The Sperrins region is an area of outstanding natural beauty in the west of Northern Ireland. It stretches from the Donegal border in the west to Lough Neagh in the east and the Atlantic shores in the north.

The natural asset of the mountain range mixed with the unspoilt landscape of winding rivers, sun-swept valleys, natural forests and scenic lakes all translate into a region recognised as one of the most idyllic geographical areas of rural Ireland.

The range's gently curving slopes give the Sperrins a deceptively low appearance but they actually reach a peak of 682 metres as the farms and woodlands of the lower sections melt into the bog and heather moorland of the top.

The only sounds on the mountain are made by the wildlife, with kestrels, buzzards, sparrowhawks, rabbits, badgers and hares all having made homes in the Sperrins. Rivers at the foot of the mountains offer excellent trout fishing.

The 4.15km (taking approximately one hour) walkway around Lough Fea is a haven for local walkers and tourists alike. A mix of panoramic scenery and calming waters makes this the ideal place for an idyllic walk. A children’s play area and picnic and toilet facilities are provided on site.

Local legend suggests that the finger of rocks protruding from the centre of the Lough represents the ghost of a man who drowned there many years ago, hence the name which has been given to this feature — Charlie’s Ghost.

Another piece of local folklore relates to a tragedy many years ago when a number of soldiers were carrying out training manoeuvres during peacetime.

During a training exercise, which involved the building of a pontoon-type structure at the narrowest part of the lough, a number of men drowned while attempting to drive a tank across the temporary bridge they had built.

The area is also renowned for trout fishing. It is under the control of the Mid-Ulster Angling Club. A game fishing permit and a rod licence are required (available at Cookstown Tourist Information Centre).

The walkway also incorporates part of the Lough Fea Cycle Route, a delightful trail that takes in the archaeology of Beaghmore Stone Circles, the charm and beauty of Lough Fea and the hustle and bustle of Cookstown.

Around the Lough Fea area are ample opportunities for bird watching. In this area you may see merlin, hen harrier, buzzard, peregrine, long-eared owl, raven, red grouse, skylark and cuckoo, whilst crossbills have been found in the woodland and common sandpiper breed along the shore .

Along wet grassy edges of the bogland and lake, listen for the reeling sound of grasshopper warbler coming from inside dense vegetation. Wheatear migrate back around March and in winter look closely at flocks of linnet, where it may be possible to see some twite.

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: Lough Fea.

Area: Sperrins Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Nearest town: Cookstown.

Distance: 2.6 miles, circular.

Terrain: Loughshore walk.

Access Restrictions: Limited provision for large vehicles. No height restrictions apply to car parks. Parking is free.

Refreshments: Cookstown has a wide range of cafes, restaurants and hotels.

Publications: Sperrins Walking Guide 2007 & Cookstown Visitor Guide. Both available from Cookstown Tourist Information Centre.

Developed By: Cookstown District Council.

Map: Sheet 13 of Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland Discovery Series, available from LPSNI Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk) or at Cookstown Tourist Information Centre, Burn Road, Cookstown, tel: 028 8676 9949.

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