Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Walk of the Week: Sliabh Beagh Way - Bragan to Muckle Rocks

The Sliabh Beagh Way passes through some of the most remote parts of the Ulster countryside as it follows a meandering 30-mile course across the backbone of the Sliabh Beagh hills.

Along the way it offers walkers plenty of historical richness, potential wildlife sightings and far-reaching views from the higher ground.

The walk described here is a 6.8-mile section of this long-distance walk and takes in the blanket bog of the Sliabh Beagh area. The bogland supports rich and varied flora and fauna.

Directions

Before arriving at Clogher take a left turn at the B83 from the A4 and follow the Old Monaghan Road until the Bragan crossroads. There take a right turn and drive up to the Penal Cross picnic area and car park.

From the car park, walk up the gentle slope and take the second road on the left, passing Lough More on the right. The road descends to a T-junction, where the route turns left and then right towards Bragan crossroads on the R186.

Proceed through the crossroads and follow the road as it starts to wind its way up the eastern slopes of Sliabh Beagh, passing through hawthorn hedgerows, forestry and open bog. The road continues across an expanse of bog to Bragan Penal Cross, approximately two hours from Altadaven Wood. On a clear day there are impressive panoramic views.

Ten minutes after Bragan Penal Cross, take the track on the right, past Bradan Mountain Lough, and turn right at a country road. After passing the Big Rock, the route leaves the road, cutting across open moorland where a new metal bridge has been installed. Although the next section is well waymarked, care should be taken in poor visibility. If in doubt, consider using the alternative bad-weather route.

Bad weather route: This alternative route starts at Bragan Penal Cross. Again follow the road for 10 minutes before taking the track on the right leading past Bradan Mountain Lough. Turn right at the country road. Follow the road as it winds its way downhill passing Lough Meenish on the right. Turn right at a junction and follow this road through the hamlet of Knockatallan for 30 minutes to a junction at Blackwater River Bridge. Turn right here and walk uphill to a T-junction. Turn right to cross into Co Fermanagh at the County Bridge and rejoin the main route near Muckle Rocks. Total walking time for this section is just over two hours.

Finishing the main route: Cross the bridge and aim for the right of Lough Aportan before winding around to meet a track. Follow the track south until it reaches a small footbridge on the right and cross it onto another section of bog.

Look for a footbridge lower down on the left that crosses the Colebrooke River. Once across this you are in Co Fermanagh and Mullaghfad Forest. Turn left onto a forest track and keep left as it descends to a road. A gate leads to a minor road at Muckle Rocks, two to three hours from Bragan Penal Cross.

The Backdrop

The route features wild moorland interspersed with sections of forestry. A section of the blanket bog around Sliabh Beagh has been designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for its peatland habitat. It is also a Special Protection Area (SPA) for breeding hen harriers — a species of high conservation importance.

The many loughs in the area are renowned for their wild brown trout and other fish species such as pike, bream, rudd and perch. Walkers will also come across newts, frogs, and dragonflies as well as a host of plant life including willow, horsetails and common reeds that act as a natural filter to purify the water.

All across the mountain, walkers can see evidence of tracks — some still used, others abandoned — that allowed access for people to cut turf during the summer. Turf used to be an important source of fuel and each family had an allocated section of the mountain known as a ‘turbary’ where everyone would be involved with cutting and drying.

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Outdoor Recreation NI at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com.

Countryside Access and Activities Network (Outdoor Recreation NI) in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. Outdoor Recreation NI 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: Sliabh Beagh Way — Bragan to Muckle Rocks.

Area: Clogher Valley.

Nearest town to start point: Clogher.

Distance: 6.8 miles/10.9km.

Time: You should allow approximately three hours to complete this walk.

Terrain: Minor roads, tracks and open moorland.

Access Restrictions: Dogs must be kept on leads at all times.

Refreshments: Valley Hotel, Fivemiletown, is a family-run three-star hotel offering a wide range of meals, from high tea to bar snacks or Bordeaux restaurant. Corick House Hotel is a charming 17th century William and Mary listed house. Both are members of Tyrone Good Food Circle. tyronegoodfoodcircle.com. Sliabh Beagh Hotel is a community-owned hotel and hub for the area’s social life. Bar snacks and Sunday carvery are available.

Publications: Sliabh Beagh Waymarked Way guide. You can pick up a copy of this at Fermanagh TIC, tel: 028 6632 3110 or Killymaddy TIC, tel: 028 8776 7259. Alternatively, contact Sliabh Beagh Hotel & Tourism Centre, tel: 353 47 89014

Walk Developed By: Fermanagh District Council, Dungannon & South Tyrone Borough Council and Monaghan County Council and supported by Blackwater Regional Partnership.

Map: Sheet 18 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).

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