Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Walk of the Week: Sperrin Mountains

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, this region is dominated by the largest and least explored mountain range in the country.

This is an interesting walk through farmland onto a small rounded mountain with views that stretch out as far as the Derg Valley, the Sperrins and Donegal’s hills.

Directions

This pleasant hill walk starts from the Mellon Country Hotel on the A5 road between Omagh and Newtownstewart.

It leads through farmland and heather-clad moorland up Bessy Bell and rewards walkers with stunning views out across the wider Sperrins range.

From the start at Mellon Country Hotel, follow the waymarkers along this linear route. The first hundred metres is along the main road, so walkers should take care on this section.

Turn right uphill on a country lane to meet another road before continuing on this road for a further 1.2 kilometres until a sign directs you left uphill to a disused farm.

Continue on through this farm on a tarmac lane until the first stile. Signs and arrows will direct you through another farm and on to a tarmac road that was built to install the wind turbines you will see ahead of you.

The top part of the walk is on rough grassland and heather, passing a holy well that was used by local people in the past. The walk stops short of the trig point at 420 metres, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area.

After soaking up the local scenery, walkers should retrace their steps to the car park.

The Backdrop

To the west of the Strule River, Bessy Bell boasts a welcoming rounded character, similar to those of the Sperrin foothills to the north.

The summit is capped with open moorland, with rural pastures and rich farmland on the lower slopes. The wind farm on the slopes of Bessy Bell is a prominent local landmark.

To the south, the River Strule winds between the woodlands of the Mountjoy Estate with the valley to the west dominated by the woodlands and deer park of the Baronscourt Estate.

As part of the National Trails Day celebrations, Strabane District Council will be hosting a guided walk up Bessy Bell on Sunday, October 7. This is a great opportunity to learn about the history of the area with local walking guide Martin Bradley as well as to find out about Bessy Bell’s two impressive windfarms. For details, visit nationaltrailsday.co.uk.

What to bring

As a general rule, it is best to be overprepared than underprepared. Waterproof and windproof clothing are essential and strong walking boots are also advised. Walkers should carry enough food and water for the walk and for emergencies, as well as taking a first aid kit. As a further safety precaution, you are advised to inform someone of your intended route before you leave.

Responsible Walking

WalkNI.com endorses the principles of Leave No Trace, which mean recreational users can minimize their impact on the countryside whilst still enjoying activities with freedom. For more information, visit leavenotraceireland.org.

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, contact: Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland, The Stableyard, Barnett’s Demesne, Malone Rd, Belfast BT9 5PB, tel: 028 9030 3930, or walkni.com.

Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (formerly CAAN) in association with Belfast Telegraph has provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland 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: Bessy Bell.

Area: Sperrin Mountains.

Nearest big town to start point: Omagh.

Distance: 6 miles, linear.

Terrain: This walk is on gravel paths, farm lanes and open fields.

Suitability: This hill walk is not suitable for those with limited mobility.

Facilities: Refreshments and toilets are available at The Mellon Country Hotel.

Walk Developed By: This walk has been developed and is maintained by Strabane District Council.

Map: Sheet 12 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series, available from LPSNI Map Shop, Colby House, Stranmillis, Belfast BT9 SBJ (lpsni.gov.uk).

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