Belfast Telegraph

How Fermanagh's amazing 'stairway to heaven' has become a victim of its own success

Beauty spot was well-kept secret until social media put it on the map

By Chris McCullough

Scores of day trippers are set to head to Fermanagh this Bank Holiday weekend for a breath of fresh air on the county's "stairway to heaven".

The Cuilcagh Way may be off the beaten track but its stunning scenery and tough 7.5km Legnabrocky trail climb has been added to the bucket list of many walkers.

However, concerns have now been raised that it has become perhaps too popular, causing possible erosion to the mountain and problems with the small car park.

The area is jointly managed by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council along with Cavan County Council, who in 2015 constructed a boardwalk to replace a section of pathway in the bog to help preserve it.

The scenic walk was a relatively well-kept secret until a few people who visited the location posted their photos on social media from the 666m summit.

Since then, visitor numbers to the picturesque site have risen dramatically, with 1,200 people taking in the view on Easter Monday.

The attraction was planned to host around 3,000 people but last year, around 24,000 people descended on the mountain area.

The boardwalk leads to a wooden staircase structure, christened the 'stairway to heaven', where those who make it that far can climb up and enjoy one of the best views in the country.

However, what social media fails to tell potential visitors is the wooden staircase is actually a 4km walk from the car park which can only accommodate 30 vehicles at a time.

Richard Watson, the manager of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, told the BBC that the popularity of the site has brought problems.

"There's traffic-control issues on the mountain. It's only a small narrow little country lane really leading through here," he said. "We're getting some localised erosion on the summit of the mountain as well."

Mr Watson said he is delighted that so many people are enjoying the area, but "dismayed" by some who he says are "a bit too casual with litter for my liking".

Robert Gibson, the director of community, health and leisure at Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, said: "While the council does not actively promote the site as a visitor attraction we want to make sure everyone stays safe when they travel there and that they take care of the area.

"The car park there is small and we have been having some problems with people abandoning cars on the side of the road and in farm gateways.

"While we don't want to put people off going there, we want them to respect the place," he added.

"Car parking will be an issue going forward but we don't want to destroy what people are coming here to enjoy."

Visitors to Cuilcagh have been voicing their experiences on walking trail websites.

Most of those posting their opinion thoroughly enjoyed the walk but some did say the car park issues needed to be addressed.

Others mentioned how cold the weather turned when they reached the top of the walkway and one visitor suggested the walkway was an eyesore amid the natural beauty.

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