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Walk of the Week: Benbradagh

By Linda Stewart

Benbradagh Mountain, at the gateway to Glenshane, is steeped in folklore, such as the story of Finvola, the Gem of the Roe, and the banshee Grainne Rua.

The summit offers a panoramic view over the Sperrins, Roe and Bann Valleys and into Donegal. This is a challenging walk off-road over rough terrain that reaches an altitude of 1,536ft (468m). This Grade 1 circular route commands excellent views over four counties — Donegal, Londonderry, Tyrone and Antrim — and farther afield. The majority of the route is on open green mountain.


The walk is accessed off the B64 Dungiven to Garvagh Road — 3.5 miles north of Dungiven, turn right onto Gelvin Road. Turn right after two miles onto American Road.

Alternative start point accessed from Curragh Road, Dungiven. Turn off Chapel Road and follow road straight to top of mountain. No public transport.

Start from the gate between the bridge and house on the east side of American Road. Pass over a second gate and keep to the right of a stream flowing from the south east. There are a few white-topped marker posts that you can follow, but these should not be relied upon, for example, in low-visibility conditions. Ground conditions are rough and variable underfoot as should be expected of the open mountainside.

Continue to follow the stream until meeting Evishagaran, where you will come across the ruined remains of a building with a tree growing through the site. Continue to follow the course of the stream and you will meet a fence line as you climb towards the 454m spot height.

Cross the first gate in the fence line to pick up a rough track that brings you to the top of Boviel Road above Glenshane Pass. Don’t access the road but follow the ridge westwards for over 1km before turning north.

Keep as high on the ridge as you can and you will pick up more white posts that will take you to the top of the public road coming from Dungiven.

Cross a heavy iron gate, turn left to follow the track and head for the summit of Benbradagh. Retrace your steps back to the iron gate and return to your car along the American Road. The first stage of this walk to Boviel Road can be quite wet at times but the second section provides a drier route along the ridge to Benbradagh.

You are advised not to attempt this walk without OS Map Sheet 8.

The Backdrop

Desolate and beautiful are the best words to describe the 64km of the Sperrin Mountains stretching along the Tyrone-Londonderry border. The Sperrins Region is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is located 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 678m as the farms and woodlands of the lower sections melt into the bog and moorland of the top.

Kestrels, buzzards, sparrowhawks, rabbits, badgers and hares all make their homes in the Sperrins. Rivers at the foot of the mountains offer excellent trout fishing.

Located on the slopes of Benbradagh is what is left of an old church called Tannyranny Church, which dates back to the 18th century.

The popular local legend of Finvola, the Gem of the Roe, concerns one young McDonnell who was fostered by the O’Cahans. She was very beautiful and much loved by her friends and family. Because they treasured her so much they called her ‘The Gem of the Roe’. At the time there was regular fostering of young people between the O’Cahans and McDonnells.

At the time of her death, two of Finvola’s brothers were hunting on Benbradagh, above Dungiven. Legend has it that they heard a banshee wailing three times and as the brothers knew that this was a sign of a death in the O’Cahan’s clan, they rushed home. Relieved to find no death in the immediate family, they journeyed around the entire clan lands of North Derry only to be frustrated in their search.

Puzzled by all this and as a last resort they set sail for Islay, where Finvola lived and learned the awful truth.

Further information

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

Area: Sperrins.

Nearest town to start: Dungiven.

Distance: 7 miles/11km.

Terrain: Open mountain, with bog & rough areas so sturdy footwear is required.

Refreshments: Refreshments and toilets can be found in nearby Dungiven.

Access Restrictions: This walk can be challenging in poor weather conditions. As this is Ministry of Defence land, there are several gates to be crossed that remain locked, making this walk unsuitable for those with limited mobility. Sheep graze the area throughout the year so dogs are not advisable.

Publications; Sperrins Tourism Walking Guides, available from Limavady Tourist Information Centre, tel: 028 7776 0307 or Sperrins Tourism, tel: 028 8674 7700.

Walk Developed By: Limavady Borough Council.

Map: Sheet 8 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop, Lincoln Buildings 27-45 Great Victoria Street Belfast BT2 7SL

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