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The Bluestack Way Part 2

Enter the heart of the Bluestacks from Lough Eske to Letterfad via the Eglish valley.

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 10 miles
Duration: Full day

Overview :  Local poet William Allingham may well have had Lough Eske in mind when he wrote his poem, 'Four Ducks on a Pond': -

Four ducks on a ... more »

Tips:  PLEASE NOTE: This App is primarily intended as a means of enjoying the lore and history of the area. While it follows the route of the... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Famine pot

Day Two
You'll be starting Day Two where Day One finished - by the gates at the back of Lough Eske Castle. You'll by carrying on down the hill until you see the stone marker for Harvey's Point on your right.

Famine pot
Straight after the Harvey’s Point T junction is the Famine Pot on the left. As you approach this major landmark, look out for... More

2. O'Donnell's stronghold

Turn left for Harvey's Point
Coming back from the Famine Pot, you'll be taking a left here down towards the lough and to Harvey's Point.

As mentioned, the roads here are busier than perhaps the road builders intended so be careful and keep well in off the road when you hear a car approaching. As you make your way down, you’ll notice a derelict... More

3. Fishing on the lough

Eske angling centre
There can be few more enjoyable pastimes than angling. John Buchan observed that the charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive, but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope. The lough and its tributaries are popular for fishing, especially for spring salmon, sea trout and char, with the season... More

4. Tranquil waters?

You'll be by the lough's shores by now. Out on the shore you'll see O'Donnell Island, which was once a home to the O'Donnells of nearby Donegal Castle. From here, one of the most famous journeys in Irish history began on the 11th September 1607. Rory O'Donnell and his immediate family left their castle on Lough Eske that morning to walk for three ... More

This is great place to savour the surrounding hills and you will get the closest view of the lough itself on the walk. Look out for flags, bulrushes, water lilies and reeds, as well as flowering rushes on the lough itself. The incoming rivers of the lough (and their meaning in Irish) are: -

Clashalbin River (The Gully of the White Mare),... More

6. Flora of the area

You're now moving away from the main traffic as the road narrows. It's a great place to tell you about the flora of the area. You should be looking out for the following along this section: -

- Whins, ferns (whins and ferns give the area its most typical colours gold and bronze)
- Bluebells (in woods in late April/early May especially near nearby... More

7. Lough Shores

Lough shores
These waters will be remembered in history as the place where the O'Donnells fled Donegal in 1607, but seeing as we're in a poetic vein, here are the words to O'Donnell Abu by M.J McCann to mark better times - O'Donnell's victory in Ballyshannon in 1597, the melody of which is still used by RTE radio as their signature tune every... More

8. Coming to the woods

Coming to the woods
As you turn left away from the lough, you'll be walking with the gentle gush of the Clady river on your right for company. Now might be a good time to tell you of the trees to view in the area.

Our next stop is the Ardnamona woods walk, which is well worth the diversion. Look out for the old mill in the wood. This mill was... More

9. Ardnamona woods walk

Ardnamona woods walk
Want to go off road and sample a walking path that loops around large oak, hazel and holly trees in a woodland that is left in its natural state? You've found it at the Ardnamona woods walk. Look out for mosses, bluebells, wood sorrel, streams and the lakeside to enjoy on this delightful walk developed by National Parks and... More

10. Up the hill

Up the hill
As we approach the old friary location, we'll tell you of another interesting fact about the area. Lough Eske is the only recorded place in County Donegal where a Síle na Gig was found - you'll have seen more about it on the Information Board by the Famine Pot. These are stone carvings of women with exposed genitals, most often found... More

11. The Friary

As you approach the top of the hill, you'll be taking a right following the signs for the Bluestack Way.

This area is commonly regarded as the site of the old Franciscan friary, indeed the townland is called Friary. As Catholicism was suppressed in Ireland, the Franciscan community was banished from their friary in Donegal Town.... More

12. Ascending the valley

You'll be turning left and climbing towards the Bluestacks. Get ready to start ascending as you make your way towards Eglish.

Our audio piece gives us an early indication of what to look out for from the Bluestacks' most ubiquitous resident, the humble sheep.

13. Final view of Lough Eske

View of Lough Eske
If you manage to get a good day, this is a chance to see why the place enjoys a reputation of scenic splendour. Down below you is Lough Eske or Lough Eask from Irish: Loch Iascaigh or Loch Iasc (meaning somewhat prosaically "Lake of the Fish"). The lake is about 900 acres (3.6 km2) in size and is surrounded to the north, east... More

14. The Otherworld

On a quiet road by the side of a mountain in a part of the world that translates as 'church', our carefully selected audio piece tells you about what the ancient Irish called 'the Otherworld'.

The Otherworld has been described in Irish poetry and tales as being a land of paradise, happiness, and summer. It is often described as a series of... More

15. Punctual eagles

Towards Eglish
Known as Leana Mor, this little used road soon becomes an unsurfaced track and affords the most striking views back over Lough Eske as you climb to a height of 300m. To the north are the dramatic granite slopes of Na Cruaha Gorma and the cliffs providing the backdrop to Lough Belshade. Looking over the bay one can see the mountains ... More

16. The Bluestack Mountains, North East Range

The Bluestack Mountains, North East Range

We have two audio pieces - Moya Reid reciting the names in Irish of the North East range and Patsy McNulty telling us about the bog on the right.

The mountains to the west of Barnesmore are in full view of your current location with a colourful variety of names for about 70% of the stacks: -

62... More

17. Eglish valley

Eglish valley
Turning northwest and descending from the end of Banagher hill, we reach the townland of Eglish (Eglais, a church). Tradition indicates that a wayside school was situtated beside a brook which passes under the Eglish road. In recent years there were eight families living here; the ruins of their houses are still to be seen along with... More

18. Heavenly peace

Patrick Campbell had this to say about Eglish: -'Here in Eglish we really have the tempting challenge for the hiker, and the fisherman has to but step from the road as the river flows alongside it. The majestic cliffs and high spinks seem to come so near to meet and greet us and to invite us to their tops in order that we might see the... More

19. Lime kiln

Lime was used in agriculture to reduce the ph value of soil. In our audio piece, Patsy tells us a bit more about the lime kiln you'll see on the left of the path as you descend through Eglish valley.

20. Plane crash

Upon leaving the Eglish Valley the main portion of the Bluestack mountains are on the right: rising to a peak of 671m the ridge is known locally as Na Crucha Gorma or the Bluestack. It was on the North Eastern slopes of this ridge that a Sunderland Four-Engine RAF plane or Flylng Boat crash-landed at 11.45pm on 31st January 1944 in stormy... More

21. Belshade fault

The trace of the Belshade fault trends down the Eglish valley and lies at the foot of the hills and marks the contact between the Carboniferous rocks and the Barnesmore granite, the hills in the centre and west are Precambrian Lough Mourne Schists. The contact between the granite and the schists lies in the little valley between the two ridges.... More

22. Sheep dipping

After crossing the Eglish river, you'll see an unusual structure on your right - Patsy is at hand to tell you what exactly it is.

23. Meenataggart Hall

Exiting the Eglish valley turn right and follow the road across the Meenataggart river. At the next junction the main road turns left but the Bluestack Way carries straight ahead. The old tumbled down shed on the right was once a thriving dance hall known locally as Meenataggart Hall.

Meenataggart Hall
Meenataggart Hall was one of the... More

24. Blue Stack Range

Blue Stack Range

Amazingly, the actual Blue Stack mountain range has only five named stacks: -

41 Sruell - An tSruthail, The Flushing Stream
42 nameless
43 nameless
44 nameless
45 nameless
46 nameless
47 nameless
48 Croaghgorm - Cruach Gorm, Blue Stack
49 nameless
50 Mullaghnadreesruhan - Mullach na dTrí Sruthán, The Mountain Breast of... More

25. Meenawilderg's famous son

Patrick Campbell was born in Meenawilderg in 1911 and from an early age developed a deep interest in his surroundings. A generous and thoughtful man, his writings reflect a natural turn of phrase that the locals used in everyday vernacular. A transgression was thus excused as ‘God bless the poor creature, sure he was sore tormented by a nagging... More

26. The Gasur Mors

Patrick Campbell wrote that the menfolk of the Crugha Gorma 'were experts in sheep stock and famous for their knowledge of those mountains and hills. Their sheep dogs only understood commands in the Irish language, and like many other mountain districts in Donegal, it has never been known of anyone to leave Sruhill without refreshment in plenty.... More

27. Eanymore river

Follow the roadway to the white house: the path that follows the fencing on your right almost to the end of the field. It then swings left and leads the walker to a gate through the next fence and then downhill to another gate and the ruins of an old farmhouse, then to the bank of the Eanymore river. For a short distance the pathways... More

28. Sruell valley

Grey Mares Tail
Follow the path straight from the river for approx. 20m then right along the laneway to the main road. Once at the road, turn right towards the mountains, following the course of the Eanymore on your right. Walking along the road towards the mountains one can see into the Sruell valley with an impressive waterfall on its left slope... More

29. Professor turned sheep farmer

Local writers such as Paul Peppergrass, Patrick MacGill and Seamus MacManus emigrated to America but one American bucked the trend and came to Donegal leaving behind the leafy arches of Harvard for Meenaguish deep in the Bluestacks between 1970 and 1984. Bob Bernen wrote two books out of his experience, Tales from the Bluestacks and The Hills,... More

30. Meenaguse Lough

Meenaguse Lough sits on a glacial deposit and together with the small lake to the east may represent ‘kettle hole’ lakes. These lakes formed as the ice sheets retreated, leaving behind large blocks of ice, isolated from the main ice mass, which were partially or completely buried by sand and gravel. When the ice melted, hollows were left which now... More

31. Turf cutting

Patrick Campbell wrotes: -'On our way we pass by a famous bog in Clogher where in my young years was used extensively by large farmers who came several miles to cut and save turf, and paid them two shillings and sixpence per day. They claimed that a mountain man would cut more turf in one day than they themselves would cut in two days. They... More

32. The Bog

At the next road on the left, the pathway swings into the hills. Some distance up this road, the walker meets a gate and a little further on, you turn right towards the hill top. Follow the tarmac path to the gate and long the straight rugged path to the next left turn. Walking along this bog road, one can see where active turf cutting ... More

33. Bog flora

The blanket bog has the typical abundance of ling heather and sphagnum moss as well as a variety of other mosses and lichens expecially Cladonia impexa growing on the stems of the heather. Even at higher elevations looking down over Meenaguse, people have planted trees along boundaries close to houses to provide wind breaks. Fuschia, a plant... More

34. Saving the hay

Patrick Campbell had happy memories of a hard day's work out in this valley: 'After the saving of the turf and hay, we children looked forward to the day of the gathering in and the building of the haystack. For weeks we talked of this day of days in glee on our way to and from school, the day when a meitheal of neighbouring men would gather to a ... More

35. Forest

As we wind our way down to the main road, we pass through one of the many forests you'll encounter along the Way - Patsy tells us more about them.

36. End of Day Two

Note: at this point one might wish to turn left and walk to the Hostel accommodation at the Bluestack Centre. Approx 3km away is the village of Letterbarra where the Bluestack Centre is located adjacent to the legendary O’Neill’s pub. Just a taxi ride away is the beautiful village of Mountcharles which has both a vibrant local community... More

37. The Bluestack Centre

Bluestack Centre
A stay in the Bluestack Centre hostel is a great opportunity to see how a community can pull together and get things done. The building of the centre itself was from the vision and perseverance of a few locals and today, the place is at the heart of this rural community nestled deep in the Bluestacks. During the week, they have... More

38. O'Neill's of Letterbarra

It's a place like this that has made Ireland what it is; where issues are discussed, good pints are devoured and maybe a bit of music will come along. A landmark local hostelry, even if the original boss is no longer behind the bar.

On our audio piece, John McGroary tells us a little bit more about the institution that is O'Neill's pub.

39. Upper Eany More canoe ride

This bridge is the starting point for a challenging piece of canoeing as far as Inver.

According to Neil Fox, if the rain is dancing on your windscreen, the Eanymore is one of the best river trips in Donegal. However, it is only worth considering during a heavy consistent downpour. If you can see a small rock in the centre of the river 20 metre... More