Slieve League

GCK, Co. Donegal, Rep. of Ireland

04.12.2002 8:40 PM GMT
GlenColumbKille, Co. Donegal, Republic of Ireland

I met two American backpackers last night in the pub. Matt and Alan are from Wisconsin and we had a great time hanging out.

They arrived at “An Cistin”, the diner next to the cottage, just as I was finishing a late breakfast. They downed a quick lunch and we stoped by the Gaelic Education center’s gift shop. We were all stunned by the price of CDs in this country. They are prohibitively expensive: minimum $22 US. I imagine that internet services such as Morpheus and Kazaa are popular here, though I have yet to meet anyone with a CD-burner available.

Off we were to the small town of Carrick in search of a trail to Slieve League, a peak near 2000 feet high. Below the peak, the Bunglas cliffs, the tallest in all of Europe.

We followed a few obscure signs and drove up a narrow dirt road pas a gate and a lot of sheep, parking where the road was no longer safe to drive.

We hiked up the remaining road into a range of barren foothills.

Along the hike I learned what a bog really is: a 3″ thick layer of dense moss sitting atop wet soil. It is so wet in parts as to be pure mud, leading to errosion of the moss. The soil itself is saturated with layer upon layer of decomposing moss. This is why a slice of turf, when dried, is flamable.

The view from the ridge-line was breathtaking. To the north-east we could see the towns of Carrick, Teelin and Kilcar. Further off, the Blue Stack mountains. Southwest, the North Atlantic ocean and across to Sligo and Killala Bays. Visibility was a spectacular 40+ miles.

We followed the ridge southeast and came to the peak of Slieve Leage. The only thing I could say was, “My god, this is beautiful.”

The three of us continued on to One Man’s Pass, a ridge line that is at most 2 feet wide of sharp broken stone. It actually requires some climbing in parts. Crossing it heading south-east to your left you’ll find a 400 foot drop into eins of broken rock. To your right, an 1800 foot vertical drop into the jagged shoreline. A strong gust of wind would find you seriuosly injured or worse. Interestingly enough, because of the height of cliffs, the coastal breeze from the shoreline pushes straight up the cliffs and past the ridge, not over it.

Further down the ridgeline we came to a small stone path leading to a parking lot. There we found a plaque describing the peak and the tower further south.

We cut through the bogs about a half mile and found the magnificent tower on a low cliff. It was constructed in 1804 by the British Army as a lookout post for attacking French ships. We were all amazed by the condition of it considering it has endured 200 years of Irish wind and rain. The tower was surprisingly intact. It stands about 40′ high and local legend indicates that what little damage that has been done was due to lightning strikes.

The walls of the tower are 3 feet thick or more, constructed in stone and mortored with a lime mixture. We crawled inside via one of the windows (there is no doorway) and noticed that many of the wood planks that lined the top of the windows were still intact. So, too, were portions of floor cross beams jutting from the walls above us.

We sat in silent awe within the tower.

After a while, we headed out and back down to the town of Teelin for bottles of water and mystery candy bars (we don’t recognize any of the brands here with the exception of Kitkat and Twix). We climbed the remaining 3 miles to the car in silence, focusing on reaching our destination and fighting off exhaustion.

It was a phenomenal hike with spectacular weather. I look forward to many more over the next couple of weeks, should the weather hold.

Here are some pictures of the day.

Recommended Listening:
Traditional Irish songs – Johnny Jumpup and Johnson’s Motorcar
Dick Van Dyke – Chim Chim Cheree