Sperrins in the Snow: Carnanelly

With the recent snowfall over high ground, I decided to take a midweek trip to the Sperrin Mountains, having not been able to get out at the weekend.

The initial plan was to walk a couple of the eastern summits, but on reaching Draperstown I was underwhelmed by the amount of white stuff on these hills.  Instead I continued west towards the Glenelly Valley, with my sights now set on Carnanelly.

Top image: view across the Glenelly Valley from Goles Forest

At 562m, this mountain is the only 500m+ summit on the long ridge to the south of the valley. It has the benefit of relatively easy access. Parking is available at Goles Forest on the main  Draperstown – Plumbridge road (H682941), meaning I could avoid any  potentially icy minor roads. This would be my third visit to Carnanelly.

Entering Goles Forest

A track follows a loop around the bottom half of the forest, which itself extends almost to the summit. As on my previous visits, I followed the track to the right (west) as it climbs uphill.  It’s a steep enough incline and the views soon opened up across to the higher mountains across the valley, looking fantastic with a covering of snow.

View northwest to Dart (left) and Sawel (right)

When I reached the point where the track levels off then heads back into the forest, I followed a firebreak to the right, leading towards the open mountain.


At the end I crossed a fence and opted to slide on my backside over the snow, down to a stream. A short walk up the slope on the other side brought me onto the mountainside which was blanketed in snow. It was colder now but the views were fantastic, especially northwest towards the distinctive twin peaks of Dart and Sawel

Another view of Dart and Sawel, from the open mountain

These backward views took my attention off the laborious uphill climb over increasingly deep snow; even on a Summer’s day, the terrain here can be a slog. At one point I sank almost chest high into a hole.

Walking uphill with the forest on my left 

I hoped the summit would be just over this slope, it wasn’t

Eventually the rocky outcrops at the summit came into view and I headed for these. 


I’d been looking forward to the view over the far side and it didn’t disappoint. A fiery sunset lit up the sky in the west, while Slieve Gallion dominated the view to the southeast, with Lough Neagh just visible beyond.

Sunset from the top: Mullaghcarn, near Gortin, can be seen on the right

Looking southeast towards Slieve Gallion, with Lough Fea to the right

With the light and temperature dropping, and now with one snow-filled boot, I decided not to linger and headed east downhill, towards the upper line of the forest. The snow was deep on top, making progress slow and tiring. I stopped en route at the  not-quite-summit cairn.

View north from the cairn

On my previous visit to Carnanelly, our route followed the forest line east then north, only entering it on the lower slopes to meet the track. This time, finding the heavy snow on the open mountain exhausting, I decided to enter the forest at a convenient spot and try to follow a more direct and less snow-laden route down.

I’d done this on my first visit and once again it involved a lot of zig-zagging, climbing over fallen trees and even wondering if you’re walking back uphill. After a while though I found a firebreak which eventually brought me to the track, just as it was getting dark. I followed this to the right as it ran downhill, finally reaching the start point from the opposite direction.

Total distance: 7.1km / 4.4 miles (guesstimate – realised that hiking app was paused for part of the descent) 
Map: OSNI 13 or Sperrins Activity Map

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to leave a comment or share via social media (buttons below).

You might also be interested in my earlier post on the Sperrins: Crockbrack Way (and a bit of Hudy’s Way)

11 thoughts on “Sperrins in the Snow: Carnanelly

  1. You were lucky Martin not to disappear in that snow; the photo of your rucksack being the last we know of you! Stay safe on them hills!
    That top photo is excellent by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely blog, brought back memories of hiking that route in sunnier times. Love the wintry light in the photos. Though I don’t think I’d have lingered as long as you did up there at that time of day.

    Liked by 1 person

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