Once again I stayed relatively close to home for this hike, which happened to fall on my birthday.
The Vinegar Hill Loop in County Tyrone is one of a small number of waymarked routes in the heart of the Sperrin Mountains. It’s largely on farm tracks with sections on public but quiet roads.
I hadn’t walked it before but had done most of the longer (and excellent) Craignamaddy Circuit, which it overlaps with.
Our start point was the scenic parking facility just to the north of Barnes Gap. This ‘deeply incised, north-south, glacial overflow channel’ cuts through the ridge of hills to the south of the Glenelly Valley, and is one of the most dramatic sights in the range.
A full route description and map are available from the Walk NI website so I won’t go into details here. While a mild day for January, the views were hazy but hopefully the below photos give a feel for what to expect.
Looking north across the Glenelley Valley to ‘the Mullaghs’, taken on the higher of the two roads through Barnes Gap
My first time seeing signs for the International Appalachian Trail (Sentier international des Appalaches in French). The Ulster~Ireland section connects the Donegal and Antrim coasts.
The tranquil farm track which contours around Mullaghbolig on the eastern side of the loop
Our company for a while
Enjoying the views from the track
Heading downhill towards the end of the track
An excellent birthday surprise on our lunch stop
The second section of track on our way back to Barnes Gap, as the sun began to set
Mullaghcarn which dominates the view to the south of the route. It rises above Gortin Glen Forest Park.
Back at Barnes Gap as dusk approaches. I like this view of the criss-crossing roads; we returned by the lower one but they both lead back to the parking spot.
Total distance: 11.9km / 7.4 miles
Map: OSNI 13 or Sperrins Activity Map