I always like to fit in a hike in the days after Christmas and it often ends up being in the Sperrins, my closest mountain range.
This year’s excursion wasn’t the most ambitious but gave some magical views, thanks to an impressive and unexpected covering of snow on the higher ground.
Top image: Looking back on my route from my lunch stop near Mullaghsallagh’s summit
My route started from the parking area at Goles Forest, at the eastern end of the Glenelly Valley, just inside County Tyrone. From here I’d usually walk southwards into the forest and ultimately to the 562m summit of Carnanelly. This time, though, my target was Mullaghsallagh on the opposite, northern side of the valley.
A short road walk eastwards along the main Plumbridge-Draperstown road led to a track heading diagonally uphill through the forest. Visibility was initially poor owing to a persistent fog but there were some atmospheric views across the valley.
The track levelled out and I headed directly uphill through a recently felled section of forest. Progress was slow owing to the uneven ground but I eventually made it onto open hillside. Snow was now plentiful but visibility had all but vanished and I was firmly in the ‘Am I mad? What the hell am I doing here?’ stage that occurs in many a hike.
It was only when I reached the fence junction marking Mullaghsallagh’s lower, 437m top that the low cloud parted to reveal more than my immediate surroundings. The higher neighbouring mountains looked fantastic covered in snow and I spent some time savouring the views before aiming for Mullaghsallagh’s main, 485m summit.
Looking towards Mullaghsallagh’s main, spud-like summit; clumps of snow kept falling from the branches of the tree while I stopped to take in the views
I really liked this view southeast across the mouth of the main Sperrins chain towards Slieve Gallion; Lough Neagh is just visible to its left
A closer look at the solitary, festive tree in the previous shot, with the upland Lough Ouske to the right
A fenceline led down a little and then up to the main summit area, with a couple of face-first falls into the snow along the way. The low cloud moved around the mountains giving tantalising views before it would close in again.
The top of the Goles River valley emerging into view to the northwest
Bulky Crockbrack in County Derry visible to the east
I stopped just below the summit for lunch and waiting around paid off, as visibility continued to clear. Eventually Sawel, the tallest peak of the range and high point of both Tyrone and Derry, came into focus to the northwest.
Stopping for lunch/Christmas cake, with a view of snow-covered Sawel in the distance
Conscious of the time, I packed up and headed swiftly downhill towards the top of the Goles River valley, which would allow a looped route back to the car. Goles is almost deserted today but the building ruins and numerous lanes point to a time when there was a lot more life and activity. I’m told many of the occupants were extensive sheep farmers.
A tricky crossing of a burn (stream) led to a muddy track and after a while, the solitary road that undulates south alongside the Goles River to the floor of the Glenelly Valley. From here it was less than a mile back along the main road to the forest entrance.
The upper end of the Goles River valley
Total distance: 8.5km / 5.3 miles
Map: OSNI 13 or Sperrins Activity Map
Earlier posts on hiking in the Sperrins:
Sperrins Photo Blog: Vinegar Hill Loop |
Sperrins in the Snow: Carnanelly |
Crockbrack Way (and a bit of Hudy’s Way)