Seeing as our current lockdown restrictions don’t include travel limits for exercise, I took a spin down to the Slieve Beagh area last Sunday for a change of scene and a longer walk than my usual, local routes.
I’ve walked in this quiet area for many years, including approaching the highest ground from all three of the surrounding counties. This time, with tighter travel restrictions in the Republic, I didn’t venture into County Monaghan but stayed on the Tyrone and Fermanagh sides.
Top image: Crockacleaven Lough in the late afternoon sun
My route was a somewhat improvised adaptation of the waymarked loop around Crocknagrally Forest, starting from a parking area just to the west of the well known Cooneen Ghost House (which isn’t so ominous looking ever since the surrounding trees were removed). I added several detours which were a mix of accidental and planned, disappointing and delightful, and which combined to make a good-length walk for a sunny, late autumn day.
A very tall tree, which I believe is lodgepole pine
My longest detour involved crossing the Alderwood Road and following a dead-end forest track up to a fine viewpoint just above a narrow river valley. There’s a footbridge here giving access to the lower slopes of Brown Hill to the north and I’d like to come back and walk this route.
With the sun and my phone battery dropping, I headed back down and into Crocknagrally Forest again to rejoin the looped route. I missed a turn-off initially then took the wrong one which brought an unexpected but worthwhile detour: a glimpse of water through the trees before then Crockacleaven Lough emerged in full. It was the perfect time of the day to stumble on it, the late afternoon sun just above the treeline on the far shore.
After an unsuccessful attempt at taking shortcut along the edge of the lough, I retraced my steps with now-water-logged boots to find the turn-off I’d missed. From where it was just a couple of miles back to my start point.
Total distance (including planned and unplanned detours): 18km / 11 miles (the waymarked loop is only 4.2 miles according to Walk NI)
Map: OSNI 18 or OSNI 28A
More info: Crocknagrally Forest listing on WalkNI