Thursday, 3 April 2014

Blue Stack Mountains. Glen Veagh National Park. Lough Eske and Castle. Ireland Part Two.

All Photographs Click Full Screen Size for Best Effect
Back in Donegal again and our first promising day weather wise saw us heading in the car for the Blue Stack Mountains, one of the major mountain ranges in Donegal and a set of mountains that has always been invisible under dark clouds every other time we've been here. Although below Munro height with the highest in the range being Croaghgorm at 674 metres they are largely trackless and Graeme always maintained that his brother had found the traverse of the range surprisingly awkward as huge granite boulders,uneven tussock fields, deep peat bogs, and the underlying bedrock slabs lying at inconveniently steep angles made progress difficult at times. Graeme was taking no chances therefore and had suitable provisions made up for the hill as he didn't want to end up in a pickle :o)
This is it just above the Barnesmore Gap, a road pass that cuts through the Bluestacks. You can see the bare sheets of granite here that give these mountains their blue sheen in dull weather. When we arrived at the small car park not far from Biddy's pub on the main road it was hammering down with sleet so we stayed in the car for twenty minutes hoping it would go off.
This proved to be the case and it soon brightened up into a sunnier day. Graeme and Sandra weaving between the numerous puddles. Just as well there was a good track all the way up this hill as I'd pulled a muscle in my leg running for the Glasgow train early on the first morning and limped for the rest of the trip.
Going off track didn't look like a good idea as numerous long peat beds used for turf fires all over Donegal are still a major feature of the landscape here. It would be like attempting the Grand National fences without a horse.
The other side of the Barnesmore Gap Pass looked a far harder proposition for a man with only one good leg.
As we climbed higher the other Bob shot off ahead, keen to see the summit while I took shots of the surrounding area. Wide views in all directions.
As we climbed higher we could start to see why these mountains are so hard to traverse as the underlying granite is never far from the surface with awkward tussocks lying in-between , well seen in this photograph looking over the range.
Only one other group visited the summit while we were there as this is probably the easiest of the Bluestacks to ascend with a track leading right to the top to service several communication masts.
We had a brief shower of hailstones at the summit which is why some water got onto the lens here.
The loch-lake in the photograph is Lough Eske ( I think) which is where we went earlier as Graeme and Marion wanted to show Sandra, Bob, and myself some of the surrounding scenery in Donegal.

A large castle sits on the banks of this beautiful loch- lake, which has been awarded the coveted title of the Worlds Best Luxury Country Hotel recently 4 years running. It's Donegal's only 5 star hotel and spa but we were mainly there to see the sculptures in the grounds as 5 or 1 star hotels are usually well above our tight wallet budget threshold.
A magnificent dragon straight out of "Game of Thrones."
Leaping Salmon fountain near the Lough Eske Castle entrance. I was blown away by the quality of the art work in Ireland and Donegal and the detail of individual scales on these fish is stunning.
The castle entrance itself.
Lough Eske, looking towards a Blue Stack outlier.
Highest waterfall in Donegal, I think, and the other side of the Bluestack Mountains.
Biddy's Pub, a well known remote landmark on the main road where it passes high up across the Barnesmore Gap. A Donegal version of Glencoe's Kingshouse Hotel with coal- peat fires inside. Maybe they could twin up- like towns do.
We also had a tour round the Glenveagh National Park, another of Donegal's spectacular areas. A minor road carves through the mountains here under the great bulk of Slieve Snaght part of the Derry Veagh range, another hill which looks hard to ascend due to tussocks everywhere underfoot. It appears from this side as a great dome of granite with just a light skin of loose grass sitting on top and would be very tricky to descend coming down in mist or poor conditions from this direction as you can see clearly from the next two photographs.
Both the Blue Stacks and the Glen Veagh area remind me a bit of the worst- best parts of upland extreme Galloway around the Glentrool/Silver Flow/ Merrick district as both are treacherous and hard work underfoot away from the path system yet look so benign from a distance. Some fine winter routes have been put up on the flanks of this mountain but Ireland in general tends to get less snow than the Scottish Highlands as its further South and enjoys a milder climate.
The mighty bulk of Slieve Snaght , a mountain guarded by a ring of deceptive cliffs and slabs running off the summit. We didn't go walking here as it was too late in the day and not a place to come off in the dark but at least the weather was nice for our visit. There is an easier way up the mountain than this though. Outlying mountains Errigal at 752 metres ( the highest in Donegal) and Muckish are not far away. Being surrounded by the rest of the Derryveagh range  Slieve Snaght 683 metres ( 2nd highest mountain in Donegal) tends to hang on to its snow longer hence its name. Snow Mountain.
Although this link is promoting holiday cottages it also has the best info on the park,local map and a pleasant video of the mountains surrounding the castle. ( you can always mute the mournful pipe music of the kind that Alex seems to love so much as he always includes it on his own videos :o)
A last view looking down onto the castle from the high pass in the National Park. A fantastic area for walking or just sightseeing.

Here's a really worthwhile video of a mountain day out in this fantastic wild and rugged area which gives you a real feel of the walking potential here. (You can always mute the sound if you don't like the songs. I certainly did :o) I prefer a blast of Sinead O' Connor myself although that's not maybe suitable on this occasion. I really liked the last song though on this so maybe it's a girls voice thing!
(A minor miracle has occurred! Now I've watched this video three times I like all the songs on it now).


Carol said...

I definitely wouldn't want to walk that second hill in the mist!

Nice sculptures at the castle.

Kay G. said...

Can't believe these photos, they are incredible.
Does Biddy mean a hen in Scotland? That is what it means here!
You know the first sculpture, the one of the bird, that is my favorite!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Yes, there are good sculptures all over Donegal and the last post will feature them more.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
An "Auld Biddy" in both Scotland and Ireland is an old women(or a hen I think in certain places)but it's also short for Bridget in Ireland. I don't know the entire history of that pub so Biddy o Barnes might well have been a local women who lived in the district many years ago as the pub can trace its heritage right back to when it was an inn for travellers through the Bluestack mountains in the 18th century when it would be just a rough track for carts and horses in a fairly remote area.
I think that bird is meant to be a Heron but they don't eat fish that size so maybe an osprey dropped it first.

The Glebe Blog said...

Hi Bob, changed day's cutting turf. A machine now cuts as much in an hour as six men could cut in a working week. There was an art to cutting turf to get uniformity, my efforts came out all sizes.
I almost stopped at Biddy's when travelling up to time maybe.
Lough Eske looks brilliant, but brilliant prices too !!I'm a poor old pensioner.
Your comparison to the Galloway hills interior makes me think of the area west of Lough Allen around the Leitrim/Sligo border. That's much like the Silver Flowe too. It's a good job the shepherds know the land.

Love the video and the music. The singer of I Like You, Ben Rector, was around Nashville during my trip.

blueskyscotland said...

Evening Jim,
I think some folk still cut their own peat as I've seen them out collecting it with just a spade and bags. It makes a great fire once you get it started with coal. There's a bit of an art to it, like everything else in life.
Even if I had big wads of money I just don't see the point in spending it to stay in a hotel personally. I still like a tent outdoors. Indoors- Big bag of crisps, or a cream and fruit trifle,glass of fizzy lemonade or a beer, good film on TV lying back on the sofa-Still plenty of change from a tenner. Cant beat that. Simple tastes me.
Mind you, if everyone was the same
the economy would go down the tubes fast. Many of the scenes in Game of Thrones was filmed in Northern Ireland. County Antrim and Country Down scenery, sea cliffs and castles with production at Titanic studios in Belfast.