EXPLORE THE ROSSES CAMINO 2017

SLÍ NA ROSANN - THE ROSSES WAY

Cost for 7 week Programme- €65 including transport

A 65km established walking route around the Rosses. Maghery Coastal Adventures will lead this route in seven stages over seven weeks beginning Sunday 5th March at 12pm. A perfect introduction to long distance trail walking, through a variety of landscapes, from sea to mountains, on quiet roads, lanes and tracks. Challenging, yet achievable for those with moderate fitness, make 2017 the year that you complete the Rosses Camino!

The people of the Rosses have traditionally been renowned walkers, such as the 10 year old Paddy the Cope, who leaving home at the age of 10 to go 'tattie hoking' in the Lagan, walked the 37 miles to Ballybofey and "had still plenty of walk left" in him when he arrived, or the countless women who walked to Glenties and back on the same day to sell their knitting and return home with more wool. The mineralogist Donald Stewart recorded in 1798 that "On the high mountains, in the Rosses, women scrape off the rocks and stones, a moss, with which they dye a beautiful scarlet: that of the remarkable high mountain Sleave Snaght, or the Snow Mountain is most esteemed". Slieve Snaght remains one of the most challenging peaks in the county and shows that the walking genes are in us - we may be just out of practice - by a number of generations! Our walks will be tame in comparison - Places are limited and preference will be given to those who wish to do the full "Camino" so book now!




Itinerary

Week 1:Maghery - Dungloe9km
Week 2: Dungloe - Burtonport9km
Week 3: Burtonport - Annagary11km
Week 4: Annagry - Meenaweel8km
Week 5: Meenaweel - Crovehy10km
Week 6: Crovehy - Meenlecknalore9km
Week 7: Meenlecknalore - Maghery9km

Route Outline

Week 1 Maghery to Dungloe – 9km, Meeting point Maghery Community Centre

Townlands: Maghery, Roshine South, Saltpans, Cleenderry, Croaghnamaddy, Meenabollagan, Toberkeen, Crocknageeragh, Dungloe.

Lough Waskel "The journey of thousand miles begins with the first step" wrote the Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu in the sixth century. Our first step on the 65km Slí na Rosann begins at the Community Centre in Maghery and follows the road north of the coastal lagoon of Maghery Lough. This is part of a Special Area of Conservation on account of the lake, which recieves both fresh and salt water and is home to a specialised plant and animal community that can tolerate such conditions. Birds, such as Mute and Whopper Swans, Widgeon, Teal and Goldeneye can be seen here at various times of the year. A short distance into our walk, the ruins of the 13th century Templecrone Church, once the religious center of the Rosses since the 7th century, becomes visible across a the small inlet of Casloughtermon. This is only one of a number of ancient monuments that are located in this area. Archaeological sites from all the main era's; the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Early/Mid Medieval and the Post Plantation period can be found here. Continuing along the road we pass by on the left the 5000 year old megalithic portal tomb in Roshine South and on the right, the 2000 year old ‘Crannog’ or fortified island on the lake.

The route continues along the main Dungloe/Maghery road passing Roshine School, founded in the last years of the Great Famine, before turning right at Saltpans. The name Saltpans refers to the production of salt from sea water. The method for this, presumably involved boiling quanities of sea water in large metal pans and then collecting the salt residue left behind. The location of these pans or the period when this was in operation is not known. We then follow the quiet wooded lane that circles the southern shore of Lough Illion through the townlands of Cleenderry, Croaghnamaddy and Meenabollagan. This lake has two islands that could have potential archaeological sites similar to the Crannog on Maghery Lake. We rejoin the main road at Toberkeen and follow this in the direction of Dungloe.

Toberkeen, named after its' renowned spring well of sweet water, and the fertile fields we see as we go down Toberkeen Brae are a result of the small outcrops of ancient limestone that are found here. The steep road of Crocknageeragh is climbed giving fine views south over Lough Nageeragh and the ‘Diamond’. We then descend the Caravan Road past the old St Peters Church, into Dungloe, the main town of the Rosses, to complete the first stage of our journey.

Week 2 Dungloe to Burtonport – 9km, Meeting point; Dungloe Car Park

Townlands: Dungloe,Meenmore, Cruickamore, Lackenagh, Burtonport, Leckbeg, Roshine Acres.

railway-walkWhile the first stage of our walk brought us through all the ancient monuments of the route, this weeks stage brings us through features that represent the development of the Rosses from the mid 18th century to the early part of the 20th century. We begin our walk at the car park and cross the bridge over the Dungloe river on the Main Street. In 1760, the Donegal Grand Jury granted £30 2s 3d to Rev John Major and Andrew Hamilton, who were given the task to “Build a bridge over the River Cloughanlea on the great road from Killybeggs to Dunfanaughy”. Following the road down past St Crone’s Church of Ireland, where the Rev Major also built the first church here in the same year as the bridge and thereby removing the old Templecrone Church as the official place of religious worship which it had held for around a thousand years. The building of the bridge and the church in 1760 could be seen as the foundation of the town of Dungloe which later became the commercial and social capital of the Rosses.

Passing the church, it is now the early 1780s and the developments of William Burton Conyngham that become the main narrative for the next part of the walk. Conyngham was the landlord of the Rosses and spent some £40,000 developing fisheries of centred on Inishmacadurn (renamed Rutland Island) including various pieces of infrastructure to service his estate. The Mill almost certainly dates from this period and is typical of the quality of his building works. The ‘Pole road’ which we now follow was once part of the ambitious ‘Rutland Road’ which Conyngham built to link his estate in Mountcharles with Rutland Island. By this road in Meenmore he also had built the Rutland Barracks which was burned during the War of Independence, but sadly all that remains of this site is one gate pillar. Beyond Rampart School we cross over the "Rampart", a causeway that crossed Lough Meela when the lake levels were higher. As we pass through the townland of Cruickamore, an overgrown granite quarry on the right side of the road is all that remains of another once very ambitious development dating from the 1890’s. The hope was that major quarries would be opened here that would rival the Scottish granite industry. Across the road, a rail track to transport the granite blocks was built to Lough Meela from where a boat would take them across the lake to another railway that would bring them to the shore for export. This development was short lived and a number of others tried to revive the industry in later years but these were also unsuccessful.

We will then leave the road for the peace and quiet of the Burtonport Railway built in 1903. This walking route is a testament to the hard work and vision of the local community here, who turned this extremely overgrown line into a first class walking route. This will bring us into Burtonport, gateway to the islands, and home to numerous historical structures such as railway buildings, the Cooperage, the Coastguard Station. We complete this stage at the petrol station/shop in Acres.

Week 3 Burtonport – Annagry – 11km, Meeting/Drop point; Dungloe Car Park

Townlands: Roshine Acres, Cruickamore, Keadue, Meenbanad, Drumnacart Mountain Pasture, Annagry.

Lough WaskelAlthough this is the longest day in terms of distance, it is mostly along level roads and paths and follows the route of the former railway for much of its length. This low-lying granite terrain that we will be passing through is referred to by geologists as the ‘Rosses Peneplain’ and is the remnants of an ancient land-surface that predates the last ice age by about 30 million years. The moving ice from the ice age created many of the features that are now visible today. The granite that makes up this landscape is much older at around 400 million years old.

After the Second World War, there was much controversy amongst geologists as to the origin of granites and how they were created. Professor H. H. Read of Imperial College London felt that a detailed study of granite was needed and it was decided that the complex granites of west Donegal were the most suitable. Over the next number of decades, geologists, led for much of the time by the late Professor Pitcher, who is still fondly remembered by many local people, based themselves in Sweeneys Hotel each year and carried out major studies and created detailed maps of the area. The outcome of this meant that West Donegal became one of the most studied areas anywhere and this led to a much greater understanding of these geological processes and anyone now studying granites, in any part of the world, will probably have heard of Thorr Granite, Rosses Granite and Trawenagh Bay Granite etc.

The route meanders its way through a lot of glacial features such as large rocks transported by glaciers called ‘erratics’, the serpent like Lough Waskel and several valleys that were created by glacial meltwater. As we rejoin the track of the railway it becomes apparent the level and scale of work that was required to establish a railway system in this landscape. Sometimes rock had to be cut away and in other places large quantities of fill had to be used to create a level surface. We leave the railway and follow a bog road leading up the south side of Annagry hill. On reaching the top of this road, Peter O Donnell's quarry comes into view. Here it is possible to see this complex geology in 3D. 600 million year old layers of ancient limestone were totally engulfed in the molten magma of the granite 400 million years ago. The heat and pressure of this changed parts of the limestone into garnets, sphene and other minerals. We end this stage of the walk at the village of Annagry.

Week 4 Annagry to Meenaweel – 8km, Meeting/Drop point; Dungloe Car Park

Townlands: Annagry, Meenalecky, Ranafast, Derrynamansher, Dore, Crolly.

Crolly River This stage will bring us through the Gaeltacht heartland of the Rosses and into part of Gweedore, before beginning the ascent into the mountains. Following winding roads through Meenalecky and into Ranafast we pass through an area renowned for Gaelic writers, singers, poets and folklorists. Perhaps the most well-known writers were the brothers Séamus Ó Grianna, who wrote "Caisleáin Óir" and "Cith is Dealán", and Seosamh Mac Grianna, considered by many to be the greatest Gaeltacht writer of his time. Seosamh was also a fellow long distance walker and an account of his 300 mile trek through Wales in the 1930's is recounted in his book "Mo Bhealach Féin".

At Derrynamansher we descend into the steep oak-clad glen and narrow long inlet of "An Ghaoth", the border between the Rosses and Gweedore. Here we cross the small bridge that spans the border and detour slightly to have a break near the Clady Hydro Power Station which was opened in 1959. The Dore community have developed a beautiful picnic area here and there is another series of inviting trails which lead off from here, including the link to the Slí an Earagail, another long distance trail. The route continues to Crolly before taking the ever steepening road into the mountains in the direction of Thorr. Our stage will continue until we reach the beautiful little corrugated iron chapel of Meenaweel built in 1938. This was a popular building material at that time and this is one of finest examples of a corrugated building that still in use and it is obviously very well cared for.

Week 5 Meenaweel to Crovehy – 10km, Meeting/Drop point; Dungloe Car Park

Townlands: Crolly, Meencorwick, Loughagher,Ardmeen, Lettercau, Crovehy.

MeenaweelWe begin this stage by continuing on the Thorr road passing the granite peak of Cronaguiggy on the right and the quartzite bulk of An Grogán Mór on the left. The mountain stream that runs near the road is a good location to see a type of small black and white bird called a Dipper. The Dipper is the only bird known to walk under water in order to feed. The road continues to climb until we reach the lake/reservoir of Loch Keel, the water source for much of the Rosses' drinking water. Here the vista opens up and the landscape has a much more mountainous feel than anything we have walked through so far. Immediately to the east lies the large peak of Crocknafarragh whose broad ridge curves around the hidden Glentornan Lough and ends close to Dunlewy. Thorr School marks the highpoint of the Slí na Rosann and provides a great vantage point to look over the populated lowlands and islands of the Rosses and beyond. Looking to the south and east reveals some of the most remote and uninhabited areas of Donegal. The bare hill tops are home to golden plover, grouse and golden eagle. The visible peaks of Crocknahallin, Crocknasharragh, Adderneymore and Cnocfadda are the mountains that Donald Stewart described in 1798 as the location where the women of the Rosses went to collect mosses for dyeing their clothes. Guarded by these peaks are the upper slopes of Slieve Snaght, where the most sought after moss was to be found. It is remarkable the lengths that these women went to in order to colour their clothes as this terrain is now considered to be the realm of the experienced hillwalker.

As we continue our trek descending through Loughagher and Ardmeen we are now entering limestone country. This ancient limestone occurs in outcrops in various locations and during the 19th century the breaking and burning of this limestone in numerous limekilns was a local indigenous industry. The lime was sold throughout the Rosses for fertilising and building purposes. Many of these kilns are still visible today. After, we turn left up the road to Crovehy and end our stage under the hills of Croaghpatrick and Crovehy.

Week 6 Crovehy to Meenlecknalore – 9km, Meeting/Drop point: Dungloe Car park

Townlands: Crovehy, Craghy, Oughtmeen, Meenlecknalore, Derrydruel Upper.

The most challenging day of the Slí na Rosann. Today we leave the road and tracks and traverse sections of open country and hillside. The fitness built up during the previous five walks will compensate the effort of these off-road parts which are mostly level, although, a bit wet in places. Good footwear is an essential requirement.

Dungloe River From the end point of our last stage we continue along a rough road to where the track splits in two. The superb 22km link of the Slí na Rosann to the Slí na Finne ascends over the Crovehy ridge and descends into the beautiful valley of Meenderryaherk before continuing to Doocharry and beyond to connect with the 42km Slí na Finne. However, we will descend steeply down to the right and join a short interesting path that leads to the ruins of an old homestead. Leaving the path we begin the first off road section. This has been somewhat marred by the recent erection of large electricity pylons and the ground directly underneath the pylons has been left in a very muddy state. Thankfully this is only for a short distance and we quickly leave this intrusion and begin to traverse north along the low hillside in the direction of Crahy (Tully) Lake which is noted for its sea trout fishing. As we circle the hill we overlook a remote stretch of the Dungloe River with its' "Paternoster" lakes of Lough Cushkeeragh, Lough Namuck and Lough Fad. The term Paternoster refers to a series of glacial lakes connected by a single stream and it is so called because of its resemblance to rosary beads i.e. beads connected with string. Paternoster translates as "Our Father". Soon we reach a stile over a fence and arrive back on to road at Crahy. The next part of the walk follows a lovely quiet and wooded lane and as we cross into Oughtmeen we pass through a grove of ancient oak trees. This road connects to the busy Letterkenny road which we follow on to the N56 before crossing onto the hill of Crockmeenlecknalore which has the distinction of having the longest place-name along any of the seven stages of the route.

The second off road section starts here and is shorter than the previous one. It climbs up the side of Crockmeenlecknalore which gives good views back towards the Derryveagh Mountains. Soon we reach the top and continue along a boggy stretch between the forest plantation that was burned during the huge gorse fire in 2011 until we reach a good bog track which follow for the remainder of the stage. From medieval times, Meenlecknalore, its' neighbouring townland Tangaveane and Termon belonged to the Bishop of Raphoe. It remained the 'Bishops land' until the 1870's. On reaching the road at the end of this stage, note how straight it runs to the north. This road was built as part of the "great road from Killybeggs to Dunfanaughy” by the Grand Jury in the 1760s, the first proper road built in the Rosses, and discussed earlier during the Dungloe to Burtonport stage.

Week 7: Meenlecknalore – Maghery – 9km, Meeting point: Maghery Community Centre

Townlands: Derrydruel Upper, Derrydruel Lower, Meenacross, Meendrain, Lough Salt, Tievegarvlagh, Cleenderry, Maghery.

Derrydruel The last stage of the walk begins by following the old 1760s Grand Jury road south before turning right onto the 'Scenic Road' in the direction of Meenacross. Here there are expansive views over Trawenagh Bay to the headland of Slieve Tooey in the southwest. As we progress along this road we find ourselves walking parallel to a long steep glen whose steep sides are clad in oak and holly and its' floor has lush fields. This is perhaps the best example on the whole route of a glacial meltwater channel. The serene and quiet view today stands in stark contrast to the raging torrent of a river that once flowed here at the end of the ice age. The water that fed the river came from a melting glacier and carved out the glen in the process. When the glacier melted completely the river was starved of its' water source and disappeared, leaving only the sediments it had been carrying on the floor of the glen which has allowed greater drainage than that of the surrounding land, hence the lush green fields. After this glen the road remains fairly level until we cross the stream of Owenaleck which drains the lakes of Lough Aleck More and Lough Aleck Beg. Then we ascend steeply past Meenacross School towards Lough Salt. This gives a good opportunity to look back at the last two stages of the walk, Crovehy looks a long way away!

Lough Salt We then come to the valley and lake of Lough Salt, nestled under the ridge and peak of Croaghegly, the highest summit in the Maghery area. This is another fine example of ice sculpting the landscape. As we climb out of Lough Salt and continue for a short distance we get great views over Dungloe Bay and its' islands - we are finally returning to the coast after our explorations of the mountainous part of the Rosses. Down to our right is the location for the first shop of the Templecrone Agricultural Society "The Cope". This was founded in 1906 by the great Paddy the Cope and is still the most successful and long-lived venture every taken on in the Rosses. Paddy's autobiography "My Story - Paddy the Cope" is essential reading for anyone who has an interest in the cultural history of the Rosses as is Patrick Boner's excellent and definitive book "The Story of The Cope" details the achievements and projects undertaken by the Cope during its' first hundred years.

To complete our "Camino" we take the rough road up behind the hill of Crokeeragh and through the quarry. From here it is now all downhill as we pass by the Iron Age Promontory Fort on Lough Aghnish. The Atlantic Ocean and the islands of Illancrone, Inishkeeragh and Arranmore come in view as we descend our last hill to reach the road to Maghery. A short walk to the centre is now all that remains of the journey that our own feet have taken us, giving a little time to reflect that now, we know the Rosses a bit more than when we began!


Lough Salt