One of the most extraordinary walks in Ireland is the Cuilcagh Mountain Boardwalk in Co. Fermanagh, affectionately known as the Stairway to Heaven. This project of putting a wooden boardwalk across kilometres of blanket bogland is a labour of love by the Sheridan family.
The Stairway to Heaven – Cuilcagh Mountain Boardwalk
The land has been in their ownership for three generations and the boardwalk is the Sheridan’s way to ensure the longevity and protection of this unique land for many years to come.
Cuilcagh Mountain Park covers 2,500 hectares on the northern slopes of Cuilcagh Mountain in Fermanagh and in the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark. The Cuilcagh Mountain Park was founded in 1998 with assistance from the European Union’s LIFE Peatlands Project and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The aim was to restore damaged peatland, to conserve pristine blanket bog and to increase awareness of bogland habitats and wildlife. At 665 metres (2,188 feet) above sea level, Cuilcagh is the highest point and the only true mountain in this part of the island of Ireland.
Cuilcagh’s many different natural habitats mean it is a perfect place to enjoy nature. From the summit, there are breath-taking views of the surrounding countryside.
Area of Special Scientific Interest
It is one of the most intact blanket bogs in Western Europe. This area is designated as an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) Special Area of Conservation (SAC). In addition, it is a Natura 2000 site and a RAMSAR or wetland of international importance. It hosts many rare species, natural habitats and geological features.
The walk up Cuilcagh, also known as the Legnabrocky Trail, is quite strenuous, so make sure to wear good walking shoes or boots. The first part of the walk is a gravelled path. Then the boardwalk is an easy surface to walk on but it does rise up to 688m and get chillier as you go up. It can be windy too. I wore a thermal layer and was glad of it as we reached the top. The total walk is around 11 kilometres and takes about three hours to do.
It is not a straight walk up as the boardwalk meanders across the bog finding the best route to place the pilings that support it. The walk crosses streams and ditches. Along the way there are boards with information on the viewpoints and nature around you.
Worth the Views
The final leg of the actual stairway is a steep climb up but worth it for the fantastic views across most of the north and midlands of Ireland. On a clear day you can see for miles. However, it does get busy and the viewing platform is small, so maybe visit early in the day or midweek.
This mountain park is privately owned and there are no services, just litter bins. Walkers should book car parking in advance, especially at weekends. It cost £6 for three hours. If you can, ask to use the upper carpark, it saves some of the walk.
How to Get There
I travelled from Dublin with an organised group I found on Meetup.com, Awesome Daytrips; they also do flying and surfing day trips. We came in a minibus from Dublin with tour guide Davey who has done this trip many times. It cost €45 for the travel and guiding.
There was a pitstop in Cavan town at Pullmore Business Park, where there is a Circle K, Spar and McDonalds. It was a good call, as there is nothing at the Cuilcagh Mountain Boardwalk – no loos or café. We also stopped here on the way back. It is about 25 minutes from the start of the walk. These trips to the Boardwalk are organised by Davey during the spring and summer and he can be contacted at [email protected] and (087) 9811701.
Dogs are not allowed on this walk, so leave the pets at home and picnicking is discouraged, though I would recommend you bring water and snacks. There are not a lot of places to sit down, a few benches and rocks for a break. That said, it is an extraordinary walk and one that will give you huge personal satisfaction – enjoy. Book car parking here.