Stairway to Heaven - an insider's tips to walking Cuilcagh's famous wooden walkway.
Cuilcagh is still number 1 on the 'To Do' list for a great many of my guests. And it really is no wonder, as The Cottage Belcoo is a really handy spot from which to access the mountain, as well as various other popular Fermanagh favourites in the west of the county . There are so many things going for this tourist topper, which will make your trip feel extra worthwhile, and so I've compiled a short list of top tips for you, with an especial focus on guests in this particular area.
1. The Name: 'Cuilcagh', 'Cuilcagh boardwalk', 'Stairway to Heaven', the 'Legnabrocky Trail' - the popularity of the wooden boardwalk on Cuilcagh, which was constructed in order to protect the rare blanket bog from the erosion caused by walkers, has meant a profusion of coverage in the media, with many of the names they've used catching on. The Mountain is of course called 'Cuilcagh', but the accurate name for this most popular walk is the 'Legnabrocky Trail,' so references to this are what you are looking for when researching for your visit.
2. Plan your day: Official guidelines say the walk up and down takes 6 hours. But unless you are going to be doing it very slowly, which is entirely up to you, most people I know will complete it in more like 4 hours, or indeed much faster than that if they are already very active individuals. But, like all these things, you still need to be prepared. Start with plenty of time, while there is still plenty of daylight left in the day, just in case something slows you down. And while the day might start off stunning and bright, remember that the weather on this exposed mountain can change quickly and suddenly, so bring suitable extra clothing and snacks. Also be aware, there are no toilets once you leave the car park, and no food kiosk at any point (although there is a cafe at the Visitor Centre of the Marble Arch Caves, which you could visit on your way home).
3. Is it suitable for kids?: As all parents know, only you really can tell if your kids would be up for this. It is a super challenge (not too small, not too big), which will give you all that self-satisfied glow at the end of your day. But it isn't really suitable for small kids, unless maybe you are a very experienced hiker and are carrying them on a frame. Older kids (11+), yes, definitely, if they like this sort of thing. Or if, like me, you sometimes find the coercion you may need to apply to get them over the mental hurdles is outweighed by the promise of the pride they will feel once they've done it. Don't forget, you can always turn back. It's a beautiful walk no matter how much or how little you actually complete.
(BUT, if your kids are too little, may I suggest another part of the Geopark instead, 'The Cavan Burren Park' http://www.marblearchcavesgeopark.com/attraction/burren-forest/ This will tick the boxes for both adults and kids. I absolutely love this place for a couple of hours with children. There are bits of it with mini wooden walkways, magical forest paths, and stories of giants surrounding the ancient Cairns. To find it, turn right when you enter Blacklion, and then turn left at the signpost as you leave the village. There's a big car park, picnic tables, and a visitor centre, all with free access.)
4. Getting there & Parking: Cuilcagh is part of the Marble Arch UNESCO Geopark which wraps around this border area. As you may or may not know, Belcoo is in a unique situation as it joins with the village of Blacklion via a short bridge across Lough Macnean, with one being in Co. Fermanagh and the other in Co. Cavan. From Belcoo, to get to the car park at the base of the pathway, drive into Blacklion and take the first left turn towards 'Florencecourt'. When you see it, take the right turn to 'Marlbank'. On your left you will pass the entrance to The Marble Arch caves https://www.marblearchcavesgeopark.com , and shortly after that come to the car park for the Legnabrocky Trail on your right. Parking is £5, so have this handy. At busy times parking can become congested, so I advise coming early, and/or avoiding bank holidays if you have a choice.
5. The Photos: I took the photo at the top of this post, and, while there is a lot about it a proper photographer would improve, I still think it looks great. And that's the point, take plenty of photos, because no matter how adept or not you are with a camera (or, more than likely, a phone), it is virtually impossible to take a bad photo from this walk way; they just always look stunning, and you'll be so glad you have this record of your day.
6. Are you staying with me in www.thecottagebelcoo.com ? If you are staying with me, let me know in advance that you plan on walking Cuilcagh. I will leave you some pre-wrapped flapjacks for your walk, a hearty basket of breakfast items to get your day started, and you'll find the bath salts waiting in the bathroom to ease your tired muscles. :)
For bookings at The Cottage Belcoo, visit our website www.thecottagebelcoo.com .
Direct bookings via our website receive an extra special welcome basket with Prosecco. Payments are securely processed via PayPal (no PayPal account required). The cottage sleeps 4 people, in 2 double bedrooms. Price per night from £90. Weekends (2 nights) are £200, Full week £495. Includes breakfast basket, complimentary wifi, TV with Netflix access, Private garden & decking area.