Hillwalking In The Sperrins (Part 1)

With good weather forecast earlier this week, and the opportunity for a day off work, I siezed the chance to get up into the Sperrin Mountains, aiming to visit four peaks, three of them over 500 metres – Mullaghcarbatagh, Mullaghclogher and Mullaghasturrakeen. The fourth, Mullaclogha at 635 metres is the second highest mountain in the Sperrins, and the highest peak in Co. Tyrone, although not its highest point, which lies on the slopes of Sawel, the peak of that mountain being in Co. Derry. It was my intention to start in the Glenelly Valley, and first ascend the most western mountain, Mullaghcarbatagh, and make my way east over the rest. The early part of the day was spent taking the car along some of the minor roads branching north off the Glenelly Valley, to see which would be best to start the walk from.

It was a very hazy morning, and it was only the next day that i discovered this was due to wind-borne sand from the Sahara Desert! At this early point in the day, combined with the low sun, it only made this scenic area more attractive. Most of the roads off the valley to the north in this area are dead ends, eventually the surfaced roads turning into dirt tracks, passing long abandoned farm cottages, before petering out on the hillsides. The first one I checked out, was not named on any signposts, but a farmer later in the day told me it was called Eden Road, after the hill it passed. While driving along I stopped a few times for photographs looking down into the small valley alongside, and of the lambs in the fields.

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I rejected this road in the end as being unnecessarily far to the west, and did the same for the Castledamph Road, although this proved to be a mistake, and either would have been better than the Glenroan Road which I did opt for. I parked at the Drumnaspar picnic area, and made my way east along the Glenelly Road, until I reached the Glenroan Road, not signposted, but there was a sign for Father Devine’s Well if anyone is looking for this road. It was initially a tarred road, although soon becoming a dirt track, and was a very pleasant walk with the Glenroan valley to the east, Mullaghaterrive Hill to the west and higher mountains ahead. As I got my bearings, I realised I would be too far east for my first target, Mullaghcarbatagh, as Mullaghclogher was almost dead ahead. I decided therefore, that I would abandon Mullaghcarbatagh for today at least, and ascend the other three. These plans would change later in the day, but for now, I followed the track until it began to veer east. At this point I made my way up on to the southern shouulder of Mullaclogher and headed for its summit.

The Glenroan Valley in the haze.

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Not a pretty sight, this sheep had fallen into a deep ditch and met its end there.

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Some close-ups of peeling paint at one of the more recently abandoned farmhouses.

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Gaining some height on Mullaghclogher, and looking over to Mullaaghasturrakeen.

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Looking back in the direction I had come from, over Mullaghaterrive Hill.

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Reaching the crest of the shoulder of Mullaclogher, and looking west, the haze now very apparent, and I felt beginning to spoil the views a little, for photography anyway, if not to the eye, rather than enhancing it.

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Near the top of Mullaghclogher now, I stopped for a breather where some rocks offered the chance of a dry seat.

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While sitting taking in the views, there were also sights closer at hand to catch the eye. I was drawn by the purple hues in this lichen.

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At the unmarked summit area, looking north here.

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From the top my next two targets, Mullaghasturrakeen and Mullagclogha were clearly visible to the east, with a high valley separating me from them.

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On such a nice day, it was easy to set off with a spring in my step, and I’ll continue the walk in my next post.

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