I wasn’t expecting much of this hill as I set off to walk its slopes just before Easter. At 361m, it isn’t the biggest hill, and only a few days previously, I had been at over 600m in the Bluestacks. I hadn’t been able to get away until lete in the day however, so only had time for soemthing nearby, and not too big. It was a beautiful day, and anything was better than nothing, so off I went. The hill is found just north of the village of Pettigo in Co. Donegal, near to its borders with Counties Tyrone and Fermanagh. I had a route in mind after studying the entries for the hill in mountainviews.ie but the area is a maze of small rural roads, often not named, and I was having some difficulty finding the one leading to the starting point for the walk. Eventually, I settled for a random road that took me to the south side of the hill – one of those narrow roads with a grass strip up the middle. The road came to a dead-end, but just before that, there was a wide lay-by, with a forestry access track, barred by a gate, leading up through the forest on the hillside, and it was along this that I started my walk.
Already, I was enjoying this hill more than I had expected. The surrounding countryside was pleasant, with good views from the starting point. This was followed by a not too steep stroll through the forest on a good track, and I spotted two hares at different points. I soon came to a point where the track split into three, the two forks on the left having a gravel surface, and the one on the right, like the track up to this point, having a rougher surface. I chose the one on the right, as it seemed to climb at a steeper angle, but it soon ran out at a mast which a sign informed me was part of a rural broadband project. I backtracked and took the route on the extreme left, which soon led me out of the trees, through a yellow metal gate. There was open hillside above me here, with forestry on both sides, so I left the track and began to ascend this heather covered open area.
By now, I was thoroughly impressed with Crockkinnagoe. It seemed like its own little mini wilderness, and despite the top not even being in sight yet, the views were already magnificent. To the south, I could see across Lower Lough Erne, and to the west Benbulbin in Co. Sligo was visible. Tramping up through the heather, I crested a small rise, and the summit of the hill now opened up before me. I could see a minor summit, nearly as high as the main top, marked by a small cairn. Beyond, to the northwest of this minor top, was the true summit, identifiable by a communications mast. I made for the lesser summit first, the views getting better all the time with height.
I soon reached the minor summit with its little cairn, and stopped to rest in the hot sun, while admiring the now extensive views. I could also now see much of the broad hill top, which was an isolated little world all of its own, with many minature hills and valleys. Crockkinnagoe was proving to be an unexpected treat, brilliant for walking.
After a pause for rest and photographs, I set off for the true summit, to the north, northwest. On the way, I found another hidden gem behind one the little bumpy hills on the summit area. There was a small lough, a very photogenic twisty shape, bright blue in the sunshine.
I took a few quick photos, and resolved to stop here on the way back, but for now, pushed on to the summit, not far ahead. Minutes later, I was standing at the top, marked by a trig pillar. The main attraction of this hill is probably the view over Lough Derg, and until now, I had only had brief, partial glimpses. But now, the Lough was laid out below me, with Station Island and St. Patrick’s Purgatory clear to be seen. Beyond, I could see the Bluestack Mountains, Slieve League, and even Errigal, Muckish and the Derryveagh Mountains on the northern horizon, all looking resplendent in the sunshine. This vista far exceeded my expectations when setting out, and coupled with the enjoyable walk and terrain on the way up, it was making Crockkinnagoe one my favourite hills to have walked to date.
Continued in Part 2