Looking down on Lough Finn, with the Derryveagh Mountains in the distance, on the ascent of Aghla Mountain’s northern slopes.
Aghla is part of the Bluestack Mountains range although it stands apart from the main part of the range to the north. Its height of 593m and its relative isolation gives it prominence in the landscape, and I have often gazed up it, as I passed through the village of Fintown, alongside the shores of Lough Finn. It makes an attractive sight from across Lough Finn, and below, are some of the older photographs I have taken of it, as I started getting interested in photography.
Aghla on the other side of the Lough, looking east in this photograph. The railway tracks are part of a retored section of an old line, now used for a 3km journey for tourists.
Another view across Lough Finn in evening light.
Aghla from further west with turf drying in the sunshine.
I’ve always loved the drive from Ballybofey to Glenties, through Glenfin and alongside Lough Finn, not least because I would usually be heading for one of my favourite places – Rosbeg and Portnoo in west Donegal. I think the scenery on the drive is magnificent, and Aghla plays a big part in that. It was therefore with a keen sense of anticipation that I set out on a July day to walk to its summit.
I parked the car at a GAA pitch at the western edge of Lough Finn, and a short walk along the right hand side of the pitch brought me to the foot of the mountain. From there, I could not see the summit as there is a steep rise to a false summit, the real top being hidden futher back. Rather than go futher west for a gentler ascent, I decided to to straight up the northern face, heading for the highest visible point. It was hard going on a steep gradient, requiring many stops to catch my breath. On the plus side, it gave me time to appreciate the views down on Lough Finn, and the Derryveagh mountains to the north.
Starting out, and looking east along the length of Lough Finn.
The Derryveagh Mountains just beginning to peep over the northern edge of the Glenfin valley.
Here you can see the GAA pitch where I parked, at the western edge of the lough.
As I gained some height, the views also began to open up to the west and northwest.
Far below, you can see the train making its way along the lough side tracks.
More expansive views now towards the Derryveagh Mountains.
Slievetooey beginning to appear on the western horizon.
At this height I could now see the sea, Aranmore Island, the Maghery area, Croaghegly Hill and the beaches around the Portnoo/Narin area.
Croaghegly hill in the centre of the horizon, with Aranmore island behind on the far right of the frame.
The sandy coast would I think be around Lettermacaward or Portnoo.
The Derryveagh range on the horizon.
Eventually with weary legs, I crested the high point I could see earlier from the Lough side road. The true summit was now visible at the highest point of a ridge. There was still some ground to cover however. I would need to walk over a broad area which looked like a mini mountain range within a mountain, with many little rocky summits and dips, boggy gound and little loughs filling the lower parts. It was just about possible to distinguish the trig pillar on the distant ridge. A little to the west, I could see a stone cairn, acknowledging the attainment of the false summit perhaps, and I made my way over to have a look.
The stone cairn near the top of the first part of the climb, with Slievetooey in the distance.
A look toward the ridge where the true summit lay.
I then began the walk across the broad area with all its ups and downs towards the summit ridge. This led me past many bog pools and loughs, and around, or over little rocky hills.
A boggy area filled with bog cotton.
The wild elevated area below the summit of Aghla.
One of the little loughs high on Aghla. The summit is on the ridge behind.
Another small lough, and rocky rises.
This whole area was like a little self contained world, high on the mountain, and was fascinating to walk across on the way to the top.
Another look at the Derryveagh range. Just as I couldn’t see this area from below, Lough Finn and the valley was now hidden from view.
Arriving at the top, marked by a trig pillar on top of a rocky mass.
It had been quite a walk to get to the top, over an initial steep slope, and then across the broad hidden area below the ridge. I clambered up the rock to the trig pillar, and sat to take in the views. I took several shots from there, and did some further exploring, but I’ll keep those for a second post.