Muckish Mountain Part 2

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The summit of Muckish.

In Part 1 I had been describing my ascent of Muckish in Co. Donegal, from the south.  I was thoroughly enjoying the walk on this magnificent mountain with its other-worldly atmosphere, stony plateau, and great views over north Donegal, despite the hazy, overcast conditions being less than ideal for photography.  While they may not have been great for landscape photograpy, the conditions were adding to the atmosphere on this unique peak.  I concluded Part 1 having reached the huge, prehistoric cairn in the middle of the plateau.  I now headed for the trig pillar and summit near the eastern end of the plateau.

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A look back westward along the stone-covered plateau.

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The stony surface, huge empty spaces, ancient cairn, and flat light conspiring to create a strange atmosphere.

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A wonderful etched dragon on the top of the trig pillar.

From the trig pillar, I continued east to the end of the plateau, the location of a large cross, topped by a Donegal flag.  There are a few mountains in Ireland topped by such crosses, and the one on Ireland’s highest mountain Carrauntoohil, was recently cut down by someone going to a lot of effort to make the ascent in the dead of night with an angle grinder!  It has caused a lot of debate, with some calling for it to be reinstated.  Others feel the erection of crosses should not be allowed on mountain tops which should be a resource for everyone to enjoy, not subject to the symbols of Christianity or Catholicism, or indeed any faith or policical group.  Some have even suggested the cross could have been cut down by a victim of abuse by the clergy – a notorious scandal in Ireland.  It is an emotive issue, but I would agree that the mountain tops would be better left free of such adornments.  I personally would not have felt the need to cut it down however, and would be happy enough to compromise so that any already in place could be left standing.  Some such as this one on Muckish, or on Carrauntoohil, Bray Hill or other examples now have a sort of historical significance I feel, and I can divorce them from their religious conotations, and see them simply as a landmark.  I would not like to see them sprouting on all our high places however – I feel they should be wild and as free as possible from human, particularly modern, additions.  It is likely to be a long debate however, and some I have seen online have been extremely belligerent and venomous on both sides!

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Stone windbreak/shelter near the cross.

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Looking east.

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Lough Naboll.

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The Rosguill Peninsula in the distance.

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Going down the eastern slope a little, and looking back up at the cross.

I had now walked the length of the plateau from southwest to east, and began to make my way back to a point I had passed earlier – the top of the Miners Track.  I had ascended Muckish on its southern side, but there is an alternative route on the north, a narrow, twisting path with a high degree of exposure to steep drops – the Miners Track.  It is so-named as it was used by miners to reach a point near the top where high quality quartz sand was mined for use in glass making.  In normal times it was uneconomic to mine the sand despite its high quality, due to its inaccessable location.  However, during the Second World War, many other sources in Continental Europe were not available, particularly to the British market, so it became feasible to mine the sand for that market.  It is an adventurous route, providing excitement due to the narrow path and dangerous drops.  I didn’t have time to descend all the way to the bottom via this route, as my car was parked on the wrong side of the mountain, but I went down part of the way, then having to re-ascend to go back to the southern descent route.  I got a good taste of the route however and found it exhilarating.  There was the added attraction of being able to explore the abandoned mining equipment still on site and rusting on the mountain side.

By the time I had climbed Muckish, had a good wander around, and came back down again, I was fairly weary, and feeling pleased with myself for my efforts.  It is incredible to think that the miners, made this climb every day, but rather than have a leisurely stroll around enjoying the views, they had only started their exertions, and now faced a full day’s work of hard manual labour.  If that wasn’t enough, most of them would have walked many miles (many up to 10 or 15 miles) from their homes around north Donegal even to get to the foot of the mountain, and would do so again at the end of the day.  For most of them, the mining was a supplementary income to farming, and they quite probably had other duties after such a day!  A hardy breed in those parts.

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Looking down from near the top of the Miners Track.

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A look along Donegal’s north coast – many of the miners would have walked from those coastal areas to then make the climb to their day’s work!

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Dangerous work too.

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Some of the old rusting equipment.  For a closer look at the abandoned equipment, see Part 3.

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Going back up the track to the summit, looking towards Horn Head peninsula.

Having gone down as far as the mineworks, it was fascinating to wander around among the still remaining equipment, now rusting and half buried in the quartz sand it had previously been used to extract.  I took many photos of the equipment which you can see in Part 3 in my next post.  For now, I made my way back up to the summit, and along the plateau, heading west to the point where I had reached the top from the southern side.

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Lough Agher.

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Lough Naboll.

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Passing the ancient burial cairn on my way back.

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Pausing to look at some of the banded, patterned stones on the plateau.

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This splash of colour between the stones caught my eye.  I’m guessing its some type of animal droppings, maybe a result of a meal of berries, but I don’t know.  If anyone out there knows it would be great if you could let me know in the comments.

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Back at the southwestern end of the plateau, with Errigal in the distance, at the end of the Seven Sisters chain of mountains, Muckish itself being at this eastern end.

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A last look back along the top before beginning the descent.

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On the way down.

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Interesting twisting rocks, seeming to flow down the mountain side.

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A great mountain, highly recommended for anyone looking for a hillwalking destination, with plenty of points of interest.  It will definitely be my intention to return in better light to make the most of what would be magnificent views, particularly towards Errigal, and along the north coast.

Part 3 coming shortly with a closer look at the abandoned mining equipment.

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