The trig pillar on Knockavoe, clearly much altered over the years.
I have often mentioned the Mountainviews.ie webisite on this blog – a hugely useful resource for hillwalkers in Ireland. One of the services offered by the site is to provide various lists of hills and mountains which users can complete, and one of them, tailored to each individual, is your local 100. I had been spending a leisurely day visiting four of the small hills in my own local 100 in East Donegal, and having a little more time to spare, decided to visit the summit of Knockavoe which is an outlier of the Sperrin Mountains, rising to the east of Strabane. Knockavoe doesn’t qualify for listing as it doesn’t fit the criteria on prominence, or the amount of ascent and descent from the next nearest hill.* This technicality doesn’t stop it from being a great little hill and a fine vantage point however, and while it is not challenging, requiring a walk of only 500 metres or so from the Evish Road to reach the summit, it was perfect for doing in conjuction with several other hills.
I crossed over from Donegal to Tyrone at the bridge between Strabane and Lifford, stopping briefly to take a couple of photos of Knockavoe from a distance across the river, where the Finn and the Mourne merge to become the Foyle.
As the hill is not listed on Mountainviews, I didn’t have the advantage of comments from other users, so I had to find a route up Knockavoe myself, and I drove round the encircling country roads looking for a spot to start that wouldn’t be too close to dwellings etc. giving me a view from several angles.
Knockavoe from the southeast.
The clearest, shortest route seemed to be from the Evish Road on the southern slopes, and spotting a man doing some gardening at a house on the roadside, I made enquiries about the possibility of crossing the fields here to access the summit. He turned out to be very friendly, with an interest in photography and landscapes, and it also emerged that it was in fact his land I was seeking to cross. He assured me it would be no problem to do so, and after an enjoyable chat with him about photography and hill walking, I set off on the short walk up to the top.
Starting out across the fields.
A glimpse of Strabane to the west.
Looking east to the Sperrins.
Reaching the top, with views over rolling countryside to the northeast.
Reaching the top, I crossed a fence for new views to the north, then followed the fence along to the clearly visible trig pillar. According to my GPS unit, the high point was 296 metres, and there were great views now over the town of Strabane just below the hill in the west. It was a hazy day, but I could just make out the Derryveagh Mountains in Donegal, including Errigal and Muckish. The course of the River Foyle wound its way north towards Derry. In the east, Koram Hill was prominent, with the television mast, reputedly the tallest man-made structure in Ireland at 305.5 metres. Beyond it, stretched the rest of the Sperrins.
The trig, with a metal cross fixed to the top.
The River Foyle winding its way north.
The trig pillar had deteriorated over the years, with the flush bracket having been hacked out of the side, leaving a hole in the concrete. The plate on the top had also possibly been removed, but it was impossible to tell as the top of the pillar had been covered with concrete used to fix a metal cross in place.
A closer view of the metal cross on the trig pillar.
A concrete base for the cross where the top plate would have been.
The hole where the flush plate would have been.
Looking over Strabane.
Zoomed in closer on Strabane with Croaghan Hill in the background. (https://aidymcglynn.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/croaghan-hill-donegal/)
The record breaking TV mast on the slopes of Koram Hill on the right of the frame.
Starting back down again.
Back down at the car, and it had taken me more time to enjoy the views at the top than to walk up and down again.
*Mountainviews.ie does have a facility to request the inclusion of hills which don’t have the required prominence, if they have local or cultural importance. I enjoyed Knockavoe so much that I requested its inclusion, which was accepted, and it is now listed on Mountainviews. I felt that its prominence from Strabane warranted its inclusion on local importance grounds. Also, when I find a trig pillar on a summit, I can’t help reflecting on the Ordnance Survey’s mammoth undertaking in surveying Ireland, going back to the 1800’s. The construction of all the trig pillars alone was impressive enough, followed by the time consuming and astoundingly accurate measurements across the whole island, at a time when travelling to sometimes very remote places was a lot more difficult than today. The original survery completed in 1846 was at a scale of 6 inches to 1 mile, which meant at the time Ireland was mapped to a scale unmatched in any other country. I am still thrilled to encounter the trig pillars, and it makes me feel a connection with remarkable men like Victor Du Noyer, or doing similar work, Robert Lloyd Praeger. It must have been an a hugely enjoyable job to travel to all corners of Ireland seeking out amazing sights and places. I can’t help thinking that any hill involved in this process deserves inclusion for that alone! And, it is even more pleasing to think that the key personnel in Mountainviews.ie are still involved today in surveying and measuring Irish hills and mountains, as they did recently in the Wicklow Mountains. We hillwalkers have a lot to thank the Mountainviews organisers for.