With the longer days approaching the West Tyrone Ramblers are looking forward to travel further afield in the forthcoming months with trips to all corners of Donegal planned and the Mournes among their new spring/summer programme. The schedule also include a weekend Rambling based in Westport , County Mayo. However they closed out their winter programme in style with some very enjoyable walks.
22 Ramblers drove to South Armagh on a Sunday morning to walk a section of the Slieve Gullion Way which included at 573m Slieve Gullion itself which is the highest point in County Armagh. The mountain is a central plug of a volcano which erupted over 50 million years ago. The plug was surrounded by a crater which is now an eroded circle of heather covered hills and the whole area is designated as a special Area of Conservation. The ramblers first followed a path, from the Slieve Gullion Courtyard , through a deciduous wood leading to the scenic forest drive which picturesque views . Then a steep boulder path leading to the summit and Southern Cairn was tackled. Here the Ramblers took time to enter the 4000 year old Neolithic passage grave at the cairn. After crossing the boggy ridge of the hill the Ramblers stopped at Cailliagh Berras Lough to have their picnic. On the descent the hill was alive with rambling boots and cheery voices as another forty strong rambling group from Dublin were descending at the same time. Off the northern slopes the West Tyrone Ramblers followed an undulating green road to the tarred Ballard Road and onto Killeavy Old Church. A refreshment stop in Murphy’s Bar in Meigh was enjoyed before the journey home
On a Saturday in March a group of 12 West Tyrone Ramblers travelled to Banagher Glen in Co.Londonderry which is one of the largest and oldest ancient oak woodlands in Ireland. The weather was dry with some sunny spells. One of the many sights admired on the 9 mile circular walk was Altnaheglish Reservoir which supplies water to the surrounding area.
Fortified by a sup of winter warmer-upper and energised by a morn that was ‘breaking bright and fair’ 28 members of The West Tyrone Ramblers set out on a 10 mile hike in the Galbally- Altmore area for their final walk of the winter. Cresting the brow of Logue’s Hill they were rewarded with the spell-binding vista of distant hills dressed with a collarette of morning mist. Following the quiet Altaglushan road for a few miles they then branched off onto an old farm lane which led to a short stretch of blanket bog. A couple of novice ramblers tried, in vain, to keep their boots clean by stepping daintily into the footsteps of the more experienced clod-hoppers.
Entering Altmore Forest all sat down to enjoy lunch in the last of the winter sunshine. Thus sustained, they followed the trail through the forest where in the more shaded parts thin ice still covered the many pools of water. On emerging into the brilliant sunshine, shots ringing out alerted them to the Sunday afternoon activity of the local clay-pigeon club. An envoy was dispatched and a temporary ceasefire negotiated. The ramblers then crossed over some farm lanes to reach Shane Barnagh’s Sentry Box where they enjoyed an almost 360′ view taking in The Donegal Hills, The Sperrins: Sawel, Dart and The Mullaghs, Slemish, The Belfast Hills, Slieve Gullion and The Mournes. Lough Neagh glistening in the sunshine could also be seen nestling below the hills. This highwayman’s vantage point afforded a splendid look-out over the ancient highway which carried King James II and his troops as they travelled from The Boyne to The Siege of Derry. Thus sated with landscape the group sought out refreshments in Galbally then travelled along this ancient road on their return journey to Omagh.
However the Ramblers would not agree with D’Avaux the French Ambassador travelling with James, when he referred to this countryside as a frightful wilderness.