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West Fermanagh Uplands

 

West Fermanagh is particularly rich in natural history with many notable habitats and species in abundance. It is part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, the area designated by UNESCO for its exceptional geological heritage of international importance. 

The area boasts some of the most scenic view points in Ireland as well as a variety of walking and driving routes which give visitors the opportunity to explore the wealth of biodiversity in this area. The next three trails are all within easy reach of each other and are largely contained within the perimeters of the Lough Navar Forest, the benefits of which include a network of trails criss-crossing the forest along with parking, picnic areas and interpretation panels.

Lough Navar Forest

Lough Navar Forest near Derrygonnelly contains lakes, peat bogs, exposed cliffs and some amazing viewpoints. The northfacing sandstone scarps are botanically important for arctic-alpine species, most notably one-sided wintergreen, yellow mountain saxifrage, shady horsetail, holly fern and green spleenwort. Hen harriers, sparrowhawks, jays and ravens may be spotted throughout the year while crossbills and cuckoos also occur in season. Woodcock breed in the clearings while smaller birds, which are more likely to be heard than seen, include coal tits, goldcrests, treecreepers, and siskins. Red deer and feral goats can be seen from the forest tracks. The area is rich in insects with common hawker and black darter dragonflies being frequently seen while in August peacock butterflies occur in large numbers feeding on devil’s-bit scabious. Within Lough Navar Forest are many way-marked walking trails highlighting short and longer walks.

Particularly lovely is the Blackslee Waterfall trail which is edged with deciduous woodland and in springtime there are primroses, anemones, wild garlic, bluebells and violets.

Directions to Lough Navar Forest Entrance

Follow the signs for Lough Navar Forest Drive signposted from A46 and B82.
Falls Bridge car park is at the entrance to the Lough Navar Forest Drive.

2 Lough Navar Forest, Scenic Drive & Walking Trails

Lough Navar Forest

(part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark)

Trail Information, Facilities & Access

  • ‚Open all year round forest operations permitting.
  • Forest drive is a looped 7 miles/11.2km drive starting in the car park.
  • The scenic drive peaks at the top of the Magho Cliffs, a fantastic scenic viewpoint overlooking Lower Lough Erne and out towards the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Blackslee Waterfall Walk is a 3.8 miles/6.1km looped walk along forest tracks starting in the carpark at Aghameelan Viewpoint.
  • Throughout this scenic drive are a number of car parks, picnic areas, viewpoints and information panels.
  • There are also a number of trails and five waymarked walking routes along forest tracks and gravel paths.
  • Access for fishing is also available.

2 Magho Cliffs Walk

Magho Cliffs

The viewpoint is the stunning background for 2 way-marked walks: one a steep 1 mile/1.5km assent and the other a leisurely 0.4 miles/600m trail. Marvel at the magnificent views over Lower Lough Erne and the Erne estuary, with its islands and promontories. There are also panoramic views of Mullaghmore and Slieve League. A peregrine may swoop past, or a pair of ravens tumble over the cliffs. Along the path there are heathers and bilberry between which can be seen the yellow flowers of cow wheat.

The path gives views over the spectacular Cliffs of Magho which are flanked on their lower slopes by the most species diverse woodland in Northern Ireland.

Walk Information, Facilities & Access

  • ‚Magho Viewpoint Walk: 0.4 miles/600m linear walk. 
  • Easily accessible gravel path, all the one level. ‚ 
  • Magho Cliffs Walk: 1 mile/1.5km linear assent or descent depending on whether you start at the top of the cliffs or from the A46 Enniskillen – Belleek Road below. 
  • A challenging, but rewarding walk. ‚ 
  • Carpark, picnic area and information panels.

2 Lough Navar Lakes Forest Walks

Lough Navar Forest

Around Loughs Glencreawan, Meenameen, Navar and Achork in spring, marsh marigolds are abundant around all lakes while in summer, when the lake levels are low, the exposed shorelines can be carpeted with pink ragged robin and the delicate white flowers of grass of parnassus. The lake edges have breeding common sandpipers which draw attention to themselves by their piping calls given as they fly off. Sand martins skim over the lakes: they sometimes nest in holes excavated in exposed peat banks. In winter whooper swan, wigeon and tufted duck can be spotted on the lakes.

Walk Information, Facilities & Access

  • The Lough Navar Lakes walk is a looped walk 6.75 miles/11km in length along forest tracks and gravel paths. 
  • Part of this walk, is a shorter 1.25 miles/2km looped walk skirting the shoreline of Lough Achork.

2 Correl Glen Nature Reserve

Opposite Lough Navar Forest entrance car park lies a delightful path through the Correl Glen. This ancient oak and birch woodland is cut through by the Sillees River which tumbles in a succession of waterfalls beside the path. Dippers occur on rocks in the river and the footprints and spraints of otter and pine marten have been found at its edge. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a red squirrel moving between the trees. In May holly blue, small tortoiseshell and speckled wood butterflies can all be seen.

The sandstone geology has encouraged a ground flora largely of mosses, wood-rush and bilberry, and a variety of ferns including the rare hayscented buckler fern.

Walk Information, Facilities & Access

  • A 1 mile/1.6km looped way marked walk. 
  • A narrow gravel path with some steep sections. ‚ 
  • Interpretive panel. ‚ Scenic views.

Portnagollum Cave Walk: Belmore Forest GAME OF THRONES!

Portnagollum Cave Portnagollum Cave

Belmore Forest lies above the village of Boho in western Fermanagh and covers much of Belmore Mountain. Belmore Mountain with a summit roughly 398 metres, is the second highest point in Fermanagh and provides breathtaking views of Boho, Lower Lough Erne, Lough Navar and to the east, Brougher Mountain with its distinctive television masts on top.

The forest is at the heart of Fermanagh`s Boho cave country and beneath your feet lies an extensive maze of caves which attract cavers and potholers from far and wide. Belmore Forest offers something for everyone: breath-taking views, local wildlife, deep forest and cave systems; amongst them Pollnagollum cave, which has recently been used in filming for the popular television series, Game of Thrones. A viewing platform at Pollnagollum Cave provides a great vantage point to see the impressive cave entrance which is fed by a beautifully cascading waterfall toppling down a 12 metre limestone cliff to disappear into the depths of darkness. The first exploration of this cave was undertaken by two cavers known as Édouard-Alfred Martel and naturalist Lyster Jameson in 1895 (the same gentlemen who explored the nearby Marble Arch Caves) and during Victorian times the cave was opened as a show cave. Depending on the time of day and year keep a watchful eye out for bats and birds around the cave entrance.

The geology of Belmore Forest is dominated by limestone, which is found as horizontal layers (beds) that formed at the bottom of a shallow tropical sea over 340 million years ago, during the Carboniferous period.

One of the most intriguing mammals found in the Belmore uplands is the Irish hare. Unique to Ireland, the Irish hare is arguably our oldest surviving mammal having been present on the island since before the last Ice Age.