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Killykeegan Nature Reserves are part of the Marlbank Scenic Loop and the Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark. This stunning landscape is dominated by limestone hills which were laid down hundreds of millions of years ago when the landmass which now forms Fermanagh was under a tropical sea. Evidence of this can be found in the numerous crinoids, seashells and coral fossils present in these rocks.
Sandwiched between Cuilcagh Mountain and the Erne Lowlands lies the most extensive area of limestone grassland in Northern Ireland. At one time the entire area was wooded with hazel, elm and ash. With the clearances for farming since the Stone Age, only a few patches of hazel scrub now remain. The scrub shelters delicate woodland flowers including wood sorrel and primroses. The cuckoo is frequently heard in May.
Meadow pipits perch on branches but are most commonly seen rising and falling in jerky flight over the grassland. The thin soils covering the grey limestone support a rich variety of herbs and grasses. The grasses are grazed by sheep and this allows herbs like the colourful pink thyme, blue harebell and yellow bird's-foot trefoil, to flower and set seed. These herbs in turn provide food for insects such as the common blue and peacock butterflies.
In a patch of heath, bog cotton and yellow bog asphodel grow amongst ling heather. The Irish hare leaves conspicuous trails through the heath by nibbling off the heather shoots. Stoats can be observed darting along dry stone walls. These walls, which are such a feature of the landscape, are under threat as they are collected to be used in gardens.
From Florencecourt take the Blacklion road for 1.7 miles. Turn left following the brown signs for Marble Arch Caves for a further 3.2 miles. Bypass the caves entrance, which is one mile before killykeeghan carpark. The carpark is on the right opposite a small sign for the site.
Distance: 0.3 miles, circular, waymarking - interpretation panel clearly shows the walking route.
Time: less than 30 mins
Grassy track not suitable for buggies or wheelchair users or persons with limited mobility
Point of interest:
Car park at McGrath's Cottage - Interpretation centre, toilets (open daily July & Aug and weekends in May, June and Sept)