Stairway to Heaven - the Cuilcagh Trail
Each year the company I work for has a charity that we raise money for. Last year it was the Alzheimer's Society, one very close to my heart, as I saw my father decline over 10 years with this terrible disease.
This year our charity is the Simon Community, which does a lot of good work helping the homeless in Northern Ireland. This was another cause very close to my heart; when I was a child I was bombed out of my home several times during the Northern Irish “Troubles”, and was technically "homeless" for a period of time. We stayed with relatives, and then had to stay in rented accommodation for over a year while our house was being repaired. After the last bomb I never did return to what had been my home (in Clogher, not that far away from this walk).
It's nothing like real homelessness, but it gave me a glimpse into what it must be like to have nowhere to go for the night, without warning. So it's a cause I feel strongly about.
For our challenge, we decided to do a 15km walk along the Culcaigh Legnabrocky trail, in Co. Fermanagh, which starts near the famous Marble Arch caves. The trail is across an extensive area of blanket bog, and ends at the top of Cuilcagh Mountain, which peaks at 666m. It's the blue line in the map above. According to Wikipedia this is the 170th highest mountain in Ireland - so not particularly high - and also, interestingly, the only cross-border one. Wonder will they be putting a checkpoint up here after Brexit?
There has been a walker's trail here for a long time, but recently a boardwalk was installed (funded by that pesky EU...) to help protect the bog from damage. It's become known locally as the Stairway to Heaven.
Our team, near the start of the walk. Note the equal male/female balance! And for a change I got into the picture because a very thoughtful passer-by offered to take one with me in it.
Initially there's a long gravel track, before you get to the actual boardwalk.
Walking along the boardwalk, surrounded by blanket bog.
There were some amazingly colourful caterpillars along the way. And a few squashed ones, unfortunately.
The shades of green when the sun shone were incredible.
It's a long way back...
And a long way still to go (and the hardest bit).
A break on a rock in just the right place. With a thoughtfully-placed bit of boardwalk to get to it.
The view was just stunning; the cool waters of the lake were looking very tempting at this point, as it was pretty warm.
The final, and steepest bit of the boardwalk.
It's a long, long way back to the car park...and absolutely nowhere private to go to the toilet!
We made it! Tired, very sweaty but elated to have reached the top and achieved our goal. And I got into this shot, too!