They were getting ready to clip the sheep in Lisnaharney glen, and we had to look sharp to avoid a woolly stampede as we walked through the farmyard at Eskeradooey.First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
County Tyrone hill farmers work hard for slim rewards, but the man leaning over the gate had spare time and humour enough to invite us to help him with the shearing. It would have been great fun, but Jane and I were headed for the hills along with our friend Inga and her old chum Harry, a crazy-coated and toothless terrier some 20 years young. He scampered and ran all day, fossicking and questing through the rushes and grass, as keen as a puppy. What an example to us all!
The mountain road over the pass behind Eskeradooey is a stony and ancient highway, coursing south to north against the grain of the east-west Sperrin Hills. The view from the saddle is utterly spectacular – back south to the green lowlands around Omagh, north across the deep cleft of the Owenkillew Valley to the billowing uplands of the central Sperrin range, bulges of hills with gallopingly musical names – Mullaghasturrakeen and Mullaghclogher, Craignamaddy and Mullaghbane. Inga, a resident of County Donegal, was able to point out a tiny cone in the north-west, clear against the sky, and confirm that it was indeed Mount Errigal, the highest peak in Donegal, forty miles away.
Harry sniffed over the ruins of an ancient Chrysler that some bright sparks had driven up the old mountain road and failed to drive away again. It could have been The Professionals circa 1978, judging by the cut of the old wreck’s jib – flash, chrome-rich and cheap, just the sort of motor that CI5 agents Doyle and Bodie loved to corner in with a squeal of Firestones and a burst of .357 Magnum fire. Other hard men had hung out at the pass in times past, too – the pair of flat-topped domes that rise out of the bog here are dubbed the Robber’s Table, though no-one seems sure of the identity of the ‘rapparee’ or robbing rogue to whom the name refers.
Harry and his consort decided to turn back. We waved them goodbye and went on down into the Owenkillew Valley past farmsteads under orange-rusted tin roofs, abandoned in overgrown gardens – testament to the difficulty of getting a viable living nowadays out of these pared-to-the-bone mountain farms. ‘You can’t eat the scenery,’ say the farmers – but what scenery, the magnificent beauty of the rolling Sperrins that enfolded our path back across Curraghchosaly Mountain and down to the long green glen of Lisnaharney once more.
Start & finish: Gortin Glen Forest Park car park, near Omagh, Co. Tyrone – NB £3.50 cash (OS ref H 485822)
Getting there: Bus: Ulsterbus 403 from Omagh. Road: Signposted off B48 Omagh-Gortin road.
Walk (7½ miles, moderate, OSNI Discoverers 12, 13. NB: Online map, more walks: walkni.com, christophersomerville.co.uk): Return from car park to B48; left for 100m; right up Lisnaharney Road. In 1¼ miles pass side road on right marked ‘Lisnaharney Public Right of Way’/PRW); in another ½ mile, turn right (‘Eskeradooey PRW’). In 200m, right to farmyard at end of lane. Between buildings and farmhouse bear left up stony lane for 1⅓ miles, past Robber’s Table/RT and down to road. Right (‘RT’) for nearly ½ mile; right up track (‘Lisnaharney PRW’, ‘RT’) past Curraghchosaly Mountain and down to road. Left for 1¼ miles to B48 and forest car park.
Accommodation: Mullaghmore House, Old Mountfield Road, Omagh (028-8224-2314)
More info: Omagh Tourist Office (028-8224-7831); discovernorthernireland.com
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