Cuilcagh Mountain is the highest mountain in the Breifne area. The summit lies on the border between Counties Fermanagh (Northern Ireland ) and Cavan (Republic of Ireland). It is the highest point in both counties. Water from the southern slope of the mountain flows underground until it emerges miles away in the Shannon Pot, thought to be the source of the famed Shannon River. Extensive areas of blanket bog formed across the mountain and are now among the best preserved and most extensive peatlands in Ireland. Because of early destruction of peatlands, this scarce habitat is of international importance and is protected as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA). It also carries a new distinction as an official UNESCO GeoPark, an area of outstanding natural beauty and geologic importance.
The mountain is topped by gritstone, exposed in places as dramatic cliffs sweeping down to a middle layer of sandstone and shale covered by thick peat. The lower slopes provide spectacular scenery with rich flora and classic landforms, valleys, cliffs, and river sinks. The area also includes the famous Marble Arch Caves, one of Europe's leading showcaves. The cave features a natural underworld of rivers, waterfalls, winding passages, and lofty chambers, as well as a stunning variety of stalactites and other unusual cave formations. (www.marblearch.net)
Cuilcagh Mountain is one of the most important upland breeding sites for the Golden Plover and a prominent feeding and roosting site for the Greenland White-Footed geese, an internationally protected species. Plants such as Sphagnum, mosses, heathers, and Sundew (which catches and digests insects!) thirve on the wet blanket bog around Cuilcagh. Rarer plants like the Dwarf Willow and Starry Saxifrage flourish on the steep northern-facing scarp slope and the boulder fields below.
Cuilcagh Park is a perfect location for birdwatchers, hikers, photographers, cyclists, and walkers. A scenic, guided trail, called the Legnabrocky Trail, leads from the Marlbank road to the summit the mountain. The Wildflower Mountain Biking and Cycle Holiday Tours organizes cycling tours and itineraries for exploring the area. Experienced mountain guides are available at Cuilcagh Mountain Hostel to provide walks, fishing, pony trekking, and biking by arrangement. Scenic drives available and well-signposted.
The Cuilcagh Mountain Interpretive Centre has been combined with the Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre and offers guided field studies, exhibitions, a café and picnic sites, audiovisual presentations, and ample parking. Brochures, maps, and informational pamphlets available for both Cuilcagh, Marble Arch, and the combined: Marble Arch European GeoPark.
How to get there:
Arrive Blacklion/Belcoo from Galway or Knock International, N17 to Sligo, then N16 to Blacklion. Follow signposts to Marble Arch Caves.
From Dublin (120 m) take N3 to Enniskillen (becomes A509 at NI border. Enniskillen to Blacklion A4, 12 miles. Follow signs to Marble Arch Caves.
Cuilcagh Mountain Park/Marble Arch Caves
Marlbank, Florence Court, Co. Fermanagh BT 92 IEW
T: 03165 348855
Written by Joy Davis - Summer of Travel 2007