During his family’s summer holiday in Dunfanaghy, Kieron Gribbon managed to fit in a visit to the highest point in County Donegal.
Thursday 5th July 2018
Having spent the previous three days with my family in and around the bustling seaside town of Dunfanaghy, Day 4 of our holiday was my opportunity for some Highpointeering.
My chosen High Point for the day was Errigal Mountain, the highest point in the Derryveagh Mountains and County Donegal.
I set off from our holiday base in Dunfanaghy shortly after 8:00 a.m. Heading west along the Wild Atlantic Way (N56), I passed through the coastal villages of Falcarragh and Gortahork. The N56 then curves inland, from where Errigal Mountain’s iconic profile dominates the view. A few miles further, I took a left onto the R251 towards the village of Dunlewey which sits right at the foot of the mountain’s southwestern slopes.
I’d forgotten to pack any of my Ordnance Survey Ireland Discovery Series maps for the holiday, so I made a quick stop in Dunlewey to buy Sheet 1. I also bought a copy of Sheet 3 for an upcoming weekend of Highpointeering in Inishowen.
A couple of miles along the road beyond Dunlewey, a walled car park marks the start point of the most popular route to Errigal Mountain’s summit. There is space for about a dozen cars here.
The sun was out and there were a few clouds in the sky. The cloudiest day of the week so far. Just a light breeze, and several degrees cooler than the previous three days.
I followed a few stepping stones across the first few boggy metres of the walk to a worn trail through the heather. This leads to the start of a spectacular ridge walk. Along the steep ridge section, extra care needs to be taken. The walking surface is composed of fragmented, lightweight rock which shifts under every footstep. The ridge is steep and exposed all the way to the summit. In places, the ground falls away sharply on one or both sides of the trail. That day, visibility was excellent and I stopped many times along the way to enjoy the stunning views.
I was still in short sleeves when I was passed by five people who were on their way back down. They were all wearing at least two layers more than me and some had hats on, so I pulled on a lightweight fleece as I neared the summit. Sure enough, the strengthening crosswind was getting a bit chilly.
At the summit, my reward was having one of Ireland’s finest 360 degree viewpoints all to myself on a clear day. I logged my visit using the Peakhunter app on my phone, took a few photos and recorded a short video of the views.
The video above shows Errigal Mountain’s northwest top which lies a short distance from the true summit across the narrow ridge referred to as the “one man’s path”. To the observer standing at the summit, the northwest top looks to be the same height. However, the video proves that the northwest top is definitely lower, based on the fact that the horizon can be seen well above it.
From the summit, I proceeded across to the northwest top and sat down for a few minutes. I wasn’t there long when a mountain runner appeared at the summit. She made her way over and we got chatting. She had travelled from Newcastle in County Down and was making her way around Donegal in a campervan. We were soon joined by a man and his dog.
Together we identified various islands off the Donegal coast, the hills of Inishowen, and even the Sperrin Mountains and Benbulbin through the haze.
The runner set off back down the mountain, and I continued to chat with the man who turned out to be fellow author Christy Gillespie. Christy, a retired school teacher, told me all about his books and shared some of his knowledge of County Donegal. We walked back down to the car park and had a great chat along the way. During the descent, we passed lots of walkers who were all heading for the summit.
Back at the car park, Christy and I said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Hopefully our paths will cross again.
It was a very enjoyable walk on Errigal Mountain. Good weather, stunning views and interesting people.
One year earlier
In July 2017, I visited nearby Croaghnamaddy in the Horn Head Hills. Below is a tweet I posted at the time containing a video of the 360 degree views from its summit.