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My name is Simon Gray. I’m 28 and from Bangor, Co Down, but have lived in Fermanagh for the past few years. I work for Ulster Wildlife helping create management plans and carry out conservation work on some of Northern Ireland’s protected sites. I like walking in west Fermanagh where there are some really wild and isolated spots and a lot of good wildlife. I like getting out to the mountains in Donegal, Sligo and Mayo too, particularly the Bluestacks and the coast out by Glencolumbkille.
Gortmaconnell, Cuilcagh Mountain Park, Co Fermanagh, part of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark.
Late spring or early summer is the best time of year to walk up Gortmaconnell. Wildflowers are starting to emerge on the limestone grassland and the skylarks are singing all over the place. If you can manage it then get up early in the morning when the birds are the most active and you’ve got more of a chance to see some wildlife like Irish Hares or feral goats which are really common in the area. That being said the views of the Marlbank and Cuilcagh from the end of the track are great at any time of year.
This walk is for casual walkers, its got a little bit of a gradient at a couple of points but nothing serious. There is the option of heading up to the viewpoint at Gortmaconnell Rock which is a sharp but short climb. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to walk to the end of the track and back again. It’s all on rough track apart from a short section which goes across open ground but this is mostly dry underfoot throughout the year.
This is my favourite walk because its one of the most unique places I’ve ever been in NI. The walk starts off winding through the limestone landscape of the Marlbank but then after a couple of kilometres the track comes over a rise and you get a view of the Owenbrean river coming down from Cuilcagh Mountain. The trees follow the river up the hill and makes this place seem like a hidden landscape within a sea of blanket bog. It’s the best place to experience the remoteness and wilderness of Cuilcagh if you don’t fancy the popular route up the boardwalk.
Bring a pair of binoculars if you have them and make sure you take in the viewpoint at the top of Gortmaconnell Rock if you can.
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