Belcoo to Belleek including Lough Navar Forest Option
The uplands of west Fermanagh are comprised of a fractured mosaic of high plateaux, cut deeply by lake-filled valleys and topped by forestry and blanket bog. This 22 mile-long section of the Ulster Way between Belcoo and Belleek explores some of the most remote corners of the region. It also affords the option of taking in the celebrated views from the Cliffs of Magho by walking an additional loop through Lough Navar Forest.
Distance 29 miles
OS Map 17
Terrain Quiet rural roads and forest tracks
Nearest Town Belcoo
Grid Reference H084386
Route Type Quality Section
The section begins in Belcoo, a quiet village straddling the low-lying ground between Lough Macnean Upper and Lough Macnean Lower. The first few miles take you past Lurgan River Woods Area of Special Scientific Interest where a range of native trees including birch, willow, sessile oak and Scots Pine are sheltered by the steep-sided valley. A small population of the rare Green-flowered Helleborine also occurs at the southern extreme of Lurgan River Wood. This protected species has only been recorded in a handful of sites in Northern Ireland.
A gradual ascent takes you out of the Lough Macnean Valley and onto the Ballintempo uplands. Several hours of walking link Ballintempo, Big Dog and Conagher forests. There are beautiful mountain loughs along the way, as well as the evocative ruins of old farm dwellings. During the 19th century a significant farming population occupied sheltered valleys and pockets of better soils. Many of these farms are now abandoned and the former field boundaries lost within forestry plantations. Also scattered over the plateau are many Neolithic sites, some of which lie within a short distance of the route.
At Lough Navar Forest you are presented with the choice of either walking directly to Belleek or detouring through the Forest. This additional loop makes a fine circular walk in its own right. Its attractions include Correl Glen National Nature Reserve, a beautiful oak woodland . The famed viewpoint from the Cliffs of Magho looks out from just such an escarpment. The many lakes dotted throughout the forest are important habitats for insects including the Irish damselfly and several Priority Species of moths and butterflies. The presence of white-clawed crayfish in Lough Navar and Meenameen Lough indicates the high quality of the water in these mountain loughs. There are also many features of geological and historical significance located along the route, most notable are the Blacklee dyke, a geological feature made from once molten rock stretching for 1.5km in a north westerly direction and the glacially deepened valley now occupied by Lower Lough Erne and its associated drumlin islands.
Please be aware that this walking route passes through areas of open land such as hillside, working farmland and working forests. Livestock may be present, ground conditions may be uneven or wet underfoot and all forestry signage should be adhered to. Please refer to the ‘Walk Safely’ information included in the Walk Safely + Responsibly link in the Useful Info tab above.
Leave Belcoo on the B52 road in the direction of Garrison and cross the Lurgan River. The steep wooded slopes to the north are part of Lurgan River Woods Area of Special Scientific Interest. After fifteen minutes turn right onto a minor road past Holywell and follow this for another forty-five minutes, enjoying fine views south across Lough Macnean. Turn right into Ballintempo Forest and follow the forest tracks for an hour and a half to the next significant landmark at Lough Namanfin. Turn right here and continue for another fifty minutes to Lough Formal. Follow the forest track around the lake and then descend across a clear-felled hillside with excellent views of the Dartry Hills in the distance. In another fifteen minutes you come to the end of Ballintempo Forest and a minor road.
Turn right and follow this road for ten minutes until you reach the entrance to Big Dog Forest on your left. Follow a forest track north for fifteen minutes and cross the causeway splitting Lough Nabrickboy. After another ten minutes turn left and then turn right again at a ruined cottage surrounded by moss-laden sycamores. Continue for another ten minutes to the northern edge of the forest and a minor road. Turn right and follow this road until you reach the entrance to Conagher Forest, signed on your left, after thirty or forty minutes.
Follow a forest track north for a few minutes and turn right at a crossroads. Continue along this forest track for another forty-five minutes, keeping straight ahead at junctions and passing a disused quarry, before you arrive on the Garrison-Derrygonnelly road. Turn left here to continue directly to Belleek, or turn right to explore the Lough Navar loop.
Lough Navar Loop
Although it is a significant climb to the Cliffs of Magho viewpoint it is certainly a worthwhile one. The panorama of Lower Lough Erne and south Donegal is one of the finest views in southwest Ulster.
Walk east along the Garrison-Derrygonnelly road for thirty minutes to the entrance of Lough Navar Forest on the left hand side. Correl Glen Nature Reserve is on the right. Follow the forest drive for just over an hour to a junction. Turn right here and follow the road for a few minutes out to the viewpoint above the Cliffs of Magho..
Retrace your steps to the junction and turn right, following the forest drive for a short distance before turning right onto a track. Walk along the track for twenty to thirty minutes to join a tarred road. Turn right and follow the road for fifteen minutes to a junction at Meenameen Lough. Continue straight ahead onto a track, keeping left at the next two junctions and passing the western shores of Meenameen Lough and Lough Navar before rejoining the forest drive after an hour or more of walking. Turn right and follow the forest drive for fifteen minutes to the exit of Lough Navar Forest and the Garrison-Derrygonnelly road. Just before the exit is reached you’ll notice a path on the left that leads to an old sweathouse. The detour to view this only takes a few minutes. Once back on the Garrison-Derrygonnelly road, turn right to continue to Belleek.
Walk west along the Garrison-Derrygonnelly road for forty-five minutes and turn right at a junction onto a road signed for Belleek. After thirty minutes you pass a large windfarm on your right and then begin to descend, passing standing stones on the left. After almost two hours you come to a junction with the B52 road. Turn right and proceed carefully along this winding road for another thirty minutes to a junction with the A46. Turn left and then almost immediately right again, following the A47 across the River Erne and into Belleek.
Belcoo and Blacklion are two small villages separated by a bridge which marks the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. They are accessible by the N16 from the west and A4 to the east. Car parking is available in the car park beside the green in Belcoo.
Ulsterbus Service 64 links Enniskillen to Belcoo Monday to Friday. Enniskillen is well connected by several Ulsterbus Services. Consult Translink website for timetable information
Contact Translink Direct on:
Telephone 028 9066 6630
Textphone 028 9038 7505 (for people who are deaf or hard of hearing)
Refreshments are available at both the start and the finish of the route in Belcoo and Belleek. However this is a long route with no refreshment stops along the way – walkers should carry provisions accordingly.
There is a campsite, a few Bed and Breakfasts and Guesthouse at the start of the section in Belcoo, with one hotel, one B&B and one Guesthouse at the finish in Belleek.
There are limited accommodation options along this section of the route so walkers may wish to arrange collection from accommodation to the east of the route in Derrygonnely.
There is however the Heathergrove Country Guesthouse based along the route on the Glensheevar Road – west of Conagher Forest on your way to Belleek.