Bunglas to Glenties

(2 reviews)

This section is the first section of the IAT in Ireland, following the Atlantic Coast from Bunglas, past Slieve League, Glencolmcille, Ardara and ending at Glenties.

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Bunglas to Glenties



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  • The main comment I feel I need to make is that on the section of river walk from Ardara to Glenties, the arrows direct you over a [dodgy-looking] wooden bridge to the other embankment. Here you are directed along the river’s edge for a while before being directed back across the river [on a sturdier metal bridge] before being directed away from the river, up past a field of cattle to the road to Glenties. THIS SECTION IS VERY VERY DANGEROUS!!!

    Once over the wooden bridge [one side of which is missing], the path is overgrown and VERY narrow between the wire fencing of two fields of cattle and the river itself. At certain points the path has collapsed down into the embankment, where tall weeds make gauging the depth impossible. It is easy to lose one’s footing here [I did] and a tumble so close to deep water is no fun.

    Why this detour across the river and back? I have no idea – the section is short and nasty, and if I had known before hand, I would not have crossed, but stayed on the same side and then gone up to the road into Glenties.

    Please exercise caution on this part of the trail.

    ***

    That said – here is my review of the trail from Bunglas to Glenties [and on to Donegal Town].

    You begin crossing Sliabh Liag, which is famous for its beauty but infamous for how dangerous the path can be. It is true that the views are stunning, but the path is either stone or peat [which is basically true of the whole trail when you are off-road] and so err on the side of caution if you are not comfortable hiking so close to the cliff edge. There are a number of paths here, as well as some well-maintained stone pavements. Past Sliabh Liag, there are a series of steep slopes to get up and down, at the bottom of which are gullys down which flow streams. You might have to search for a good place to cross, but the slopes are steep – by the time I got to Malin Beg I was relieved to be on a track even though the track is rocky and swampy; this track runs ehind a farm and then there is a gate leading you onto the road to Malin More.

    I stayed in Malin More and the next day went over the hill to Glencolmcille; there is a nice village to explore with a pleasant Folk Village. The road out goes up onto the oposite hill and then down to a road that goes up to a radio mast. Past this mast is a rocky path that meanders down to Port where I camped. This might not be for everyone as Port is isolated, there being no inhabitants, and the camp site is just about big enough for one tent by the sea. But I camped there for the night.

    From Port to Glenties – mostly jay-walking. The intial road is among impressive Icelandic hills with small, white-washed cottages and farmsteads. Eventually it reaches, and stops at, a sheep-pen. There, the trail goes off-road, onto a boggy mountain [Cnocurna/Cnocurra] which is quite tough to climb; the intial approach is along a mountail stream that must be crossed at one point, then up a slope of liquid turf, sphagnum moss, stacks of peat and heather, and loose rocks. There are signposts spread out at a fair distance from one another, and the ‘path’ goes frompost to post up the a fence, then follows the fence uphill, crosses it to a stony path for a while, then crossed back to go downhill [quite tough] to another sheep-pen where the trail rejoins the road.

    It is all blacktop road from here to Ardara. Pass the quarry at Granny and there are good views along a dteep glen to the distant estuary. Follow the road down to the estuary road and a little way on stop to rest by the waterfall. This is a popular sport for photographers, and there are two memprial shrines here too. Take a rest as there will be nowhere to sit down until Ardara. The road is narrow, busy, with good views, but you will need eyes in the back of your head as the motorists do not signal their approach and can pass very close by. So, the road is interminable, but will eventually join the main road into Ardara – there is very little hard shoulder here, so be careful. Coming into Ardara, there is a petrol station with a table and benches outside, so now you can rest.

    The way out of Ardara is up a steep hill, and then out on a track to a fishing spot. Cross the metal bridge and there is a pleasant river walk to Glenties. BUT BE WARNED – as mentioned at the start of my post, the last part of this river walk is very dangerous and I would suggest avoiding it, and making your way up to the Glenties road when you can.

    The road into Glenties id quite quiet, as is the town. There are places to stay [I recommend Brennan’s], and shops.

    The track from Ardara to Glenties is part of the Bluestack Way and this is signposted; so you can floow the signage out of Glenties and into the hills. Mostly the track here is either in boggy sheep fields, or tracks made of broken rocks across turf-cuttings. As you can imagine, it is steep and tiring, but there are good views from the high points. The initial hike up Cloughmeen HIll is fine, but the descent is quite tough; but that is the toughest part of this track. It is mostly jay-walking, so be careful for [rare] traffic, and if you do not fancy camping, the trail directs you into Donegal Town where there are plenty of facilities and accommodation.

    ***

    All in all, this is four days spent montly on roads or rocky tracks. For one night you will have to camp in an isolated spot. The mountanous tracks are arduous. The last part of the river walk into Glenties should be avoided.
    BUT…
    Donegal is a very beautiful part of the world and if the weather is on your side you will be rewarded with many impressive views. It is a tough walk, so do not ‘give it a go’ without due consideration.

    Paul McGranaghan at 12:11 pm
  • So I completed the full IAT in August 2017 and want to give a quick run through of what I did and won’t do again. I started in Carrick, refused to get a taxi to the Bunglas Car Park (ever the purest!) and sweated my way through endless pointless miles. Don’t do what I did. Get a taxi to the farthest point possible.

    The walk itself was incredible, the hike over the cliffs is one everyone should do at least once in their life. There are two car parks, but the top one gets full very quickly, however there is a few food vans at the tops so you can just enjoy the view and have a cuppa.

    I took all my food for my first 8 days with me. This might sound excessive but up over the top of the Cliffs, and down the other side and across bogland into Malin Beg you may find the little shop there closed. It was open when I arrived but as a vegan on a budget I didn’t fancy the idea of living on chips and salad. So I packed a stove, food and tent etc and camped at Malin Beg. I think I had only managed 12-13 miles that day but it was all up and down and through bog so a little tiring. I slept well.

    I could not locate anywhere to top up my water bottles and was looked after by some women in camper vans who shared their supplies. Forever greatful!! There are portaloos there but no shower facilities as the area is set up mainly for self sufficient camper vans.

    So ultimate cut out that first section I stupidly walked, use your energy to get to Glencolumbkille and you can stay in the hostel – but my it was incredible being camped by the beach! The walk from Malin Beg to Glencolumbkille was short and sweet though and they have a lovely little folk village so I stuffed my face with scones and tea before continuing on that day to Port. The route is a little confusing as the map I found, contradicted the way markers. If in doubt, stick to the map. I followed my nose and was on a little track out of the village in no time.

    Port is a little tiny Port, with no facilities and no where to eat and nothing to do. I was incredibly tired I stopped here for the “night” despite it only being 2pm. There is a very small area to pitch a tent right near to the sea. It was very pretty and I set off the next morning to Ardara.

    This is a lenghty, mainly road section. I didn’t want to start it the day I arrived in Port and glad I didn’t. The rain started the minute I got up so it was a little bit miserable. You will eventually leave the road to cross a bog section where the route tells you to “tThe terrain is rolling, very wet and boggy, so be prepared”.

    The terrain is actually hideous. The bog rutts are over a metre high, and you can’t always jump from one to another, so you have to get up and get down over and over and over again. It was raining sideways at one point and so very very windy. I pulled out a bag of percy pigs and stopped mid-trudge to question my life choices…

    At the end of this craziness You are back on a road and you look down the valley and my was incredible views. I should have pitched here somewhere before descending the valley road, but I am not sure if that is allowed. I walked instead to Ardara. Beautiful views just a busy road and my goodness it just went on and on and on. I got a lift for the last few miles as the rain was still crazy and I was in need of a pick-me-up. Literallly.

    It was some sort of religious holiday in Ireland that day. Just my luck. No where to stay for the night. Got a taxi to Glenties and a lucky B&B for the night (expensive), then went back to Ardara and continued the next day. Guess what. It was raining again.

    Homeless Kat at 12:26 pm
  • County Donegal

    Distance 42 miles

    OS Map 10 & 11

    Terrain Some steep, difficult ground. Can be rocky, boggy and exposed in places. There are some on road walk sections. Parts of the route are unmarked in places. There are also footbridges, boardwalk and stiles to cross.

    Nearest Town Bunglas

    Route Shape Linear

    Grid Reference G571 755

    Route Type Quality Walk

    Route Description

    This section is that first section of the IAT in Ireland, following the Atlantic Coast from Bunglas, past Slieve League, Glencolmcille, Ardara and ending at Glenties. The route is waymarked from Glencolumbcille to Ardara with a yellow arrow and yellow walking man (Slí Columbcille) and with yellow on black walking man and arrow disk with ‘Bluestack Way’ written on it from Ardara to Glenties.

    Please be aware that this walking route passes through areas of open land such as working farmland. Livestock may be present and ground conditions may be uneven or wet underfoot. Please refer to the ‘Walk Safely and Responsibly’ information in the Useful Info tab above.

    Sub-section 1 – Bunglass Car Park to Malin More (17.5km)
    The IAT begins at the Bunglass car park where information signs, wooden tables and are provided. Excellent views along the jagged coastline and cliffs can be enjoyed from here. Climb the steep stone steps to the high point. From here you can see the trail hugging the cliff edge winding up to The Eagles Nest. The trail now moves slightly away from the coast where one trail becomes many routes in a heavily used area with several paths leading to the same place. Choose one and continue climbing where the trail traverses a knife-edge heading towards The Eagles Nest. This trail is very exposed, tricky to follow and has dangerous footing, so care is needed. The views are incredible looking straight down to the sea and along the coastline. The trail then goes up and down before reaching a highpoint and levelling out. An alternative trail skirts around the knife-edge of The Eagles Nest, which is far less exposed and easier to follow. The path can be boggy and the footing difficult in some places, but this is considered the safest way up the ridge. The trail intersects with the pilgrim path leading from Teelin, which is marked with yellow blazes/markings painted on the stones. Follow the yellow blazes down a few hundred meters to Ade McBric’s church ruins and holy wells, where views looking north east can be enjoyed. Make your way back up to the trail and continue along the level terrain towards Slieve League. The trail follows a short knife-edge finally reaching the 595-meter summit of Slieve League, from where there are 360-degree panoramic views.
    Walk off the summit and continue down the steep grassy trail. Please note that this section of trail from Slieve League summit to Malin Beg is not waymarked due to being an environmentally sensitive area. It is recommended that only experienced hikers with a map, compass and appropriate equipment should attempt this section of trail. There are excellent views looking back along the cliffs and rugged coastline back towards the car park. Cross a fence and stay on the ocean side of the fence for a couple of hundred meters, where you then cross back through the fence and continue steeply downhill towards the creek. Stay close to the coast when meandering down the steep terrain. You then cross the creek and climb a hill, from where there are incredible views looking back up towards the summit. Cross another creek and climb the side of Leahan near the coastline, from where the best views of the day can be enjoyed. Continue along the side of Leahan and begin descending towards the town of Malin Beg. Views of the town and beautiful coastal areas come into view here. You then reach a dirt road and follow it into town, where you walk behind a few houses and farms before reaching a gate. Go through the gate and follow the paved road through part of town. At the T-junction take a right and continue 7km (or so) to the town of Malinmore. There are great views during the road walk of Leahan and Malin Bay.

    Sub-section 2 – Malin More to Port (14.5km)
    The trail continues past the Aras Ghleann Cholm Cille Hostel along the road for a couple hundred meters. It then takes a left and follows the bumpy gravel road up the mountain. Climbing towards the high point there are great views of the sea, Leahan and Slieve League and the town of Gleann Cholm Cille come into view. The gravel road turns into pavement and continues into town. Gleann Cholm Cille is a small town with shops, restaurants, post office and hostel.
    The trail crosses the main road in the town and continues following the Sli Cholmcille trail signs. Cross the river and take a left at road junction with a loop walk marker. Continue towards the sea and pass beside the strand and cross over a bridge. Views looking up towards beside Beefan and Garveross Mountain can be enjoyed here. Follow the looped walk posts to the right and pass behind a house and continue to climb. Walk past two more houses to reach a dirt track with a gate, go through the gate and continue to climb. Walk up several switch backs towards Glen Head. There are excellent views looking back at town. After reaching the highpoint a trail junction marked ‘Signal Tower’ takes you to a stone signal tower overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, with amazing views.
    Retrace your steps back down to the trail junction. Take a left here and climb the grassy track heading away from the coast. The trail is very wet and boggy in places but easy to follow and eventually the trail turns into an old road. Continue down to a junction where you can take a right and head back down into town. The route then takes a left and continues up the old road towards some radio antennas. You then reach a high point where the views open up towards Port and down the valley to the East. The trail hugs the coastline here and the closer you get to Port the more spectacular the scenery becomes. There are countless views of the deep blue sea and the crashing waves against the rocks and coastline to be enjoyed. The route crosses a stone bridge and continues towards Port, where you pass a memorial headstone in memory of a ship wreck from 1870. Cross another stone bridge and you are at Port.

    Sub-section 3 – Port to Ardara (23km)
    The trail continues up the gentle sloping road and follows the river, before passing alongside Killyfanned Lough. Even though this is a road walk there are great views of rivers, lakes and the countryside. Pass Lougheraherk in the distance and bear left at the first road intersection. Soon after this, take a left and follow the road heading in between Slievetooey and Crockurra. The road ends and the trail continues along a track here. Pass through a gate and continue along the fence and Glen River where the trail hugs the small river. The terrain is rolling, very wet and boggy, so be prepared. Follow trail posts scattered across the countryside heading towards the north side of Crockurra.
    You will reach a fence near the saddle of Crockurra, where you take a right following close to the fence. Continue to follow the fence when it heads left, the terrain levels off here and the views of the Maghera Strand, Loughs and countryside open up. The route crosses the fence and continues down towards a road far below. Follow the pavement along the stunning valley. Maghera Strand opens and great views down the valley with the Owenwee River flowing towards the Bay, can be enjoyed. This road section follows along the Maghera Strand before finally reaching a stunning tiered waterfall, Assarnacally Waterfall. Please note that the road can be busy at times and care should be taken. The road intersects with the N56, take a left and head into the town of Ardara.

    Sub-section 4 – Ardara to Glenties (12km)
    This is the beginning of the Bluestack Way. The IAT route follows the same path all the way towards N15 outside Donegal town. In Ardara head north along the main street, crossing the Owenlocker River and climbing the hill. Pass the N56 junction to Glenties and continue on towards Nairn and Portnoo, following a busy road. Follow signs for the Bluestack Way to Donegal Town and take a right to follow a quiet road. Cross through the gate and continue along this country road. Great views towards Bluestack Mountains and back towards the coast can be enjoyed here. You then reach the Owenea River and cross over the bridge then climb a wooden stile to head cross country following the river. Continue to walk over the many short wooden planks, which are in good condition. Climb another stile and continue along the river, passing a short, boggy section. Old rail road tracks appear on and beside the footpath, continue to walk along the tracks for a couple hundred meters. You should cross a fork in the river and reach a forest track. Continue between the river and forest, passing by two metal footbridges and a stone bridge. Climb a double stile and take a right over a bridge. After 50 meters, take a left, then climb another stile and continue along the river. Cross a total of five stiles and finally cross a metal bridge over the river. Continue straight from the bridge heading towards the building with red roof. Take a left here and go through the gate. You will then reach a road junction with trail signs and markers. Take a right turn (sign says to Donegal Town) and follow the road, before reaching a ‘y’ junction and veering right. Glenties comes into view and the road enters the town. Arrive on the main street and take a right. Continue to walk down the main street passing several restaurants, shops and pubs.

    Point of Interest

    Slieve League, Gleann Cholm Cille (Gaeltacht region of Donegal), Assarnacally Waterfall.

    Getting to the start

    From the town of Killybegs, follow the R263 to the west, following signs for Kilcar and Glencolumbkille. After 15km and upon arriving in the village of Carrick, take the Teelin Road to the left, following signs for Bunglas and Slieve League. Continue to follow signs for Bunglas, arriving at Bunglas car park after 5km.

    Public transport

    Bus Eireann Service 490 operates between Killybegs and Carrick, after which there would be a 5km walk to the start of the route at Bunglas car park.

    Facilities

    In Malinmore there is a wonderful hostel called Aras Ghleann Cholm Cille Hostel. A great place, incredibly friendly with nice rooms and excellent breakfast. The owner will provide shuttles to and from places along the trail.
    Ardara is a small town with several good eating spots and pubs. The Nesbitt Arms Hotel is affordable and there is a relaxing pub with good food in the hotel.
    A great place to stay in Glenties is Campbells Hostel, located just off Main Street. There are plenty of bunk spaces, several private rooms and a large common area and kitchen with reasonable rates available.

    Accessibility Grade

    Quality Walks