Sliabh Liag, County Donegal

Peader's Blog - by Peader Gillespie

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Sliabh Liag Hillwalkers (Blog) by Peadar Gillespie.

The November 2014 club walk took place on the last Sunday of the month 30 November, when we joined forces with our good friends from the Bluestack Ramblers for an enjoyable outing to ascend Carnaween Mountain, near Letterbarrow. We have been blessed with wonderful weather all through 2014 and Sunday’s outing was accomplished in very mild and calm conditions of around 10c.

We assembled at Letterbarrow soccer pitch, and following a briefing by the capable leaders of the Ramblers Anne & Michael Leonard, we began our walk of around 8km, first on the roadway, for approx. 1km before pausing for a group photo at the turn-off to fellow the Bluestack Way. We had a fine group of 25 enthusiastic walkers.

As we ascended the hills above Clochmeen the valley of Frosses came into view as we followed the marked way and later passed Carn Lough. We took the Pilgrim’s Path route from Glenties approach by west and to our left saw several mountains lakes in the distance. We had fog present today at higher altitudes which obscured the impressive panoramic views here that can be seen in clear weather, and our destination lay hidden until we were very close to the summit of Carnaween. Despite the fog, the top of the mountain was superb-dead clam and still, so we rested here at the summit (height 521m, 1715ft elevation) and signed the ‘visitors book’, which is found in a compartment located at the base of a small cross on the mountaintop. The traditional day for the pilgrimage has been the first Sunday in June, in olden times single men and women brought a stone with them to the top, and those whose stones matched in size were paired off, so this was an unusual form of matchmaking.

After refreshments and photos, we took a more direct route in descending the mountain, being careful, as it is quite steep and, at this time of year, fairly slippery. Having successfully descended the slope, our host and guides, Anne and Micheal brought us along the path by the Eany Beg River to visit the historic site of Disert Graveyard, and related many stories and points of interest.

The graveyard was still used ‘till the 1950’s for burial of unbaptised infants. Near the entrance is a stone alter upon which are placed a number of stones each serving a purpose. One has a hole through it, with the tradition that a person with defective eyesight who looks through it will have their sight restored. Another stone is intended to be carried in hand for a set distance and ritual and is a test for male endurance and virility. In a separate enclosure some meters from the graveyard lies a cell or cairn with a reputed ‘fairy tree’ and also a holy well here.

Close by is a triangular standing stone structure, with curative properties for the body for pilgrims who recite prayers while passing through the narrow gap three times before laying on the stone bed which is located at the front of the feature.

Disert Graveyard is perhaps more widely known for its clay down through the years. By tradition a little of it was obtained from a local person for the purpose of banishing rats around one’s property, when a quantity was sprinkled at one’s home and outbuildings. Disert Graveyard it itself has a delightful and tranquil location.