Marble Arch and the Marlbank Karst

Maps and photos note: click or tap to see any maps or photographs below as a high resolution version.

Route Map (Overview)
Please reuse this map but first see https://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright
TYPELinear walk – riverside paths, minor road and mountain lanes and paths
DISTANCE7.9 miles / 12.7 km (both ways)
SURFACESMostly well made compacted surfaces. One short section potentially wet open mountain ground
HEIGHT GAIN / LOSS900 feet climb
HAZARDS
  • 1.5 mile walk on a minor public road.

  • Upper section of the walk is in exposed mountainous terrain

  • No Dogs allowed on Gortmaconnell farmland.

Karst is a scientific term for a kind of landscape created by limestone and water where the normal behaviours of rivers, rocks and landforms don’t apply and indeed are turned almost inside-out! Rivers abruptly vanish underground to later re-appear at some apparently arbitrary point. Dry hollows, sink holes, rocky valleys and heights form a strange, sometimes dangerous alien landscape and everywhere is underlain with an ultra complex 3-D maze of wet and dry passages and caverns. There is nothing else quite like it and in the Marble Arch / Marlbank area of the Fermanagh Geopark we have a superb example.

This Karst walk follows a river upstream from deeply wooded Cladagh Glen, past the lower entrances to the Marble Arch cave system, up onto the Marlbank plateau and then along an initially dry mountain valley, past a sinkhole to join the Owenbrean river as it flows from its head waters in the blanket bogs of Cuilcagh Mountain.

Continue reading

Glenariff Mountain and Glens

Maps and photos note: click or tap to see any maps or photographs below as a high resolution version.

Please reuse this map but first see https://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright

Glenariff Waterfalls walks first opened to the public in 1889 as a railway ‘special attraction’ managed by the Northern Counties Railway and accessed by train from Ballymena to Parkmore and then a ride in a jaunting car. The Ess-na-Larach Tea House opened in 1891 and its successor, Laragh Lodge restaurant, still operates on the same site today.

Tourism from Ireland and Great Britain was fundamental to the business of the Northern Counties Railway, and Glenariff Glen, along with the Giant’s Causeway and the Gobbins path, were its core visitor attractions. In the inter-war period over 30,000 visitors a year made the journey here via the Ballymena – Parkmore railway, terminating at the highest train station in Ireland.

I have called this route ‘Glenariff Mountain and Glens’ as much of it runs above the forest tree line at over 800 feet and affords some of the best high walking views to be had in the Glens of Antrim. It also visits both branches of the upper Glenariff, follows the route of the first narrow gauge railway in Ireland (the mineral railway) and ends by climbing past the spectacular waterfalls, which first brought the Victorian visitors here 130 years ago.

Continue reading