Overview

The Bluestack Way is a 65km long distance walking route which brings you through picturesque areas of Donegal, in the north west of Ireland. The trail offers stunning views as it traverses the Bluestack Mountains, making for an unforgettable hiking trip in Ireland. The Bluestack Way is a national waymarked trail and is a linear walk starting out in Donegal Town and finishing in the town of Ardara. The hike is typically completed in three days.

The route passes by the beautiful Lough Eske, before wending its way across the foothills of the Bluestack mountains. The trail will then bring you through a place called Disert, where you can see a historic ancient mountain graveyard before some climbing through remote high moorland terrain between Binbane and Cloghmeen Hill. There are some beautiful views to be had across Donegal from here before you descend along the Owenroe river.

You will then arrive at the welcoming town of Glenties, where you will pass through the town on an enjoyable stretch along the Owenea river walk as you head towards the town of Ardara and the finish point of the Bluestack Way.

History

The Bluestack way was setup by a local environmental group, the Bluestack Environmental Group, and was opened in 2000. The trail was partly funded by the EU Peace and Reconciliation Fund and construction of the route was carried out by a Community Employment Scheme. After a review of the National Waymarked Trails in Ireland in 2010, the Bluestack Way was considered suitable to be upgraded to a National Long Distance Trail.

The trail has since been proposed to be included in the Irish leg of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT), in order to form an extension of the Appalachian Trail across all countries where the Appalachian Mountains of Pangaea were once apart. Furthermore the Bluestack Way follows impressive geological features such as the Eglish Valley. It was formed by a glacier that carved out the U-shape of the valley following a major fracture, or fault, in the earth’s crust called the Eglish Fault, hence it’s name the Eglish Valley.

The route takes hikers across landscapes of mountain, moorlands, mature woodland, rivers, lakes and sea, making the Bluestack Way a walker’s paradise.

Trail Description

Day 1 – Arrival TO DONEGAL TOWN

From your point of Arrival to Ireland, you can take public transport or rent a car in order to make the journey to Donegal Town, the start point of the Bluestack Way. Donegal is a picturesque town which is steeped in history. The town itself is famous for being the former centre of government of the great Gaelic royal family, the O’Donnell’s, who ruled Tír Chonaill in west Ulster for centuries and who played a pivotal role in Irish history. Historic attractions in the town include; Donegal Castle, on the banks of the River Eske, and the remains of Donegal Abbey, a Franciscan abbey which dates back to the 15th century.

Day 2 – DONEGAL TOWN – Letterfad

The Diamond, in the centre of Donegal Town, marks the starting point of one of the most spectacular walks in Donegal. From Donegal Town, you will make your way towards Lough Eske along the eponymous river and in sight of the Bluestack mountains. Lough Eske is a spectacular location and it has been described by, writer John M. Feehan, as ‘a place for lovers or honeymoon couples whose vistas are still undimmed by the realities of living. Almost at every turn one meets scenery of unearthly beauty and little secret places where one can rest, relax and experience an awakening of the soul to boundless joy’. Passing Lough Eske Castle by the banks of Lough Eske and at the base of the magnificent Bluestack mountains, you will start to enter the valley of Eglish, cut out by means of a glacier before passing Owenboy and getting us as far as Letterfad bog where you will end your walk for the day.

Day 3 – Letterfad – GLENTIES

Today’s walk is a truly rewarding one on the Bluestack Way. You will have the chance to experience the sacred serenity of Disert and explore the ancient graveyard, before testing out those legs in the climb up Cloghmeen Hill (412m). However, the challenge of the climb will soon pay off as you admire in awe, one of the best views in Ireland at the top. Upon descent, the walk will bring you through the calmness of Doobin and sights of Glenties in the distance, where you will eventually arrive at and spend the night.

Day 3 – Letterfad – GLENTIES (Alternative option)

If the weather is poor or you are not feeling up to a hike over the 412m Cloghmeen Hill, then best to take this alternative route instead.

From the old ruined cottage, this route follows the track away from the main Bluestack Way mountain route and heads south-west down the Eanymore valley parallel to the Eany Beg river. On a clear day, the track gives walkers fine views across Donegal Bay. But apart from the spectacular view towards the bay, the route passes close by to a recorded episode of a pooka – a demonic sprite that has thankfully not been seen or heard from in nearly 200 years. You will also pass the controversial ‘Bog Hotel’, which was an illegally run pub from a farmers shed, before finally reaching Glenties town, where you will rest for the night.

Day 4 – GLENTIES – aRDARA

The final stretch of the Bluestack Way takes you in the direction of Ardara town. The trail is relatively flat and largely follows the path of the picturesque Owenea river. Following the winding river and crossing stepping stones, provides for a peaceful and enjoyable walk. You will also notice the abundance of hawthorns along the trail which are often associated with the fairy folk. Many laugh at the notion of fairies, but few would ever cut down a fairy tree. At the end of the walk you will arrive in the quaint town of Ardara where you will spend the night. This town marks the end of the Bluestack Way.

Day 5 – dEPARTURE FROM ARDARA

After a good nights rest at your accommodation, you will once again use public transport to depart Ardara, leaving the Bluestack Way behind you.

Day 1 – Arrival TO DONEGAL TOWN

From your point of Arrival to Ireland, you can take public transport or rent a car in order to make the journey to Donegal Town, the start point of the Bluestack Way. Donegal is a picturesque town which is steeped in history. The town itself is famous for being the former centre of government of the great Gaelic royal family, the O’Donnell’s, who ruled Tír Chonaill in west Ulster for centuries and who played a pivotal role in Irish history. Historic attractions in the town include; Donegal Castle, on the banks of the River Eske, and the remains of Donegal Abbey, a Franciscan abbey which dates back to the 15th century.

Day 2 – DONEGAL TOWN – cLADY bRIDGE, lOUGH ESKE

The Diamond, in the centre of Donegal Town, marks the starting point of one of the most spectacular walks in Donegal. From Donegal Town, you will make your way towards Lough Eske along the eponymous river and in sight of the Bluestack mountains. Lough Eske is a spectacular location and it has been described by, writer John M. Feehan, as ‘a place for lovers or honeymoon couples whose vistas are still undimmed by the realities of living. Almost at every turn one meets scenery of unearthly beauty and little secret places where one can rest, relax and experience an awakening of the soul to boundless joy’. You will pass Lough Eske Castle by the banks of Lough Eske and end your walk at Clady Bridge, the base of the magnificent Bluestack mountains.

Day 3 – cLADY bRIDGE, lOUGH ESKE – letterfad

You will start your walk from Clady Bridge, on the outskirts of Lough Eske and at the foot of the Bluestack moutains. You will start to enter the valley of Eglish, which was cut out by means of a glacier, before passing Owenboy. The trail brings you along Eglish Valley at the bottom of the Bluestack mountains before you will eventually arrive at Letterfad bog where you will end your walk for the day.

Day 4 – letterfad – Glenties

Today’s walk is a truly rewarding one on the Bluestack Way. You will have the chance to experience the sacred serenity of Disert and explore the ancient graveyard, before testing out those legs in the climb up Cloghmeen Hill (412m). However, the challenge of the climb will soon pay off as you admire in awe, one of the best views in Ireland at the top. Upon descent, the walk will bring you through the calmness of Doobin and sights of Glenties in the distance, where you will eventually arrive at and spend the night.

Day 4 – letterfad – Glenties (Alternative option)

If the weather is poor or you are not feeling up to a hike over the 412m Cloghmeen Hill, then best to take this alternative route instead.

From the old ruined cottage, this route follows the track away from the main Bluestack Way mountain route and heads south-west down the Eanymore valley parallel to the Eany Beg river. On a clear day, the track gives walkers fine views across Donegal Bay. But apart from the spectacular view towards the bay, the route passes close by to a recorded episode of a pooka – a demonic sprite that has thankfully not been seen or heard from in nearly 200 years. You will also pass the controversial ‘Bog Hotel’, which was an illegally run pub from a farmers shed, before finally reaching Glenties town, where you will rest for the night.

Day 5 – GLENTIES – aRDARA

The final stretch of the Bluestack Way takes you in the direction of Ardara town. The trail is relatively flat and largely follows the path of the picturesque Owenea river. Following the winding river and crossing stepping stones, provides for a peaceful and enjoyable walk. You will also notice the abundance of hawthorns along the trail which are often associated with the fairy folk. Many laugh at the notion of fairies, but few would ever cut down a fairy tree. At the end of the walk you will arrive in the quaint town of Ardara where you will spend the night. This town marks the end of the Bluestack Way.

Day 6 – dEPARTURE FROM ARDARA

After a good nights rest at your accommodation, you will once again use public transport to depart Ardara, leaving the Bluestack Way behind you.

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HIKING Trail Details

Hiking Trail: Bluestack Way
Grade: Gentle/Moderate
Format: Linear
Length (Kms): 65.00
Climb (m): 1230
Estimated time: 5-6 days
Start Point:

End Point:

Donegal Town

Ardara

Dogs Allowed: No
 Terrain: 31% Asphalt

69% Off Road

HIKING MAPS

gETTING THERE

Route Options:

Derry – Donegal Town

Bus Eireann

Route Options:

Ireland West Aiport Knock – Donegal Town

Bus Eireann

Bus Feda

Route Options:

Dublin Airport – Donegal Town

Bus Eireann

McGeehan Coaches

Route Options:

Belfast Airport – Derry*

Translink

(*Then see Derry to Donegal Town)

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