Slieve Lough Salt was the very first mountain I climbed as an aspiring hill-walker. Me and a mate bought a book on walking in the Donegal mountains and chose Lough Salt as our first venture and, you guessed it, we were hooked from then on, so it has a special place in my heart. Lough Salt is a name that derives from the Irish/English mix of “Lough’s Alt”, meaning the high Loughs. It stands as the highest point in a “relatively” flat surrounding area and commands great views most day and heavenly views some days. From Lough Salt you can see the full glory of Donegal, from Malin Head to the Derryveagh Mountains to the Bluestacks.
Lough Salt is mostly grassy and boggy with some well trodden paths to the top on one side and steep banks lush with 4ft heather on the other. It is a circular walk from a conveniently placed car park. From there, the top can be reached in 45 mins without stopping. I prefer a more relaxed pace and do the whole walk in about three hours. The only dangers are the cliffs above the lake, especially in a sudden mist, and a few pot holes.
Getting there is very easy. OSI Sheet 2 is the map to use. From Letterkenny take the road to Kilmacrennan and you will be able to see the characteristic saddle-top twin peaks very prominent on the horizon. Go through Kilmacrennan and about half a mile on the other side there is a turn to the right, signposted as the Lough Salt Drive. Follow this for about 3 miles until you pass a pump house at the head of the Lough itself and then come to a car park and viewing point beyond (D (C12200 26200)
From the car park, walking, retrace the road back past the pump house and you will see a style in the fence to your left. Climb this and look out for the style in the fence above. Follow the sheep path to go over the right hand side of the rocky knoll before you. The path will take you down past an old grotto used by sheep for shelter. If you look up to the top of the mountain from here you will see a patch of scree. Ascend the rise just to the left of the scree. Don’t go too far to the right at this point as you will reach the cliff. After the scree you will soon reach the first peak. Then follow the path to the second peak where the trig pillar is and don’t forget to enjoy the views.
From the trig pillar you can choose your decent. You can choose to stay along the ridge that will take you around the top of Lough Reenan, or you can choose to descend further down the ridge. The second option is a bit more adventurous and this is where grabbing onto the 4ft heather is really useful, but no real danger with either route.
Once you are down to Lough Reenan, follow the lane out to the road. Turn left and you’ll be back to the car park in no time. Linkback: mountainviews.ie/summit/553/comment/3064/