Like it or loathe it (I dare say there are few who would go as far as love) the Cuilcagh boardwalk is there. So on a snowy Saturday we set out for Fermanagh to see what all the fuss was about! There is ample parking at the “Cuilcagh Mountain Park”, it is less than a hundred yards from the entrance to the Marble Arch caves. Indeed, the handiest way to get there is following the signs for the caves and if you are visiting during high summer when the water table is low I would recommend a visit to the caves and the boat ride! Don’t worry, there won’t be a Willy Wonka in sight!
This walk is way marked, right the way to the summit, following the Cuilcagh Way/Ulster Way. The first 4km is on gently winding, gently sloping stone track, with only a rise of about 200 metres for the distance.
This is where you meet the dreaded boardwalk at H 115 301. The boardwalk goes for about 1.75km and rises for 250 metres. As the boardwalk progresses the handrails are added to it, along with the steeper steps.
From the end of the boardwalk it is open mountainside for the last stretch to the summit.
There was a beautiful coating of snow when we walked this plateau, so as with many of my walks lately, the outward route to the summit is slightly askew. However, homeward route from the summit is spot on, although it really makes very little difference I would think in normal conditions. Even this section of the walk is marked by yellow leafs stencilled on to a few well chosen rocks. Even in the snow we spotted a few of these peering out along the way. But you can’t go wrong if you head for the border between north and south and follow it to the large summit cairn.
Despite the conditions and a 25 minute lunch stop at the summit our walk pace was a reasonable one.
I will admit that the boardwalk is a strange looking construction and I know that I am going to draw the fire of the purists with this comment. But I’m a big boy and take the abuse! I enjoyed walking the boardwalk!! There I said it! It makes up about 3.5km of a 13.5km walk. It allows for a very quick descent and is not slippy like a lot of boardwalks I have been on. For the argument that it will bring inexperienced walkers to regions that they should not go, I actually don’t think that this is a major concern in this instance. In benign conditions this plateau is relatively easy to navigate, even for the novice and what we observed in the tougher conditions was that the less prepared walkers were happy enough to only go to the top of the boardwalk and then turn around and head back. I am not saying that I love this boardwalk, or anything like it, but in snowy conditions it made for an enjoyable walk!