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Visiting Cuilcagh, and western Co. Cavan: hillwalking country in Ireland

Updated on July 19, 2016
Flag of the Republic of Ireland
Flag of the Republic of Ireland | Source
View from the top of Cuilcagh mountain.
View from the top of Cuilcagh mountain. | Source
Shannon Pot, in western County Cavan
Shannon Pot, in western County Cavan | Source
Map location of County Cavan
Map location of County Cavan | Source

Getting away from it all in a breezy corner of Ireland

I used Swanlinbar (Irish: An Muileann Iarainn) as a base for walking to Cuilcagh mountain, situated in County Cavan (Irish: Contae an Chabháin) in north-west Ireland.

A little geography

It may be noted that 'Cavan' can refer to both the county and town of that name: to differentiate the two, the latter is sometimes referred to as Cavan Town (Irish: An Cabhán).

People will tell you that Swanlinbar — the village — and Cuilcagh — the mountain — are both on the border with Northern Ireland. But then you also learn that they are really in the heart of Ireland's historic province of Ulster.

So, how to reconcile the two statements?

A little history

It is because in 1922 when Ireland was partitioned the nine counties of the province of Ulster were divided into the six which became Northern Ireland and the three, which were incorporated into what was first the Irish Free State (Irish: Saorstát na hÉireann) and later the Republic of Ireland (Irish: Poblacht na hÉireann). County Cavan, together with County Monaghan (Irish: Contae Mhuineacháin) and County Donegal, (Irish: Contae Dhún na nGall) were the three Ulster (Irish: Ulaidh) counties which were under the rule of the Irish Government after 1922.

From Cuilcagh mountain

The views from Cuilcagh are excellent, as one would expect from an Irish mountain 665 metres high. Please note that the wind can be quite strong as one walks up the mountain: I found to my cost that I was not quite as well wrapped as I should have been, warned!

On the southern slopes of Cuilcagh is Shannon Pot (Irish: Lag na Sionna), the traditional source of the Shannon River (Irish: Abha na Sionainne), not only the longest river in Ireland but also in the British Isles.

Also formed from streams on the slopes of Cuilcagh is the Cladagh River (Irish: An Chlaideach) which flows through Swanlinbar.

Also worth seeing:

Cavan Town, with its spired churches, makes for a photogenic skyline. The lakes around Belturbet (Irish: Bel Atha Charbaid) are very picturesque.

Ireland's Bed and Breakfast industry is excellent, and County Cavan is no exception.

How to get there: Aer Lingus flies from New York and Boston to Dublin Airport, from where car rental is available. To Cavan Town (distance: 103 km) and Swanlinbar from Dublin, by car, take the N3 to Cavan Town, and Belturbet, from where the N87 leads to Swanlinbar. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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