Couple's dream shared
When Fiona and Mark Magennis were looking to move from the bustling city life of Dublin, they immediately fell in love with an old cottage in Glencar.
Twelve years on and their spectacular land, situated close to Ireland's highest waterfall, has been transformed into a walking route, developed by Sligo County Council. The 1.2k route takes you along lush woodland right up toward the fascinating cliff-face, home to ravens, eagles and more wildlife, where for roughly 200 days a year Sruth in Aghaidh an Aird or The Devil's Chimney waterfall flows.
The walkway brings you right into the heart of the landscape, with seats to admire the surrounding landscape of Glencar Lake and it's little wonder why the couple chose to make it their home.
Mark told The Sligo Champion: "We were thinking it was crazy to keep these views to ourselves and we wanted a way for the public to get access to see the waterfall.
"We phoned Sligo County Council to see if they could work with us, we didn't mind using our land."
Ray O'Grady, a Planner with the Council, said the call came at a perfect time as the Local Authority were looking at openings for walkways in the county.
He added: "We've been developing new routes such as Knocknarea, Union Wood and the Benbulben Forrest Walk through the Border Uplands Project, funded by Interreg and when Fiona and Mark rang, it was perfect timing.
"We had different ideas on where the path should go, there's constricted areas in parts with steep parts so it took some time to decide on the exact route." It's clear that time went into the walkways construction, which includes old railway sleepers from Poland and much of the picturesque steps were laid by hand.
Walkers can also stop to pet Mark and Fiona's pet donkeys grazing nearby. Fiona said: "We also have ducks, hens and cats, we're really fond of animals. There are farmers surrounding us who have been here for generations and when we were building the route we were respective of that. We knew which areas were the most picturesque for the path and we are so happy with it, we got what we wanted. It's magnificent and we want people to enjoy the views." And they certainly have. Last August 2,400 visitors sampled the scenery according to Ray. "Roughly 30,000 people did the walk last year and we expect it to be busy again this summer. The trails have really taken off, Knocknarea had 100,000 visitors last year."
Fiona added: "We're delighted as well that it's being used by a lot of local people, that's been nice to see as we're glad they can enjoy it. It's even been more successful than we thought and it's fully developed now," she explained. The route was also the location two weekends ago for the 5am Dawn Chorus with 30 people mainly from Birdwatch Sligo coming to listen to the array of feathered friends in full voice.
Fiona said: "It's a perfect nature walk and Mark is thinking of doing a mushroom hunt as he's quite knowledgeable on the subject and we're also looking at having bards in the wood." The trees are in glorious green hues at the moment. Mark said: "There's been a lot of new growth because of the extra light. The main trees include Ash, Oak, Sycamore and Beech. Along the cliffs there are Yew trees on the top and these are considered some of the oldest trees in the country. Some one told us they are one thousand years old."