A walk for the weekend: A glorious trail on easy terrain and quiet by-roads

This is a most pleasant walk, between high hedges and verges richly adorned with orchids and wildflowers

Historic landscape: Leean Mountain, Co Leitrim

Historic landscape: Leean Mountain, Co Leitrim

 

Doon Lough is a habitat for a wide range of waders and ducks, including pochard and tufted duck, and for anglers it is rich in good-sized brown trout.

Looking north from the lake carpark, across the waters, the bare, rounded and green bulk of Leean Mountain can be seen rising in the gap between two nearby hills. Set out, walking west a couple of hundred metres before turning left on to a quiet country road. Some locals call this the Military Road, created for some long-gone campaign, and others suggest it was once the old road from Sligo to Manor Hamilton.

It is a landscape that has been occupied by farmers since the first ones settled here some 5,000 summers ago

Whatever its history, it is a most pleasant road to walk, between high hedges and verges richly adorned with orchids and wildflowers. Small herds of the healthiest cattle I have seen in a long time occupy the fields on either side of the road, and scatterings of sheep speckle the rising ground to the left. It is a landscape that has been occupied by farmers since the first ones settled here some 5,000 summers ago.

As the rugged wooded cliffs of two hills called the Doons appear ahead, the road rises into the western edge of Co Leitrim’s wonderful and little-known uplands. After a while roadside houses are left behind as we ascend out into open ground, and our goal, 417m Leean, comes into view again.

We keep on straight when the tarmac road turns sharply right, and less than a hundred metres farther on, we turn left and uphill, on to a very comfortable grassy track. Soon two gates have to be passed through, the first a fine old wrought-iron example, more than a 100 years old. Make sure you leave the gates as you found them.

The views from the top, all around, are spectacular and most rewarding

As the route ascends and crosses over the Leean stream, watch out for a lone bush on the skyline ahead, rising from a scatter of rocks that is thought to be a disturbed prehistoric burial site. Farther on the track divides and we take the right fork. Leean now rises dauntingly before you, but the tightly-grazed grassy terrain is good, and the best way to tackle the summit is to turn off the track and zig-zag your way to the top.

On the way up, watch out for a hollow with a disturbed Neolithic tomb in it. It is only one of many prehistoric sites in the lands surrounding Leean hill, which include an astonishing 45 hut sites, three standing stones and six cairns.

The summit is topped by an OS trig point mounted on a small and ancient summit cairn: you just cannot get away from history in this area. The views from the top, all around, are spectacular and most rewarding. Long Lough Gill, favourite of WB Yates, leads the eye westward to Knocknarea and silver Sligo Bay. The Truskmore massif fills the northern horizon, while to the south Lough Arrow glints between hills. The rest of our route is clear from here, east and south along the grassy hillside.

Walk in an easterly direction off Leean, heading for the next highest, un-named summit at 352m. It is impossible to miss a number of substantial, half buried stone walls stretching mainly in an east-west direction across the hills; they are another element of the ancient landscape, and are thought to be more than 3,000 years old. Pass by a more recent, stone-walled sheep fold to reach the summit. Now turn south, dropping slightly before ascending to the next low summit and continue southwards, descending over grass and rock to reach a stone wall and track.

This is a glorious walk on easy, grassy terrain and quiet by-roads

This is the old road we left earlier to climb Leean; follow it westwards, passing through a gate along the way, to reconnect with our out-going route, and return to Doon Lough.

This is a glorious walk on easy, grassy terrain and quiet by-roads, a taster for further exploration of the historic landscape of Leitrim’s little-known uplands. Please respect gates and avoid unsettling livestock, and do not bring dogs.

Leean, Co Leitrim

Distance: 10.5km
Ascent: 360m
Terrain: grassy mountainside, boreens and quiet roads.
Map: OS Discovery 25 or OS Discovery 16
How to get there: Take the R286 east out of Sligo: after about 8k the road follows the edge of Lough Gill and passes scenic Parke’s Castle. A few hundred metres on, turn left, and at a tee junction turn right to reach the carpark at Doon Lough.

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