Council work on Slieve League cliff path criticised

Mountaineering Ireland calls for project to be halted

Flagstones as part of Slieve League cliff path restoration work. Photograph: Mountaineering Ireland

Flagstones as part of Slieve League cliff path restoration work. Photograph: Mountaineering Ireland


Mountaineering Ireland has called on Donegal County Council to halt remedial work at Slieve League, regarded as one of Europe’s finest marine cliff ridges.

The all-island representative body for climbers and walkers says it has serious concerns about the quality of the path work put in place there.

Slieve League, or Sliabh Liag (“mountain of the flagstones”), once described by late mountaineer and writer Joss Lynam as the piece de resistance of the Donegal coastline, is a 600-metre (1,972-foot) quartzite ridge on the northwest coast.

The council has put in place a remedial works project on the cliff-top path between Bunglas and Keeringear as part of a wider capital investment programme funded largely by Fáilte Ireland.

Mountaineering Ireland says it first raised its concerns during a visit to the site on August 27th, when it noted that the stone-pitched path technique employed did not work on the deep peat.

Deep impact

It said that the path was being built in trench, causing “severe landscape impact”, and that many stones did not offer “reasonable footing” and wouldn’t be used by walkers.

Drainage had not been addressed, and the path was likely to become a “watercourse”, it warned.

Some spoil had been dumped on a rare montane juniper shrub, it noted.

Mountaineering Ireland said that many aspects of the project were not in accordance with the Helping the Hills guiding principles for management of upland path erosion,which it initiated last year.

The representative body recommended that work be halted, pending a review.

The council commissioned a report from a Donegal-based trails consultant, who “confirmed Mountaineering Ireland’s concerns”, it says.

The group undertook a second visit on September 16th with Dr Bob Aitken, an international expert on upland path management.

The representative body says it noted “some improvement, but overall the work did not meet an acceptable standard”.

It repeated its call for the council to halt the work.

“Despite these requests, work is continuing,” Mountaineering Ireland said.

“The quality of any remedial work at Slieve League should match the quality of this magnificent landscape,” the group said.

The council said it was aware of Mountaineering Ireland’s concerns and said it will ensure the work is completed to the highest standards.