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The Bluestack Way Part 1

From Donegal Town, meander along the river to the famous Lough Eske.

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 4.1 miles
Duration: Half day

Overview :  Opposite the Bank of Ireland on the Diamond, you'll see a sign that marks the starting point of arguably the finest walk in the north ... more »

Tips:  PLEASE NOTE: This App is primarily intended as a means of enjoying the lore and history of the area. While it follows the route of the... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Start of the Bluestack Way

The Diamond
Before moving off from the Bluestack Way sign, savour the rich heritage that The Diamond offers. Salute a time that may be long gone, but where the beauty and the serenity of the area remain intact; this is a town from which to base yourself for hillwalking, golf, scenic drives, water sports and fine dining. Like the thousands of... More

2. Chieftains, merchants and victuallers

Donegal castle
It would be remiss of us to tell you to leave the Diamond without visiting Donegal Castle, which you’ll see in the distance beyond the Bluestack Way sign. For most of the last two hundred years, the majority of Donegal Castle lay sadly in ruins, but was almost fully restored in the late 1990s due to an unwavering local campaign by... More

3. Old milestone to Derry

Main street/St. Patrick's church
You'll be carrying on up Main street past the Ulster bank. Beside the bank on a corner is an old milestone for the carriages on their way to Derry – it states that it is 40 miles away. Further on up the street, you'll see the Coachman's pub - well worth a visit with a very nice cavern.

The most domineering edifice... More

4. Famine graveyard

Famine graveyard
If you continue some 400 metres up Main street, you'll see a sign for the Famine graveyard, burial site of locals who died in the Great Famine of the 1840s. Next to it is Donegal hospital, former site of the workhouse where the poor of that famine were forced to go to feed themselves.

You’ll be walking straight out the N15 –... More

5. Turn off for the Bluestack Way

Say farewell to 'civilisation' as you turn left and start your walk into the Bluestacks in earnest. This route is well signposted so carry on down the road keeping an eye out for the various signposts.

Simply the best
'If you ask which is the best county in Ireland to walk in, I reply Donegal (or Tirconnell, Tir Connaill, Connell’s... More

6. The Eske river

Eske river
After the turn off from the N15, you’ll be walking straight for some 500 metres before passing by the Eske river to your left – you’ll see a nice fishing perch for the keen fishermen out there. Take time to savour the flow of the highly regarded Eske river as it comes near the end of its journey. Fancy a spot of fishing on the river?... More

7. Under the bypass

Under the bridge
Keep walking on and you’ll see and hear the bypass ahead of you. Follow the Bluestack Way sign and turn left towards the river again. Carry on under the bypass and note that you are to all intents and purposes in the countryside – a wealth of different terrains, colours and fragrances await.

Carry on down the narrow road passing... More

8. Walking in the hills

At this point, you'll need to take a left in the fork in the road, looking out for the yellow man signpost for the Bluestack Way.

Walking in the Hills
What many consider to be the new tourism phenomenal to hit south Donegal in recent years is actually one of the oldest pastimes of the area. From the beginning of human history in this locality,... More

9. 147 stacks

The 147 stacks or peaks known as the Bluestack mountains are broken into four sections: the north range, the Blue Stack range, the north-east range and on the far side of Barnesmore, the east range. We'll list them all along the way, giving you the original Irish spelling and the meaning. A lot of them do not have a name.

Because of its ... More

10. Visitors to the Area

Ensure you take the left lane as you come to this junction - look out for the yellow man sign for the Bluestack Way.

Four Masters
In the following years, as Catholicism was suppressed in Ireland, the Franciscan community was banished from their Friary in Donegal Town. They moved to their new home in the “wilderness” of Lough Eske, as ... More

11. In the Bluestacks

Francis Harvey is originally from Enniskillen, but has lived near Donegal town for years. As he says himself ‘I owe an awful lot to the county of Donegal. In fact, I think I might never have become a poet if it wasn’t for the landscape of Donegal.’

Among Francis Harvey’s great poems is the one about Condy the sheepman, almost a mythic figure but ... More

12. Barnesmore in the distance

Keep walking along the path - in the distance, you'll see Barnesmore, which is the first major access point through the mighty Bluestacks between Binbane on the Glenties road and Killeter in County Tyrone.

This is the very heart of the county, where north meets south - it's an extraordinary sight whether you see it from Sligo or... More

13. Bluestacks View

The verdant hallway ends and you’ll be turning left down a steep hill, over the Eske river and up a hill until you get to a crossroads. Follow the Bluestack Way signs until you get to the signs for Lough Eske Castle. You’ve made it to the end of Day One on the Bluestack Way. We suggest you enjoy the wonderful surroundings of Lough Eske and get in ... More

14. The Bluestack Mountains East Range

The Bluestack Mountains East Range

The 147 stacks of the range are numbered from left to right and we shall be telling you about their names with the original Irish spelling and the meaning of the word. A special thanks goes to the Renaissance Man that is Seoirse O'Dochartaigh who complied this information in the booklet 'The Mountains, Loughs,... More

15. Traditional Walks

Turn off point

You'll be coming to a T junction around this point. You'll be taking a left here - as always, it is signposted so look out for the Bluestack Way sign.

Traditional Walks
There are two old traditional walks in the Bluestacks, still practiced to the present day. The first one is the walk up Carnaween on the first Sunday in June. ... More

16. Thrushbank bridge

The Eske isn't just a good fishing river, but is also a fine river for canoeists.

The start for a canoe trip is in fact the next bridge at Corveen - take a right at the next junction and you'll find it 1 km on by the mouth of the lough itself. The river is Grade II+b for the first 1.5km, otherwise Grade I, except for the last kilometre which... More

17. In the footsteps of monks

You'll be coming up to a crossroads here. You'll be carrying on over the road skirting past the Lough Eske Castle estate on your right. As always, there's a signpost for The Bluestack Way to help you. In the links section on the right hand column, we've listed the three best accommodations to stay in around Lough Eske, Friary Brae... More

It is possible that Lough Eske owes its location to the juxtaposition of the 325 million year old Carboniferous rocks on the western side and the 600 million year old Precambrian rocks on the eastern side of the lough. The contact between the two represents a weakness, which has been exploited by erosion to create the depression in which Lough... More

19. Friar's Bush

We're grateful to Seoirse Ó Dochartaigh who tells us a bit more about one of the placenames nearby - Friarsbush in the middle of Barnesmore, some three miles away.

An tAthair Niallán Mac Dáibhid by Seoirse Ó Dochartaigh

There was a young man on board with the Flight of the Earls whose body was found over two hundred years later in Barnesmore... More

20. The Banshee

Patrick Campbell knew of a brother and sister returning home one night from a market. ‘At a rather long hill on the road, which was densely sheltered with shrubbery and high trees, an unnatural cry was heard. This spot is known as ‘Brahan Brae’, which held its place-name since the famine days of 1846-47. The frightened brother and sister were... More

21. Lough Eske and environs

Part One of our walk ends at the splendour of Lough Eske Castle. Part One is deliberately shorter than other stages as we recommend some time spent in the area to walk up Banagher or the Ardnamona Woods or perhaps to fish in the lough or canoe down the river. You're in a wonderful part of the world and it seems a shame to pass it by without... More