Slieve League (Sliabh Liag)
by Dalia Taftazani and Elena T.
Slieve League Cliffs: Ireland's Magnificent Natural Wonder
Slieve League is known for its breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean, as it rises almost 2000 ft / 598 m above sea level, making it one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe. This natural wonder is located in Donegal, Ireland, and is considered one of the must-see places in the country.
If you're planning a trip to Slieve League, it's important to know that there are two car parks available. The first car park (paid) is located at Bunglass Point, which is the starting point for the hike up to the second car park, located at the summit of Slieve League. The hike from Bunglass Point to the summit car park is approximately 1.5km and takes around 30 minutes. This hike can be challenging in parts, as the terrain is steep and rocky, but it offers stunning views of the cliffs and surrounding landscape. For those who prefer an easier option, the second car park can be reached by car along a narrow road. However, it's important to note that this road is not suitable for large vehicles or buses.
The Magnificent Views
From the viewing point on the Cliff, visitors are treated to a stunning panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. On a clear day, you can see neighbouring counties Leitrim, Sligo, and Mayo across Donegal Bay. Looking westward, the vast Atlantic stretches out as far as the eye can see. To the northwest, visitors can see Rathlin O’Byrne Island and Glencolmcille.
At the base of the cliffs, visitors can also find the ‘Giants Desk and Chair,’ which is a significant part of local history.
At the upper car park, there are public restrooms and a small coffee shop where you can purchase snacks and drinks. From this point, there is a short walk to the Bunglass viewing platform, where you can take in the breathtaking views of the cliffs and surrounding landscape. To fully appreciate the beauty of Slieve League, it is recommended to bring appropriate clothing and footwear, especially if you plan on hiking to the top. Remember to stay on designated paths and respect the natural environment. Additionally, be sure to bring a camera to capture the unforgettable views from the summit.
Hiking options for the adventurous
The Pilgrims' Path
The Pilgrims' Path is another popular walking trail at Slieve League that follows an ancient pilgrimage route to the mountain's summit. The trail starts at the car park near the Bunglass viewpoint and covers approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) in length. Along the way, hikers will be able to take in stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including the Atlantic Ocean, Donegal Bay, and the Sligo Mountains. The path itself can be challenging in parts, with steep ascents and rocky terrain, but it is a rewarding experience for those who make the journey to the top. At the summit, hikers will find the remains of St. Assicus' Church, a small stone structure believed to date back to the 6th century. The Pilgrims' Path is a unique way to experience the natural beauty and rich history of Slieve League.
Hike to reach the highest point of the cliffs.
After reaching the second car park at the summit of Slieve League, visitors have the option to continue hiking to reach the highest point of the cliffs. The hike to the top of the cliffs is approximately 2km and takes around 45 minutes. The path is narrow and can be steep and rocky in parts, so it's important to wear suitable footwear and stay on the designated path. However, the stunning views from the top make an effort worthwhile. On a clear day, visitors can see as far as neighbouring counties and the vast Atlantic Ocean.
One Man's Pass is a popular feature of Slieve League, known for its narrow and steep path that requires a bit of skill to navigate. The pass is a rocky ridge that connects Slieve League's main summit to its secondary summit, and the path is only wide enough for one person at a time. While it can be a bit challenging, the views from the pass are spectacular, and it's a great way to experience the rugged beauty of the cliffs up close. It's important to note that the pass may not be suitable for those with a fear of heights or those who are inexperienced with hiking, as it can be quite exposed in places. However, for those who are up for the challenge, One Man's Pass is a must-see attraction on Slieve League.
Slieve League has two main summits that visitors can explore, each offering unique views and experiences. The highest summit, known as Slieve League Mountain, stands at an impressive 1,972 feet (601 meters) and offers panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding landscape. From here, you can see as far as neighbouring counties Leitrim, Sligo, and Mayo, and on a clear day, you may even catch a glimpse of Scotland in the distance.
The secondary summit of Slieve League, known as Slieve League South-East Top, is located to the southeast of the main summit and stands at 1,558 feet (475 meters) high. While it may not be as high as the main summit, it still offers stunning views of the cliffs and surrounding area. It's a great spot to take in the scenery and snap some photos, especially if you're looking for a slightly easier hike than the one to the main summit.
Both summits can be reached via hiking trails that start from the car park at Bunglass. The hike to the main summit is steep and challenging, but the reward of the stunning views from the top is worth the effort. The hike to the secondary summit is less strenuous but still offers a great opportunity to experience the natural beauty of Slieve League. Whether you choose to tackle the main summit or take a more leisurely hike to the secondary summit, you're sure to be amazed by the breathtaking views from the top.
Tips for Travelers
- Prepare for the weather: Ireland's weather can be unpredictable, so it's important to be prepared for all types of conditions. Bring warm and waterproof clothing, as well as sun protection, even if it's not sunny when you start your hike. It's also a good idea to check the weather forecast before your visit.
- Wear suitable footwear: The terrain at Slieve League can be rocky and steep, so it's important to wear comfortable and sturdy footwear, such as hiking boots, that provide good traction and support.
- Bring plenty of water and snacks: It's important to stay hydrated and fueled during your visit, especially if you plan on hiking. Bring plenty of water and snacks to keep you energized and hydrated throughout your visit.
- Stay on designated paths: To protect the natural environment and ensure your safety, it's important to stay on designated paths and follow any posted signs or guidelines. Do not wander off-trail or climb on any unstable or dangerous areas.
- Respect the local culture: Slieve League is a significant part of local history and culture, so it's important to be respectful of the local customs and traditions. Follow any posted guidelines or instructions and be courteous to other visitors and locals.
- Plan ahead: If you plan on hiking or visiting the cliffs, it's a good idea to plan ahead and research the area beforehand. This will help you prepare for the conditions and ensure you have a safe and enjoyable visit. Additionally, if you plan on hiking, make sure to bring a map or GPS device and let someone know where you're going and when you plan to return.
Tea & Coffee
History and Heritage
Apart from the stunning views, Slieve League and its surrounding areas are rich in history and heritage. From Slieve League, visitors can see Benbulbin, which has megalithic tombs and mythical links as far back as Finn McCool. Below Knoch na Rí at Carrowmore, visitors can find one of the oldest and largest of the Neolithic cemeteries in Europe, dating back as far as 3200 BC.
Between Slieve League and the shoreline in Sligo is Inishmurry, which was home to early Celtic Christian monks. Further along the coast in County Mayo is the little port of Killala, which is the location of the French landing in 1798. The French came to help the United Irish men in their rebellion against the British crown at the time.
At Carrigan Head, visitors can see one of the Signal Towers built by the British to watch out for the return of the French. At the top of the Slieve League is where you can find one of the early Christian monastic sites where the remains of Ade McBric’s chapel can still be seen. Alongside the chapel, there are also remains of the monks' stone dwellings or ‘beehive huts’ as they are known.
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