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2003-11-11 Lough Lumman

How many Sligo people have heard of Lough Lumman, and of those who have heard of it, how many have actually been there? Lough Lumman is just one of many little lakes dotted throughout the Ox Mountains, and it is situated, as the crow flies, around half-way between Dooney Rock and Ballygawley.

 

Lough Lumman is part of the 'Sligo Way', a scenic walking route which I must admit I had been relatively unaware of until a couple of years ago, which stretches from Killerry past Inishfree and Slish Wood and across to Ballygawley. It is possible to reach the tiny mountain lake by taking a right turn after Slish Wood, though I have yet to approach it from that side. We always approached Lough Lumman from the Ballygawley side. Since I was a young boy I have had a fascination for geography and in particular for maps.

 

My geographical hunger was first satisfied by Bean U­ Cooke at 'the Model', and further fuelled by the brilliant BBC 'Mastermind' Tim Paxton at 'the Grammar.' Recently I popped into our local friendly and well-supplied Tourist Office above the Hawk's Well to buy a couple of the 'Discovery Series' Ordnance survey maps. At Carrowroe, take the turn for Ballygawley and the first left just past Ballygawley lake.

 

There is a right turn after Lough Dargan which you ignore, as they say, and then immediately on the left is a wee lane which needs to be manoevred with caution. Park just before the house at the fork in the road, and begin the walk up the grassy path on the left immediately behind the house. On our ordnance survey map, Number 25, we had down-graded from a primary road to a regional road to a 3rd class road to an other road to a track, from green to orange to yellow to grey to a black dotted line.

 

From the little house it takes less than half an hour to walk to Lough Lumman on a track which does deteriorate, so do not attempt to drive, and also do not go alone. Bring a mobile, at least. We passed several abandoned cars on the way who had perhaps taken the map too literally when they 'tore along the dotted line'. We met no-one on our walk, and saw no grazing or wandering animals.

I imagine there may be duck on the lake and deer on the mountain, but on that day wildlife was very much in hiding. The path to Lough Lumman seems ideal for a pony trek and we did seem to be shadowing hoof-marks en route. The track is grassy, sometimes muddy, and with a gentle but steady incline, so leave the stilettoes at home.

 

After about twenty five minutes, nestled in the bosom of Slieve Dargan and Slieve Daene, one reaches the tranquil heathery haven of Lough Lumman. I seemed to remember it being even more peaceful the last time I was there, but this time we were accompanied by a young nephew and nieces who tested and approved the natural acoustic. However, even the children became calmer than usual, almost hypnotised, as they settled and sat motionless on the igneous slabs which sloped down to the deep dark bog-water.

 

Delicate lily-pads had been carefully placed on the glassy mirror of a thousand reflections, and clumps of reeds, bullrushes and gorse made forty-one shades of green. It is refreshing to know that in the bustle of city life, you can still walk for half-an-hour from your car to a place which has nothing to declare but the glories of nature, and which truly does 'echo in the sound of silence'.

 

As we walked back we passed a brown sign with a yellow arrow reminding us that we were doin' the Sligo Way, or at least part of it. One day soon I will walk it all I hope. My little nephew seemed much more excited to be walking through a cloud - a cloud seemed more picturesque than mist we thought! So sometimes now when I am at home, and I really need to escape from it all, my senses often lead me 'by the bonny, bonny banks of Lough Lumman'.