Slieve Rushen with its distinctive wind turbines is one of the most important landscape features of the Geopark due to its economic significance.
The mountain is made up of horizontal layers of sandstone and limestone that were deposited over 300 million years ago, whilst on top of this there are deposits of drift – sand and gravel left behind by huge ice sheets when they melted around 13,000 years ago. The rocks and drift deposits are now quarried for a variety of purposes and are an important economic resource for the entire region. Nowhere is this more evident that in Ballyconnell, the starting point for the Slieve Rushen route.
Time: Approx 4 hours
The history of the settlement of Ballyconnell dates back to Neolithic times, but the name Ballyconnell did not appear until much later, being an anglicisation of Béal Átha Conaill meaning ‘the entrance to Conall’s ford’. The name Conall, refers to Conall Cernach, the great Ulster hero and Red Branch Knight who was killed at Ballyconnell and who is reputed to be buried beneath the nearby Bellaheady Cairn.
The Woodford Canal, also known as the Shannon-Erne Waterway, flows through Ballyconnell. This stretch of water links two of Ireland’s most important rivers, the Shannon and the Erne, and was known as the River Grainne prior to being canalized in the 19th Century. There is a delightful 5km walk alongside the canal and through the adjacent nature reserve of Annagh Woods that forms part of the Fáilte Ireland Looped Walk Network.
Bawnboy is a small village at the foot of Slieve Rushen and its name translates from the Irish, Bádhún Buí, as ‘the yellow bawn’. A bawn is the name given to a defensive wall surrounding a fortified house or castle, typically built during the Plantation of Ulster in the early 17th century. It is an anglicised version of the the Irish word bádhún meaning cattle enclosure, its original purpose being to protect cattle during an attack. The remains of the bawn from which Bawnboy gets its name can still be seen at Bawnboy House.
The most famous building in Bawnboy is the Union Workhouse which was built in 1853. The workhouse dominates the village and once had a huge social impact on the area. The workhouse at Bawnboy was one of the second wave of Poor Law Unions created in Ireland between 1848 and 1850, after the disastrous famine, and was the only new one provided in Ulster. Designed by the Poor Law Commissioners’ architect, George Wilkinson, the building was constructed to accommodate 500 inmates but the site was never filled to capacity. The workhouse is derelict at present and visitors should not attempt to go inside.
Located in the middle of Templeport Lough, Saint Mogue’s Island is reputedly the birth place of Saint Mogue, a noted early Irish saint. Born in the 6th Century, Saint Mogue, also known as Saint Aidan, founded the nearby Drumlane Abbey in addition to many other churches and monasteries. The island contains early Christian monastic ruins and a graveyard, and features heavily in local tradition and folklore. The island was also the crash site of an RAF Beaufighter in 1943.
County Cavan is known as the lake county as it is reputed to contain 365 lakes, one for every day of the year. Brackley Lough is one such lake and is located at the boundary between the rolling drumlins of mid-Cavan to the south and the rugged uplands of the Cuilcagh Mountains to the north. Brackley Lough is a popular spot with anglers and is a great place for coarse fishing with species present including bream, tench and roach.
The rocks of Swanlinbar are the same as those that make up the bedrock of nearby Slieve Rushen. Many of these limestone rocks are full of fossils that date back over 330 million years to when this entire area was covered by a shallow tropical sea. The bed of the Swanlinbar River that runs right through the village contains many of these fossils including tropical sea creatures such as corals, many of which can be clearly seen during low water flow.
The small village of Kinawley in County Fermanagh gets its name from the Irish Cill Náile meaning Náile’s church. There is a long history of ecclesiastical settlement in the area including Saint Naile’s Church in the Parish of Kinawley that was built between 1867 and 1876. An earlier medieval church was built in the 15th Century and a much earlier church site dating from the 6th century gave rise to the name Kinawley. Saint Naile became the second Abbot on Devenish Island in Lower Lough Erne, one of the great monastic settlements during the Golden Age of Christianity in Ireland and another important Geopark site.
Irish placenames often reveal clues as to what the landscape would have looked like in the past and Derrylin is no exception. Literally translated as ‘oak grove of the blackbirds’ there are few oak trees left anywhere in the vicinity as most of these would have been felled in the past to make way for farmland. The village of Derrylin has several historical features nearby including Callowhill Graveyard with headstones dating back to the 17th Century. The nearby Upper Lough Erne is a protected area due to its internationally important populations of wintering whooper swans, and nationally important populations of Greenland white-fronted geese, great crested grebes, tufted ducks and mute swans amongst others.
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