We are privileged in Donegal to have at our back door, beautiful mountain ranges, environmentally friendly forest and beach treks.
Donegal’s scenery has so often been described as breathtaking and unequalled in solitude and the beauty of nature at it’s best.
From the towering cliffs of Sliabh League to the offshore islands of Tory and Arranmore you could easily spend days trekking these and be at ‘one with yourself’ or in the company of friends.
The Bluestack Ramblers are a very active walking club founded in 1995 and still going strong. With current membership at approx 60,each weekend throughout the year sees an average of about 20 –30 gather at pre selected venues to embark on the day’s excursion into the surrounding countryside. The walks are varied following the banks of local rivers, while others follow beaches, narrow roads, forest walks and hill treks not only in Donegal but also Sligo, Leitrim and Down.
There are also organised hikes over the mountains for the more experienced walkers. The club caters for all, including first timers who have to sample the social delights and increased fitness levels that this pastime offers. In the next weeks introductory walks will be staged to entice both locals and visitors to our county into the open clear Donegal air and countryside.
These walks, dependant on your fitness level, tend to range in distance from about five to 15 kilometres- described as moderate to strenuous. The Bluestack Ramblers Walking Club is fortunate to have qualified and very experienced walking/hiking guides accompanying each weekend walk, all who have historical knowledge of their respective areas.
The Club itself is non profit with a totally social outlook, whose only interests are the camaraderie with members and promotion of the beauty of Donegal and the enjoyment of its mountains, walking areas, and flora and fauna. It currently enjoys a good rapport with most Co Donegal landowners for which it is grateful and indeed has shown assistance to these generous landowners in every way possible.
Ten years ago the club laid down wooden walkways over the boggy terrain of the now much used ‘Bluestack Way’ between Letterbarrow and Kilraine Glenties area. Assistance in the past has also been given to the gardai whenever possible in hill and mountain search and rescue operations. Each year the club makes a financial donation to ‘Donegal Mountain Rescue’ which is a vital life or death service for Co Donegal.
Since its inception the club has stressed to members that on walks the ‘Country Code’ must be rigidly adhered to. All landowners are to be asked for permission to walk their lands. Respect must be shown at all times to private property, gates, fences, farmland, the environment and the people who live and work there. Dogs are not allowed to accompany walkers. Absolutely no litter is left on walks, the only thing left behind are the club’s footprints. With each walk a qualified leader and back up person accompanies the walkers and club rules are strictly adhered to. But it is not all rules, fitness and walks as club members totally enjoy themselves.
With weekends away, all at their own expense, to Arranmore, Tory and Rathlin islands, walking festivals in Mayo, Down, Louth, Offaly, Kerry, Tipperary and Wales where the club has built up a friendship base in each area. Many reciprocate by regularly returning to Donegal.
The following is not for me, but for the really fit walkers, trekking Spain’s Camino de Compostela, the Alps of Savoy France, Austria and Croatia. Ramblers even made it as far as the top of Kilimanjaro, Canada’s Rocky Mountains, and also Everest Base Camp. Like the majority of weekend walkers I just stick to the very moderate forest, beach walks or the Bluestacks or maybe even the Mountains of Mourne where you can enjoy the craic and camaraderie that walking can bring.
Membership is €30 per year for a full family or €20 a year for an individual, or if you are just a day visitor €5. These fees cover the cost of walk insurance for each member and temporary day member. If you are considering joining the Ramblers on a Sunday, in Donegal Town they usually meet and will gladly welcome you at the Tourist Office (Discover Ireland) at the pier area at 10am (Winter) 9.30am (Summer).It is recommended you have waterproof jacket,trousers, good hiking boots, small rucksack, water and food.
For information contact Paddy 086 6014386; Agatha 087 6771317; Michael 087 2770408.