Florencecourt to Belcoo (including the Cuilcagh Way)
Distance 22.7 miles
OS Map Sheet 26
Terrain Forest trail & quiet rural roads
Nearest Town Florencecourt
Route Shape Linear
Grid Reference H180348
Route Type Mountain, Riverside
The undoubted centrepiece of this area is the flat-topped Cuilcagh Mountain. As a consequence of its unusual geological features and important upland habitats, its northern slopes have been designated as a Global Geopark, a Ramsar site, a Special Area of Conservation and Area of Special Scientific Interest. One of the most interesting features of this area is the many cave systems that permeate the mountain. The most famous of these, the Marble Arch Caves is open to the public and has drawn tourists to the region for decades. The water caves have their source in sinkholes on Cuilcagh’s lower and middle slopes, where soluble limestone allows surface water to disappear underground. Some of these sinkholes are visible along the Brookfield and Legnabrocky sections of the Cuilcagh Way. Impermeable shales are also found on these slopes, underlying some of the most extensive areas of upland blanket bog in Northern Ireland. The summit itself consists of hard gritstone that is much more resistant to the erosive power of the elements. In fact it is the different rate of weathering between the gritstone and the softer rocks that has created Cuilcagh’s signature escarpments. There are also two nature reserves to be discovered at the foot of the mountain. Hanging Rock and Marble Arch each contain delicate woodlands that harbour red squirrel and pine marten. Not far from the route are Crossmurrin and Killykeeghan reserves, together these represent a significant proportion of Northern Ireland’s limestone grassland. Those who love heritage, history and formal gardens will enjoy the early sections around Florence Court House. The house is a fascinating example of mid-18th century Irish Palladian architecture, and was the former home of the Earls of Enniskillen. Construction was started in the early 1720’s by John Cole, grandson of Sir William Cole, founder of the town of Enniskillen, and completed around 1775. It was named Florence after his wife. Florence Court’s most notable tree, the Irish Yew (Taxus baccata ‘fastigiata’), is located along the route of the Cuilagh Way. It is the mother of all Irish Yews and was one of two seedlings dug up in the townland of Carraig-na-madagh by local gamekeeper Mr George Willis. One was given to his landlord, Lord Enniskillen who replanted it at Florence Court, where it prospered. During the 19th century many cuttings were taken from this parent source and dispatched far and wide, and today all fastigiated yews across the world can be said to have derived from this single tree. Please be aware that this walking route passes through areas of open land such as hillside, working farmland and working forests. Livestock may be present, ground conditions may be uneven or wet underfoot and all forestry signage should be adhered to. Please refer to the ‘Walk Safely and Responsibly’ information in the Useful Info tab above. From the start at the Forest Service car park follow the pathway towards Florence Court House. Along the way you can explore the beautiful formal gardens on the right, although these are not on the official route. Follow the waymarkers towards the National Trust car and coach park, turning left before you reach it and continue along the rear of Florence Court House, past the Carpenter’s Shop and Saw Mill. You soon re-enter the forest and, following forest tracks, will come to a farm lane passing alongside a wonderful karst outcrop. At the end of the lane the Way crosses open farmland (you will have to use stiles to cross some fences) and the limestone pavement of Brookfield, until you reach the bottom of Gortmaconnell Rock, where the route joins the Marlbank Loop Road an hour and twenty minutes from Florence Court House. Turn left along the loop road and continue to the main avenue leading to the Marble Arch Caves. Turn right onto the avenue and, go down past the visitor centre on a concrete path and into Cladagh Glen and Marble Arch National Nature Reserve. Descend a series of steep wooden steps to the right of the giant limestone arch from which Marble Arch takes its name. At the bottom of the steps follow a path through woodland along the banks of the Cladagh River. Twenty to thirty minutes from the visitor centre you reach the end of the path at Cladagh Bridge. Go through the parking area and turn left onto the Florencecourt-Blacklion road. After forty minutes’ walk along this road you pass Hanging Rock Nature Reserve. The brooding, overhung cliff is unmistakable and is surrounded by one of the finest ash woodlands in Northern Ireland. Continue along the road for another forty to fifty minutes, passing into County Cavan and the Republic of Ireland. A short distance further along you enter the village of Blacklion. Please note, The linear 22km Cavan Way starts at Blacklion and runs to Dowra in County Cavan. Continuing on the Ulster Way, turn right in the mainstreet and follow the road north across the road bridge towards the finish in the village of Belcoo, which is visible in the distance and only a ten-minute walk. Upper section (via Cuilcagh summit) Please Note: There is temporarily no access across the summit to the boardwalk for conservation reasons. See attached map for details of the closure. The route will be temporarily closed at the end of the summit trail to the boardwalk to relieve pressure on the sensitive habitat in this area. Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark continues to work towards a long term solution with relevant authorities to conserve this fragile habitat while still allowing visitors to appreciate and enjoy this stunning landscape. We ask visitors to keep to the designated path. If coming from Florencecourt it is requested that you turn back along the route from the summit. If coming from the Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre it is requested that you turn back at the end of the boardwalk. The habitat in this area is fragile and we kindly request that walkers respect the environment and do not stray from the designated route. Your cooperation with this is appreciated. From the start at the Forest Service car park follow a path out onto the main tarred avenue leading to Florence Court House. Cross the avenue and follow waymarks along a path. Go through several junctions and then continue alongside and occasionally over a number of small streams through Cottage Wood and Florence Court Forest. Turn right onto a road and pass Glen Wood Forest Nature Reserve before reaching a junction. Turn left and walk uphill around a number of sweeping bends. Follow a waymark off the road to the left and onto a hard-surfaced lane, which leads through Cove Forest. A short, uneven section heralds the end of the forest and open ground, just over an hour from the start. Climb up through thick heather past a cairn and ancient burial site at Myalla, known locally as the Giant’s Grave. The relatively dry land soon becomes wetter as you progress further up the slopes of Cuilcagh. At times you might feel as though you are walking on water! Waymarks continue to lead northeast across blanket bog towards the summit pyramid of Cuilcagh. From the base of this pyramid a steep zigzagging ascent up a very steep slope leads to the triangulation pillar on the summit of Cuilcagh, two hours from the edge of Florence Court Forest. Once on top you will discover magnificent, 360° views that, on clear days, can encompass counties Tyrone, Donegal, Cavan, Leitrim, Sligo and Roscommon. From the trig point walk northwest across the summit plateau for fifteen or twenty minutes and then carefully follow yellow-topped marker posts down past Lough Atona to the Legnabrocky Track. A section of boardwalk leads down the northern face of Cuilcagh Mountain, first some steps, before flattening out onto boardwalk, to join the Legnabrocky Track. Follow the track north for an hour, gradually losing height as you do so. The long, stony track ends at the parking area for Cuilcagh Mountain Park. To the left is Monastir Sink, a rocky depression where the roof of an underground river has collapsed. This particular sinkhole is part of the same cave system that includes Marble Arch to the north. Turn right onto the Marlbank Loop Road for a few minutes and then turn left onto the tarred avenue leading to the Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre. You have now rejoined the main route of the Ulster Way.
Florencecourt, Florencecourt House, Florencecourt Forest Park, Marble Arch Caves, Cuilcagh Mountain, Cladagh Glen, Blacklion, Belcoo
Florencecourt is just off the A32 between Enniskillen and Swanlinbar. Florencecourt Forest Park is well sign posted with brown tourist sign. Car parking is available in the forest park car park and at certain times of the year be subject to a National Trust admission fee.
Translink – journeyplanner.translink.co.uk
“Refreshments are available in the National Trust – Florencecourt House Tea Room and Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre from Easter to Autumn and also year round in villages of Belcoo and Blacklion. There is one Bed and Breakfast near the start of the section in the Florencecourt with a campsite, a few Bed and Breakfasts and Gueshouse at the finish of the section in Belcoo. Walkers may wish to stay in the wide range of accommodation in the county town of Enniskillen the night before starting at Florencecourt. N.B. Blacklion is situated in the Republic of Ireland and therefore the currency of choice is Euros – although Sterling is widely accepted.”