We parked overlooking Lough Eske on the track that circuits Banagher Hill. The forecast was good but heavy showers commenced shortly after leaving the cars.
As is usual for the NWMC the group split with two members doing a shorter walk to Banagher hill. The main party of seven walked eastwards towards Lough Belshade. On route there were magnificent views of the Donegal countryside, Lough Eske and away to the west Donegal Bay. We also crossed from a geological area of metamorphic rock to granite. One annoying observation were bamboo sticks with plastic flags attached to indicate an organised walk to the top, these have been there for at least 18months, organisers of such walks should remove them once the walk is complete.
Just as we stopped for lunch a covey of grouse rose and glided away southward, the biggest covey any of us had seen, an encouraging sighting. Lunch was had with a view of Lough Belshade below us. We all remarked on the beauty and feeling of remoteness of the area and the Blue Stacks generally.
From here we took a steep grassy ramp up to where the granite outcrops in spectacular fashion. Huge domes, walls and slabs of the rock, known to the club as the boiler plates. But no one seemed to know why. Between the rocks and boulders, the streams were in spate, swollen by the heavy rain. They seemed to be still rising as we walked by. Needless to say, we were quite wet at this stage though the warmish breeze seemed to dry us a bit between the showers.
We turned at this point, now virtually on top of the plateau we headed west and southwest. Donegal bay was like a silver sheet stretching to the horizon illuminated by the sinking sun. We made our way slowly downwards, picking our way between the rock buttresses. Care has to be taken not to end up at a dead end with a vertical drop ahead necessitating a retreat.
We arrived back at the cars at 4.45pm after a 5 hour very satisfying walk.
A word of caution. We had good visibility and were very ably lead by experienced walkers Marie and Brian. This is a very difficult area to navigate in bad weather, there are no salient points to get a fix on. It is almost impossible to walk in a straight line for more than 100m and streams rise extremely quickly going from passable to impassable in a couple hours.