The Cavan Way
The Cavan Way is situated in the centre of a great inland recreation area stretching from the Erne lakes in Fermanagh to the North Leitrim Glens. The marked trail of the way extends for 25 km (16 miles) from Blacklion to Dowra. It links up with the Ulster Way at Blacklion. A map of the route is on display in both Blacklion and Dowra.
Along the Cavan Way one can look for the flora and fauna of the area, enjoy the clean fresh air of the Cuilcagh Mountains, survey the beauty of the countryside, and at the same time have the benefit of healthy exercise.
Whenever you commence the walk, i.e. Blacklion or Dowra, be assured of an equally pleasant experience. This brochure, however, is prepared taking Blacklion as the starting point.
The Cavan Way was set up in 1984-85 by Blacklion Community Council and the Cavan County Development Team, with the co-operation of COSPOIR's Long Distance Walking Routes Committee.
The Cavan Way runs approximately from north north-east to south-west through varied and interesting country. The name Blacklion originated from an Inn that stood where the Old Blacklion Inn is now. The earliest record of the Inn is 1785. All that remains of the Inn are the stables which are now used as a store and are located on the first 20 meters south on the Way. The routes stars on tarmac, going south from Blacklion Crossroads, rising steeply, then falling before rising again to make a sharp turn right (H081/375).
Heading west now for about ½ km there are already wide views north over Lough MacNean, into Fermanagh, before a turn left is made, going south again, up a narrow, steep tarmac boreen, which ends at a farm in Corratirrim, reached by a fork left (H076/3645).
The cliff which dominates the skyline to south-east as you climb is the Hanging Rock. A large rock which was blown down ‘the night of the big wind' in 1839 , was once balanced on the edge of the cliff, hence the name, Local legend says that a salt trader on his way to Sligo for supplies took shelter from the storm at the base of the rock and was buried under it.
From the gate east of the farmyard, the Cavan Way goes uphill to the right, over grazing fields, keeping near stone walling on the right, with slight outcrops of rock. Until the broad crest of the hill is reached (H075/360).
The view here ranges, not only over Upper and Lower Lough MacNean and Fermanagh, but also west to the Sligo and North-Leitrim Mountains, while to the north-west in clear weather the summits of South Donegal are seen. This remarkable section of the trail goes past a considerable stretch of limestone pavement similar to that in the Burren, Co. Clare, split and fissured into square blocks. Similar ‘paved' outcrops can be seen to the right and left, the latter barely half a mile eastward, beyond the Border in Fermanagh.
Over the grassy crest the Way counties south, with views ahead to Cuilcagh Mountain and Tiltinbane, rising above a belt of forest.
Crossing a stile over the stone wall on right, the Way next slants about south-west down a fairly rough slope, over broken ground with clumps of rushes (boggy after rain), then across another stile into Burren State Forest (planted 1956), bearing right over a wooden footbridge, across an extra large drain, then turns left and goes southerly along the edge of a forest compartment, rising slightly.
‘Burren' means stony place and is strategically placed at the head waters of the Shannon in limestone country. This was the natural crossing place form North to South and East to West for man and his animals. South of Cuilcagh was bog and the Erne Valley System would have been marsh and wood with high water level resulting in settlements being established on these hills from prehistoric times. Why Burren with its 200 acres should contain so many megalithic tombs will probably always remain a mystery.
The dates of these tombs have not been accurately determined but the sitting of them could have some religious significance and whether (as a Stonehenge and Newgrange) they have a calendar connection will require further research. Burren is unusual Rocking Stone, estimated to weigh about 6 tons, on a shaped base of smaller stones. It is difficult to locate it in the forest.
Crossing the drain again the Cavan Way leads to a forest road, turns left and comes to a forest opening (at H076/354) where there are the remains of an old farm cottage behind which is located the ‘Druid's Alter', also known as the ‘Calf House', a magnificent megalithic structure, a dolmen with a massive earth-fast capstone, the chamber beneath partly built-up in recent times to shelter animals, hence the name.
Back on the Cavan Way at the forest opening, turn left to head easterly on an un-surfaced ride line for about ¼ km, until a steep rising path is taken to the left, leading up north north-east to a small grassy plateau where a very fine passage grave is seen, traditionally the burial place of a giant who collapsed and died after attempting a second jump across the nearby ‘Giant's Leap'. (This structure is marked as one of a group of megalithic tombs, on 1/50000 sheet 26, at H079/353).
The Way goes south-east from the Giant's Grave to a stile ion the forest fence, crosses this leads on south-west to right, between an old stone wall and the forest boundary. Ignore another stile at a right angle bend, keeping on south-east to the corner of the forest, looking down into the hallow of legalough, with a view extending away east into Fermanagh.
The route goes down easterly into this hallow (rather squelchy after rain), curving slightly right to south-east to join a path on the stamp of an old boundary fence, leading up south to a very stoney track where you turn right to go south-east to join a road and turn right again. (Neither this track nor the farm to which it leads just west of Legalough itself are shown on Sheet 26, 1984 edition).
The road is now followed westerly with several sharp bends and steep rises for about 2 km to reach legeelan Crossroads (H068/339), with fine views south towards Tiltinbane and Cuilcagh, also west ahead, to the summits on the Leitrim boundary. The impressive northern face of Cuilcagh recalls that this was a major station for the original Ordnance Survey of Ireland, 1828, when the Sappers camped for months on the summit, plotting the bearings of distant mountains including keeper (near Limerick), 165 km (103 miles) of the longest ‘ray' observed in Ireland.
Beside Legeelan Cross in Moneygashel Post Office. Moneygashel Means ‘the Thicket of the Round Cashels'. The thicket is gone and of three original cashels but one now remains in good condition 800m west, off the Way.
100m west at the Post Office is the remains of a sweat house, last used in 1923. In it a turf fire would be lighted for six hours until the stone structure was well heated. The fire would then be raked out and fresh rushes spread on the floor. Two people always went in together for safety and the door would be closed off. They then sweated for one hour to sweat the ‘poison' out of the system. On leaving the sweat house they would sometimes take a dip in the nearby stream.
Returning to the Cavan Way turn left at the crossroads to start going southerly, avoiding all turns left for nearly 2 kms until a standard ‘Cavan Way' stile is seen on right. Then turn right here, level at first, then down hill, the Way being clearly marked by another stile and footbridge, before entering another small forestry, heading west by ride line, then turning left to come down to a ruined farmhouse (shown as a sound house on Sheet 26 H054/318).
Here the route turns sharp right, heading west north-west leaving on left the iron turnstile, whence a path leads in 5 minutes to the small grove marketing the Shannon Pot, the name of the Shannon Pot is Lug-na-Sionna. The origin of the water in the 15 m wide pool is mysterious.
Back on the trail the track from the ruined farm continues westerly, past a car park, to join tarmac and turn left. This is about the half-way point on the Cavan Way (H048/322).
There follows about 11/4 km on tarmac crossing the Shannon Bridge. Then ¼ km further south you go right, along a narrow tarmac boreen west south-west along a light ridge into Derrynatuan, with the view south now dominated by the Play-bank (542 m), called the Playground on old maps, one of the ancient Lughnasa assembly places.
Almost 2 km from the Shannon Bridge road the Way turns left, leading at once to the ‘Sixty Pound Bridge' (H031/289), a concrete structure built in 1948, the only footbridge over the Shannon, already a sizeable river here thanks to the incoming of the Owenmore which drains all Glangevlin. Immediately south of the concrete bridge, turn right across a stile, then follow a path on the edge of the Shannon, here a broad rocky stream. There are stiles, and the Way briefly quits the river bank to avoid farm lands, then reaches another bridge linking Corratubber Upper to Tullynafreave (H021/289). A stile gives access to tarmac here, you turn left, going south-west at first, then forking right to follow a narrow up-and-down boreen mainly south-west to Cashelbane.
This Cashelbane road is notable for the ruined cottages due to the high emigration in the past. From one of these cottages a family left for America in the 1880s without telling the neighbors. The cottage was there with the dresser, old delph and old furniture until the roof fell in. It was all mysterious until a man remembering meeting the family near Drumshanbo heading for Galway.
At a T-junction another bridge is seen on right (H003/278). Do not cross this but bear away south, to left, and just about a kilometer brings you to the Dowra-Glangevlin road where a turn right brings you to the final stretch of the Cavan Way, westerly into Dowra, the first town on the Shannon. Dowra bridge was built with stones from Carrick-on-Shannon jail, and the village itself. The first houses to be built were dated only from 1860 when the police barracks was built.
Dowra is now the main mart and sheep sales for the North Leitrim and West Cavan area and also has the District Courthouse.