Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Magestic Errigal

Makoght, Altan Lough and the Aghlas

Date First Walked: October 4th 2009
Range: Derryveagh Mountains
Starting/Finishing Point: See Map Below
Mapsheet: 1
Distance: ????
Classification: Dillon, Hewitt, Mailyn, County Top
Height: 751 metres
County: Donegal
My Dillon Count: 11

An absolute peach of a mountain! Another of Ireland's iconic mountains and one that I'd been wanting to climb for some time. Having climbed Sawel earlier in the day in gale conditions, I had hoped that my drive from Tyrone to Donegal would see the worst of the weather pass over. The drive took me through the full range of Irish weather, from bright sunshine to heavy showers but as I turned a corner some miles from Leterkenny, I was treated to the wonderful sight of a full rainbow sitting over Muckish mountain. A few miles up the road, I got my first glimpse of Errigal looking imposing and magestic as it sat under a dusting of rapidly passing cloud.

Errigal quite simply looks like a proper mountain. There are some mountains in Ireland that look like big hills, some of the rounded tops of Wicklow for example but Errigal despite is relative lack of height, just looks the part. The mountain appears to change shape as you drive around it and it totally dominates the small village of Dunlewy with it's steep western slopes leading up to it's superb serrated edge on top. The quartzite that characterises the mountain appeared to gleam brightly when hit by the odd sporadic ray of sun that somehow managed to escape the cloud cover. The wind failed to die down and I questioned the sensibility of climbing the mountain in such counditions but the appearance of another car in the carpark at the foot of the mountain gave me a bit of courage and I decided to head up. I found further comfort when another walker appeared at the foot of the mountain and began to make his way up the lower slopes.

Parking Spot for Errigal View Larger Map

The traditional way to climb Errigal is from the carpark a mile or so outside Dunlewy at the foot of the mountain. From the carpark, a walk across heavily eroded and boggy ground leads to a very visible track of shiny scree and this is where the climb really begins. The ground is quite steep but it's a relatively short climb before you reach the lower ridge which has a collection of cairns and a stone shelter. There is quite a steep incline to the right along this ridge so it might not be for those who do not have a good head for heights. From the ridge, it's a pretty straightforward climb up to the first top which is the highest at 751 metres. A short narrow track called 'One Man's Pass' leads across to the twin summit which is slightly lower.

I had been accompanied with gusting wind on my way up Errigal, the kind of wind that you can hear coming a few seconds before it hits you and this made the walk across the ridge that bit more exhilirating and indeed terrifying. There were are few times where I had to crouch down and take hold of rock as the wind threatened to knock me off my feet but I was delighted to make the summit, possibly the smallest summit of any of the 'Dillons' - it really is tiny. You really do feel like you are on top of the world on the summit of Errigal and the view down to Makoght, Altan Lough and the Aghlas immediately below is breathtaking as is the view back across the Poisioned Glen and out towards the coast. The gust factor just stayed on the right side of terrifying while on the summit although I stayed sat firmly on my backside for the duration of my time at the top of Donegal.

If the conditions are windy, the best bet is to retreat from the top back down to the circular stone shelter for refreshments which is exactly what I done. One word of warning - lower down as you descend the scree, make sure to take care as this is probably trickier than the ascent.

Errigal is one mountain that I simply cannot recommend highly enough. It certainly wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea in such high winds but on a calm sunny day, it would be a complete different proposition. The views from the top are superb and like I said, it's one Irish mountain that really does feel like a proper mountain.

My favourite so far and one that I'll definitely be returning to.

Approaching Errigal
Approaching Errigal

Errigal from Dunlewy

Dun Luiche, Dun Na Gall

Ruined Dunlewy church and Errigal

Above the scree on Errigal
Climbing the scree with Poisioned Glen in the background

On Top Of Donegal

Sat on the summit - on top of Donegal

Errigal Ridge

View back along the ridge - shelter is at the end of the ridge

Descending Errigal

Another view along the ridge

One Man's Pass

One Man's Pass

Altan Lough and Aghla More (from Errigal)

Altan Lough and Aghla More

Cairns on Errigal

Cairns at the lower end of the ridge

Shelter Wall on Errigal

Shelter wall with the ridge in the background

Gimme Shelter
Gimme shelter - me taking shelter from the wind

Derryveagh Mountains (from Errigal)
Derry veagh mountains from the scree on the way back down


Errigal from the stream close to the carpark


  1. How long does it take to climb Errigal Mountain? 1 hour?

  2. Hello! I'd like to know roughly how long it took you to climb. Thanks in advance! :)