Slieve League Donegal – The Slieve League cliffs, situated on the south West coast of Donegal, are said to be among the highest marine cliffs in Europe. The cliffs rise almost 2000 ft / 598 m above the Atlantic Ocean making them more than twice as high as the famous cliffs of Mohar in County Clare. The Irish name for the cliffs is Sliabh Liag meaning the Grey Mountain.
Slieve League (mountain of the flagstones) is often photographed from a viewpoint that can breached by a very narrow road called One Man’s Path that departs from the village of Teelin. Nevertheless it is better to leave the car and walk the 2-3 km to the cliffs so as not to miss the spectacular scenery of the area.
From the viewing point there are terrrific views across Donegal Bay towards the mountains of Sligo and Mayo. To the west is the North Atlantic ocean as far as the eye can see. North west is Rathlin O’Byrne island and Glencolmcille. A short walk will take you to the right of the amazing cliff face of Bunglas which rises over 306m above the ocean. Bunglas literally means end of the cliff.
The ruins of a church with some early Christian hermitages lie near the summit pass. Returning from the summit by foot, one will pass the ruin of a 19th century watchtower at the end of Carrigan Head. This watchtower was constructed to defend the north-west coast from the threat of a Napoleonic invasion. Walking on the eastern side of Slieve League there is a dramatic wilderness of rocks, streams and a deep rugged valley to your left.
There are a number of sightseeing charter boats operating from Killybegs and Teelin that provide an alternative view of Slieve League. The richness in colour of the massive rock face are prehaps more appreciated from sea level – as is the “Giants Desk and Chair” rock formation at the base of the cliffs
If there was ever any doubt about Slieve League’s status as one of Ireland’s most spectacular and iconic visitor attractions, then Lonely Planet have weighed in to confirm what the people of County Donegal always knew.The influential travel guide named Slieve League in the top 20 must-see visitor attractions on the Island. Lonely Planet says of the cliffs,
“SlieveLeague turned out to be spectacular. A curving, colourful cliff face, it’s essentially a mountain cleaved in half with a sheer drop from the peak 600 metres to the churning Atlantic Ocean below”.
During WW2 Ireland, while neutral, had agreements with the allies, one of which was the Donegal corridor. This was a free fly zone for allied aircraft to fly from Enniskillen in Northern Ireland out over the Atlantic. The word Éire was placed in stone on headlands around Donegal, to act as navigaetion aid. On Sliabh League you can see one today beside the viewing point car park.
In July 2010 Government funding to the value of €2m was approved for the development of Slieve League. Road access to the cliffs is to be improved, better car parking will be provided, and bus transport to the site will be laid on. In addition walking routes will be laid out along the cliffs.
The Belfast naturalist Robert Lloyd Praeger wrote in 1939:
“A tall mountain of nearly 2000 feet, precipitous on its northern side, has been devoured by the sea till the southern face forms a precipice likewise, descending on this side right into the Atlantic from the long knife-edge which forms the summit. The traverse of this ridge, the “One Man’s Path”, is one of the most remarkable walks to be found in Ireland – not actually dangerous, but needing a good head and careful progress on a stormy day….The northern precipice, which drops 1500 feet into the coomb surrounding the Little Lough Agh, harbours the majority of the alpine plants of Slieve League, the most varied group of alpines to be found anywhere in Donegal.”