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A mountain walk linked with forest tracks and minor roads
A mountain walk exploring the Slieve Gullion Special Area of Conservation and the Ring of Gullion Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) using mountain paths, forest trails and country roads.
The walk is located within the Ring of Gullion Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The AONB is an area of national landscape importance and is centred on the craggy heather covered hills of a circular ring dyke volcano that erupted over 50 million years ago. The Ring of Gullion is the most famous ring dyke in the world having featured in geological debate and theory over the past 160 years.
Slieve Gullion rising to 573m is the centrepiece of the volcanic landscape and is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) which recognises the importance of the geology and the upland heather moorland. The purples of the heather contrast with the yellow of dwarf gorse and orange of the bracken to create rich mosaics of colours which contrast with the many greens of the agricultural ladder farm landscape.
At the base of the mountains are a network of lowland loughs associated with a diversity of fen, bog and wetland vegetation including bulrush, cotton grass, bilberry and deciduous woodland.
People have lived in the Ring of Gullion for over 6,000 years. The area is renowned for the wealth of Megalithic and early Christian monuments including over twenty large stone tombs. Also close by is the Dorsey, dating from the Iron Age period. This is a massive earth embankment and rampart which sits astride an ancient routeway to Eamhain Macha, the ancient capital of Ulster.
The Ring of Gullion and Slieve Gullion, in particular, have rich associations with Irish legends and myths. In one tale, Finn McCool was bewitched by Miluchra on the summit of Slieve Gullion at the Lough of the Calliagh Bhirra. To this day the superstition survives that if you bathe in the lough your hair will turn white.