It is estimated that about 40,000 people climb Mount Errigal in Gweedore every year.
Alongside natural erosion, this substantial footfall has put pressure on the mountain and given rise to concerns over the damage being caused to the county’s highest peak which is popular with climbers from across Ireland and beyond.
To address the issue, work has begun to upgrade a 3km path to the top of the mountain, which stands at just over 750 metres.
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It is part of the Sustainable Access and Restoration Project on the mountain, funded by the Irish government’s Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme.
Improvements will also include upland path repair, drainage, fencing and car parking.
Last weekend, the Director of Community Development & Planning Services with Donegal County Council, Liam Ward ‘Restored the Sod’ on Errigal, marking an important milestone in the conservation initiative.
Mr Ward said: “It’s great to see the progress that has been done by the contractors, Mc Gowan Environmental Engineering Ltd., since the work commenced in April. Donegal County Council is delighted to be involved in this project to protect this iconic landmark and we would like to thank the local community for instigating the project and the landowners on the mountain for giving permission for it to progress.”
Paul Roarty, Chairperson of the local development committee, Forbairt Dhún Lúiche, said the “Restoring of the Sod” event marked a very important day in what has been a long journey.
“As more and more people are drawn to its slopes and the panoramic views from the summit, erosion has become a serious problem on the mountain,” he added.
“Errigal is very important to Dunlewey and the local area. It brings a lot of people to the area every year and it is important for us to get a balance between protecting the mountain and creating employment opportunities. We had our first meeting with Donegal County Council in 2011 as the local community was seeing that there were problems with the increased numbers of people climbing the mountain”.
The Errigal Stakeholder Group was then established in 2012 to allow all interested parties to discuss and agree a method to develop Errigal and the Dunlewey area in a way that would deliver community benefits and address the environmental damage that was being done due to unregulated access to the mountain.
The Errigal Stakeholders include Donegal County Council, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Mountaineering Ireland, An Taisce, DLDC, Fáilte Ireland, Gartan Adventure, National Parks and Wildlife Service, ESB, Coillte and Forbairt Dhún Lúiche.
One of its key goals was to develop a management plan to develop a sustainable solution for the future management of Errigal.
‘The Integrated Management Plan for Errigal’ that was developed during the ASCENT project has three key strategies:
○ Restore & Protect: maintain the ecological integrity of the mountain.
○ Resource & Equip: achieve success through continued partnership working and collaborating.
○ Sustain & Grow: realise Dunlewey’s ambition to become a visitor hub and gateway to Errigal.
A Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG), called “Cairde na hEaragaile” has now been established and will comprise representatives from the original stakeholder group, the local community and the landowners on the route of the path on Errigal.
Ursula MacPherson, of Mountaineering Ireland and a member of Cairde na hEaragaile, says: “This path work and habitat conservation project is being undertaken to restore the natural habitat on Errigal and to protect the landscape from further damage and erosion. We ask the public to play their part by staying on the path in ascent and descent.”
A new website - www.errigalmountain.com - has been developed to provide information on the mountain, where to stay and things to do in the Dunlewey area.