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Slieve League, Ireland


     Slieve League (Irish: Sliabh Liag), Ireland’s second highest and Europe’s sixth highest sea cliffs are remote and incredibly dramatic—when first viewed from the car park at Bunglass, the view of the great multihued cliffs plunging thousands of feet into the sea below nearly takes your breath away. The cliffs of Slieve League, or more precisely, Bunglass, lie just outside the village of Teelin—Slieve League and Bunglass are often confused, but technically Bunglass refers to the cliff face itself and Slieve League is the mountain.

     Considered off the beaten path, only the heartiest of travelers brave the precipitous and winding road to the car park at Bunglass, and even fewer intrepid souls, only those with a good head for heights, set off to test their mettle along the narrow One Man’s Pass—a knife edge route that leads to the summit.

     To reach the trailhead, follow the signposts out of Teelin to Bunglass—soon you will find yourself confronted with a closed gate, pass through and then close the gate behind you. The first car park is located just inside the gate—if you park here you have access to both the Coastal Trail and the Slieve League Walk, but we suggest driving on to the second car park, Bunglass, situated higher on the mountain. From the car park at Bunglass, also known as Carrigan Head, a proper walkway complete with steps and a handrail leads to the higher more technical route to the top of the ridge—the three of us set off to explore this thrilling landscape, and as we climbed from the car park, a line of misty white clouds mirrored our actions by sweeping up the mineral stained amber, red, and white cliff face. Lavender heather, yellow gorse and rust colored ferns, their green color drained by the cold autumn days, added even more color to the surroundings—a palette straight from the canvas of a painting.

     Fierce winds and a sprinkling of rain conspired to make our steep climb even more taxing, but we pushed on through the boggy wet track, which appears after leaving the proper walkway, making our way towards the higher rocky terrain—most hikers reach this point in approximately 30 minutes.

     A ghostly line of clouds continued to drape the highest ridges of Slieve League, and the wind did its best to push us as far inland as possible—standing on the edge of the cliffs, we weighed our options—should we continue across One Man’s Pass to the summit or turn around? One Man’s Pass, a narrow knife edge path a mere one meter wide, tests all who attempt to cross by provoking a fear response when they are confronted with the vertiginous yawning chasms on either side of the path—not a place to be when powerful winds are blowing over the cliffs. Therefore, we opted to play it safe and return to the car park—turning around to retrace our steps, we were confronted with a dizzying view of the tiny parking lot off in the distance. As we walked down the cliff, we enjoyed second helpings of the fantastic vista—sharing the view with a small herd of sheep off on their own hiking adventure.

     We arrived back at the car park just in time to see the summit of Slieve League briefly peak out from under the clouds—a ray of sunshine illuminating Bunglass, further enhancing the warm hues of the towering cliffs. From the perfect vantage point of the car park, the three of us recounted the amazing trek that we had just completed, and although we didn’t reach the summit, we were filled with a feeling of accomplishment—mission trek across the most gorgeous cliffs in Ireland accomplished.

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