Hike Ireland Stairway to Heaven
Everything you need to know before you go
You may have heard of the Stairway to Heaven in Ireland, or you may have seen photos online of an immense set of stairs up a mountain. The non-hiker in you might cringe at the thought of hiking up a mountain but you really don’t have to hike the whole 33km Cuilcagh Way.
The Stairway to Heaven is located in Fermanagh Northern Ireland – THE CUILCAGH LEGNABROCKY TRAIL – is its official name and it is from the Gaelic than means “chalky peak and it is Fermanagh’s highest mountain – Cuilcagh mountain as it is called.
Walking The Stairway to Heaven, Ireland
Cuilcagh mountain walk directions
Cuilcagh sits right along the border of Cavan in the Republic and Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. Legnabrocky is the townlands where the walking trail begins. In 2001 the Cuilcagh Mountain Park was joined with the Marble Arch Caves (where Game of Thrones filmed some scenes) and the Claddagh Glen Nature Reserve to make one of the first UNESCO-recognised European Geoparks.
In 2008 the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark was expanded into County Cavan, making it the world’s first transnational cross-border Geopark and management of the Stairway to heaven Fermanagh became part of the Geopark.
In 2016 a 1.6 km boardwalk was created to protect the blanket bog from erosion by the walkers taking the Cuilagh Way hike. In 2017 a photo of the boardwalk and the steps up the Mountain went viral on Instagram and since that time walkers and hikers have visited the Stairway to Heaven Ireland in droves.
Cuilagh’s Unique Habitat & Wildlife
This is one of the largest blanket bogs in Northern Ireland and one of the most intact blanket bogs in Western Europe. A blanket bog is a place where peat forms from the decayed remains of plants and mosses. These bogs support a unique variety of bugs, plants and other animals that have adapted to the waterlogged areas. One of the rare birds found at Cuilcagh is the Golden Plover, you may also spot skylarks, hen harriers and meadow pipits along with hares foxes and snow buntings.
Getting to the Stairway to Heaven
Stairway to Heaven from Dublin
From Dublin, the drive will take around 2.5 hours you can simply google map it and you will be shown several optional routes to take. The route through Kells will allow you to stop and view copies of the Book of Kells where they were actually found. You could also take a trip to the incredible Monasterboice which contains some of Ireland’s finest high crosses.
Stairway to Heaven from Galway
A little longer drive the trip from Galway will take around 2.75 hours but you could stop in Athlone and have a drink at Ireland’s oldest pub Seans.
Stairway to Heaven from Belfast
The Stairway is 2 hours and 15 minutes away from Belfast and some routes pass by Enniskillen, where you can see Enniskillen Castle or have a nice lunch at Blakes pub and take photos of the Game of Thrones Door from the Dark Hedges.
Don’t forget if you are driving from Galway or Dublin you will be entering another country as N. Ireland Fermanagh is part of the UK. Probably the only way you will be able to tell that is that the speed signs will change from km to miles. Don’t forget to get a few sterling before you go as well for coffee and car parking.
Stairway to Heaven Ireland tours
Many tour companies such as Discover Ireland, Hidden Dublin Tours and 365tickets offer ‘Stairway to Heaven Ireland’ tour packages from Dublin. Tickets range from 30 to 60 euros.
How long does it take to walk the Stairway to Heaven?
The walk itself is about 2 hours long but that doesn’t take into account the walk from the carpark to the boardwalk which is another 1.2 km. A round trip up the boardwalk and the Stairway takes about 4 hours to do if you have a moderate level of fitness. Yes, you do need to be somewhat fit to take on that kind of walk.
The first carpark at Cuilcagh Mountain or rather the Marble Arch Caves Car Park will cost £5, but they’ll take five euro if you haven’t any sterling.
The actual Stairway to Heaven hike starts at the 2nd parking lot the Legnabrocky car park. There are in fact 2 car-parks on the trail. The first adds another 1.2 km to the hike but the Legnabrocky car park is very small and gets full quickly.
You won’t see the boardwalk but you will pass a river and at the end of the gravel road you will spot Cuilcagh Mountain and where the boardwalk begins. The boardwalk is around 1.6 km long and it is literally an uphill climb. As mentioned before lots of stairs to manage but the views are simply phenomenal so stop and rest and take loads of photos.
You will see views of Fermanagh for miles and be able to get some great shots of Lough Atona. This Loch was formed during the last ice age and is over 1300 years old.
How many steps does the Stairway to Heaven have?
450 steps in total and yes it takes some stamina but there are small platform rest points along the way so you can stop and get some stunning photos.
What should I wear to hike the Stairway to Heaven?
It’s Ireland so remember 4 seasons in one day. Wear a good pair of sturdy shoes or hiking boots as the boardwalks can be slippery when wet. I would also advise a good wind and waterproof jacket that has a hood.
What should I bring with me to hike the Stairway to Heaven?
You can bring a drone with you to Cuilgagh but if it is over 1 kg it must be registered with the Aviation Authority otherwise you are fine to fly a drone here.
Don’t forget your cameras either a cellphone one or a good photography camera will come in very useful.
Pack a lunch drop into a Spar or other type of shop along the route and pick up some snacks or sausage rolls to munch or bring a full lunch to have a picnic at the top of the summit. Don’t forget extra water the hike can be quite dehydrating.
Oh and get there early particularly in high season as it can get very busy. If you are going in the off-season check that the boardwalk is open as sometimes it has to be closed due to snow and ice build-up.
This is not a hike for anybody with mobility issues or no stamina, trust me I only made it a few km but hubs went all the way – thank god he can take a decent picture.
What to pack for Ireland
Here’s a few of the things I suggest for a visit to Ireland.
Personal experience tells me that I need a carryon bag with those twisty wheels that go in all directions and has both carrying handles and a pull-out drag bar thingy. I want sturdy fabric, preferably in a day-glow colour so I can see the damn thing if I do have to check it. I also want soft sides that give a little – just in case. My recommended one? Well, I pick the azure blue Travelpro Maxlite 5 19″ Expandable International Carry-On Spinner. I know it’s a mouthful but it is a great case and so far so good it’s lasted me 5 years of repeated airport bashing.
Now this one may seem a little odd but I see a lot of N. Americans complaining that most hotels and B&B’s in Europe and the UK don’t have washcloths. Well, that’s true I mean after all who wants to use a used washcloth. Take your own these are great quick-drying washcloths that are reusable and environmentally friendly.
Now if you are really concerned about the whole liquid issue why not take solid shampoo bars and body wash bars. These products are paraben and SLS free, TSA approved (so to speak) perfume-free and chemical-free. That makes them very environmentally friendly and they are so easy to use.
I love a multipurpose jacket Craghoppers 3 in 1 jacket. It’s windproof, waterproof and breathable and has a drawcord at the waist which helps me look like I have one. It’s not bulky and looks good even when not hiking.
Now you are going to need a 110v to 220v voltage converter so you can plug in hairdryers, phones, laptops or tablets and so on. My personal favourite and one that has lasted me 4 years is the Bestek Universal Travel Adapter.
Trust me on this one you will have more photos than you can store on either your phone or your camera and you don’t want to be deleting any to take more before you get home.
This Ultra Scandisk chip will work under adverse weather conditions (we get a lot of those here) and keep your photos or drone footage totally safe. A flash drive for your Smart Phone or Android will also come in very handy.
I’m not going to recommend cameras or other types of photographic equipment such as a drone because – well because I am a crap photographer who uses a good cell phone for most of my photos. Now I want a drone but I have to admit I haven’t bought one yet. So I was reading all kinds of reviews and know which one I want this a Holystone 1080P Drone….sigh if only. This has a huge flying time of 26 minutes.
This little beauty is a Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger, which is an absolute, must-have when travelling. I keep mine charged and then bring it with me just in case. There is nothing worse than running out of juice when you are snapping some of the best views ever. You will never be out of power with this charger.
Here in Ireland a Windproof Umbrella will save your hair and clothes and is a requirement. I really like this small portable travel umbrella. It’s windproof, waterproof, and folds down super small and will fit into any purse or suitcase. You won’t need this on the Stairway to Heaven but trust me it will come in very useful in Ireland.
I never would have dreamed of bringing a flashlight with me to Ireland, but when it’s dark here man it’s freaking dark. So one night we wanted to go and see the Northern Lights up in Donegal but we didn’t have a torch. Shopping for one here in Ireland became a journey to 5 stores and each one more expensive than the last. This torch is perfect it has 5 modes, is rechargeable, super lightweight and waterproof you couldn’t ask for more.
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring with you on your trip to Ireland. This unisex RFID blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colours. It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind. You can keep your most valuable documents safe and secure next to your body.
If you have a pouch already you may not want to or need to invest in a new one, like me. If it does not come with the RFID protection, these RFID sleeves would be handy to prevent identity theft. This configuration comes with enough passport and credit card sleeves that the entire family would be protected. They are slim too, so they will easily fit into your wallet.
If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery. This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I use. It can be used on a variety of phones.
I hate selfies but if you have to have one or if like me you have shaky hands the FugeTek Selfie Stick and Tripod has Bloothtooth connectivity so it is very easy to use. It is made of long-lasting aluminium and is very lightweight and easy to carry.
Don’t forget to bring along a universal power adapter on your trip to Ireland. This worldwide power plug is a great example and will charge your phone at the end of your busy days. And this world traveller adapter kit can charge several devices at the same time.
If you want to travel light and in Europe with paying extra for luggage you need packing cubes. These Bagail packing cubes are the exact ones I use whenever I travel.
This foldable water-resistant backpack is brilliant for making sure your things are protected and secure. I don’t bother to carry a purse this is what I find works for me mainly because its “hands-free” and I can easily carry everything in it.
I love this antitheft backpack it looks good and doesn’t look scruffy it has a grey finish and it fits my 15″ laptop perfectly.
I adore a scarf – when travelling light scarves can make or break your wardrobe. I always take around 5 with me to change up my outfits. I’m not exactly an “outfit” kind of person but when I want to cheer up my basic black, white and grey wardrobe a scarf fits the bill perfectly.
This lightweight cotton scarf comes in a huge variety of checks, plaids and stripes perfect for adding that little personal style to your travel wardrobe.
I do love a fancy embroidered scarf as well, it can be used as a shawl and I have this type of scarf in a few colours and I can use it as a shawl, scarf or headwrap with its beautiful embroidered flowers I feel a little more dressed up.
If you have an aversion to mixed fibre scarves and wraps why not go for an environmentally friendly hemp version? This type of scarf will last virtually forever and the colours it comes it will brighten every wardrobe.
Now I’ve had my eyes “done” – no it’s not what you think I had cataracts quite bad ones in each eye. So it took 2 years on a waiting list to get them removed. Now I can actually see without glasses and I’ve worn them since I was 8 years old.
What I have noticed is that I react quite strongly to sunlight and my eye doctor recommended that I wear sunglasses whenever I’m out and in particular to make sure they are polarized. What a difference I got my Oakley’s and haven’t looked back and I can see stuff I never thought possible, when the glare of the sun reflects on the ocean or any kind of water I can actually see it’s like a miracle.
So have you managed the hike at the Stairway? If not what was your favourite hike in Ireland?
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