Satellite view of the Ring of Gullion from NASA
Come walk with us on the volcano
The present landscape exposes the roots of an immense shield volcano that remained active for about 2 million years from 58 to 56 million years ago. A devastating sequence of cataclysmic explosive events smothered the local cool temperate landscape in volcanic dust and searing gas clouds at a time when its vegetation and faunas (the dinosaurs had been extinct for over 5 million years) were just beginning to look familiar to modern eyes. These events can be readily deduced from the Slieve Gullion complex which provides an indelible record in truly spectacular scenery.
Just to be clear - the hills around the Ring are the collapsed remains of the crater, Slieve Gullion is the core.
Now for the science bit
The Ring of Gullion in South Armagh occurs SW of the town of Newry and immediately W of the Narrow Water, which connects Newry with Carlingford Lough. The more resistant acid igneous rocks of the ring itself can be traced as an almost complete circle, broken by NW-SE faults, from Sturgan Mountain and Sugarloaf Hill in the north, just W of Camlough Village, to Courtney Mtn., Slievenacappel, the smaller hills above Ballinasack Bridge, Mullaghbane Mtn., Slievebrack, Croslieve, and east of Forkhill village over Tievecrom, Daaikilmore, Slievebolea to Feede Mtn. Here the circle is broken by a NW-SE belt of later intrusions but continues north of Anglesey Mtn. above the Narrow Water to Fathom Mtn. and so to Ballymacdermot and Camlough Mountains. A more prominent NW trending wrench fault along Cam Lough itself separates this end of the ring from Sugarloaf Hill. These craggy and heath covered hills rise some 1-200 m above the lowlying land within the ring. An earlier Porphyritic Felsite builds the hills in the SW sector and is closely associated with Vent agglomerates. A later Porphyritic Granophyre defines the rest of the ring. Both rocks are intruded up a ring-fault and are associated with some brecciation due to continued movement on this fault. A later phase of eruptive activity produced a NW-SE belt of gabbro and granophyre - the central mass of Slieve Gullion which rises to a height of 573 m O.D. and stretches from Lislea in the north to Foughill, Carrickarman, Anglesey Mtn., and across the national border to Clermont Carn.
See also the Slieve Gullion section in the Geological Field Guide PDF attached at the bottom of this page.
The Ring of Gullion was the first ring dyke geologists mapped anywhere. It is a distinctive feature on geologic maps, as shown below. Made with information from the Geologic Survey of Ireland, the map shows the volcanic rock that form the ring in dark pink, blue green, and purple. Each color represents a different type of volcanic rock (tertiary granite, tertiary basic intrusion, and tertiary volcanics), distinguished by their chemical makeup and the way each was deposited.The surrounding rock is even older. Yellow represents silurian sandstone, formed on the floor of an ancient sea more than 400 million years ago. Blue shows caledonian granite, left when magma poured into the sandstone as mountains rose about 390 million years ago.The older rock is covered by soil that was deposited under glaciers during the last ice age.
Walking the ring - update July 2011
There is a Ring of Gullion waymarked trail but much of it is on roads - and of course people like us don't do roads unless we absolutely have to. We want to do it on top of the hills on the actual ring as far as possible and as far as we know that has never been done.
We want to encourage people to take as many landscape shots as possible along the way and maybe we can work them up into some sort of exhibition in the pub at some point.
Here's what we have done so far. figured out so far.
Stage 1 - Dromad to Flagstaff. From Junction 20 by Park road and Callan's Road to Ravensdale wood. Steep climb on forestry roads, then a short stretch hacked by your intrepid scouts to the Edentubber March Wall (reputedly built by one man and his wife) - cross Turn Road and follow new border fence to summit of Clermont and then Anglesea. Turn sharply west to pick up the Clontigora Green Road. Where the green road turns left towards Clontigora, turn right instead around the base of Anglesea, cross the border fence (on stile erected by your scouts) and follow it down to Larry Tam's Loanan, the old pilgrim route to St Patrick's Grave. Turn east on the loanan for a kilometer, then north through fields and forestry to Flagstaff.
Diary note: We did this walk on Sunday 26/6/11
Stage 2 - Flagstaff to Brogies/Lower Fathom and Benson's Glen. From the Viewpoint we follow the ridge of Fathom Mountain where there is a Mass Rock and other items of interest, crossing the Fathom Green Road and visiting an ancient cillin, a burial place for unbaptised children. We cross the Windy Road and stay on the ridge to Barracrick, where we follow a loanan along the railway to Brogies Road (so called because two cobblers once lived there beside each other). Back up the Flagstaff Road for 1km past Barracrick again and down into Benson's Glen where there is a folly, a ruined hexagonal hunting lodge which is thought to have been built with the stone from a castle built lower down the Glen by Shane O'Neill in the 1550s. Click below for map.
Diary Note: We did this walk on Sunday 3/4/11 (19 out) in a slightly shortened version because people wanted to get back early for the barbecue. Thanks to my friend Mickey Connolly of Fathom who couldn't join us, but helpfully marked the Mass Rock behind the Flagstaff with an Armagh flag. We went out to the Fathom Green Road, where Mickey had told me before about the proposing stone. At the bend in the loanan where it overlooks Narrowwater. In the old times if a Fathom man was courting a woman and he took her up the loanan she would get excited. If he asked her to sit on the flat stone that was it, a proposal was coming. Mickey told me of a man who came all the way home from America to propose there, and the tradition lives on - he recently found an empty champagne bottle and two glasses on the ditch. We crossed Barranrilla out to the eastern end of the Windy Road which has two pronunciations, then onto Fathom Mountain from where we cut out over Barracrick to Benson's Glen and a fascinating folly castle with a turret stair which has a chimney up the centre. We promise to do this one again before the end of the year.
Note on Benson's Glen
The history site Newry Journal (http://www.newryjournal.co.uk/content/view/164/31/) notes that Shane O'Neill had a castle at Fathom from which he harassed the English garrison in Newry around 1560.
According to local accounts given to Samuel Lewis in 1837 for his Topographical Survey of Co. Armagh:
"there was an 'old castle at Fathom' ....built by the O'Neill's ... It was demolished in 1730 in building canal & was roughly in position of the first lock." The first, older lock was immediately below the glen, so at most Shanes' castle was little lower down the hill. The Victoria Lock was the second, later lock (completed in 1837, the year Victoria came onto the throne) - the first lock was at what we used to call The Tanks, which is where the stream through Benson's Glen flows into the canal. So the ten-sided tower we saw on Sunday must have been built after 1730, but it was already marked as 'in ruins' when the first Ordnance Survey maps were made about 1834, so it didn't last too long. The Bensons were very minor landlords who lived in Fathom House, which is still there, at the bottom of the glen and probably owned a mill.
Stage 3 - Flurrybridge to Forkhill. Up through Dromad Wood (neolithic site) to the March Wall and out to Edenappa Road. By Morgan's Lane and Kilnasaggart Road (the original coach road to Dublin) to Carrickbroad. At junction of Ballynamona Road we take a forestry track to the left up onto Johnston's Mountain, also known as Daikilmore (two big teeth), referring the two rock formations on top which can no longer be seen because of stupid forestry practices. We will visit the Cofracloghey stone burial kist on top. Down into Gleann Dubh past the ruins of Johnston's big house and by road to Captain's Road. There we take another forestry track which leads between Carrickasticken and Tievecrom mountains and ends on the Dromintee Road about 600 meters from Larkin's Pub. Click below for map.
Diary Note - we did this walk on 17/4/11
Stage 4 - Forkhill over Shean/Slievebrack to Mullaghbawn. From Bog Road to Jackson's Tower. Steep climb to the masts, then over the summit and downto Glendesha where there is the spectacular Carrive Mass Rock. By forestry track out to the Carrive Market Stone and the road known as Whipping Lane, where the Carrive blacksmith Tom Lappin was put to death in 1798. Views of Belmont Barracks, built to put down the Defenders and United Irishmen.
This was our biggest walk to date, 53 people out on 29/5/11 to hear Mickey McGuigan's unique take onlocal history.
Stage 5 - Mullaghbawn Mountain coming soon
Stage 6 - Cashel to Slievenacappel - in planning Still to be scouted, access problems to be sorted. Points of interest are Annaghcloughmullion cairn, where stone was taken to build Gosford Castle, and Calmor's Rock and cave in Lislea, where the rapparee Cathal Mor Carrager had a hiding place. Finish at Topny or Sugarloaf.
Stage 7 - - Carricknagavna to Topny Mountain- From Keggil car park over Camlough Mountain and Bernish ending around Ballymacdermott court cairn. Still to be scouted.
Stage 8 - Bernish Rock to Keggil
Scheduled for 10/7/11
Along the way we want to map all the loanans, tracks, access points and handy parking so that we can build up a network of flexible walks at different levels for the future. it would be helpful if people with the relevant local knowledge could make our introductions to any landowners we should be talking to.
UPDATE MARCH 2011
We completed the first circuit of the Ring in October 2011at Topny and Sturgan. Once we passed Forkhill we ran out of forestry land and were onto private or commonage mountains. With good local knowledge and contacts we were able to get clearance to cross land, always taking good care of fences and keeping well away from animals. We would like to thank all the landowners concerned and hope that we remembered you all in our club Christmas cards.
On the second circuit we are seeking to vary routes a little - so far we have repeated the run from Jonesborough to Forkhill, and from Flagstaff to Benson's Glen. On 18th March we will walk from Ravensdale to Flagstaff but by different routes taking us right over the top of Clermont Pass.