“Every time you go out the mountain has changed,” said Martin Connolly.
was hiking Sliabh Beagh with Martin and Donna McCarra, local guides with Sliabh Beagh Adventures. A day earlier, the views of the mountain spanned several counties. Now it was gloomy. A gray veil of mist has gathered around us; the swampy ground sagged, sagged and crushed underfoot.
And I loved it. Prior to visiting I had struggled to place Sliabh Beagh, a 380m hill near Knockatallon in northern County Monaghan, on the map. However, as we walked along its trails, this expanse of blanket bog began to impress its identity.
“We’re in Fermanagh now,” Donna said at one point. “We travel the counties. You would go back and forth a lot and you probably wouldn’t even notice it. ”
I wondered what it was like growing up near the border. They showed me sections of boreen that had exploded during the unrest and an old customs post engulfed in the forest.
I stayed at the Sliabh Beagh hotel. It is basic, with 14 rooms, a bar, an event hall and a restaurant. But he has a story.
Before its opening in 2000, the parish found itself isolated, in decline, with its young people who fly away. The local development volunteer group came up with the idea for a community-run hotel and raised funds to create a social enterprise center that could employ locals and provide a venue for everything from weddings to nightclubs, meetings and subsidized Sunday meals for the elderly. It also offered visitors a place to stay.
“At first it seems far from Monaghan,” as the local staff member serving me breakfast said. “But you get used to it. I stayed.”
The hotel was a catalyst. Access to the area has been improved, profits reinvested, abandonment and the exodus of young local families have been stopped.
Covid is a challenge, but maybe also an opportunity – these days, sustainability, slow travel and community tourism are shifting from tokenism to global trends. “We have to create tourism without destroying the landscape,” as Donna said.
Sliabh Beagh Adventures opened in April. Managed by Fiona Connolly, it is based in a building that was once his grandparents’ village store, but had been inactive for 15 years. The number of visitors is low, but she hopes to increase them with activity and accommodation packages, among other ideas adapted to the community and its wild nature.
“You won’t find peace and quiet like this,” she told me.
By the time I came down from the mountain, that had changed again. The mist was gone; the blue sky was opening. The signal had returned to my phone and I said goodbye as I returned to the radar.
Pól was a guest of sliabhbeaghhotel.ie (B&B from 40 €). See also sliabhbeaghadventures.ie.