A short walk through the limestone countryside of Co. Fermanagh. The 600m circular walking path and a small exhibition are steeped in local history of the site.
Point of interest:Limestone landscapes, hazel glades
OS map:Sheet 26
Terrain:Off road grassy paths
Route:The Marlbank Reserve is sandwiched between Cuilcagh Mountain and the Erne Lowlands and is amid the most extensive area of limestone grassland in Northern Ireland.
The walk begins in the NIEA car park. The route can be taken either clockwise or anticlockwise. Follow the arrows and waymarkers around this short trail.
At one time the entire area was wooded with hazel, elm and ash. With the clearances for farming since the Stone Age, only a few patches of hazel scrub now remain. The scrub shelters delicate woodland flowers including wood sorrel and primroses. The cuckoo is frequently heard in May.
Meadow pipits perch on branches but are most commonly seen rising and falling in jerky flight over the grassland. The thin soils covering the grey limestone support a rich variety of herbs and grasses. The grasses are grazed by sheep and this allows herbs like the colourful pink thyme, blue harebell and yellow bird's-foot trefoil, to flower and set seed. These herbs in turn provide food for insects such as the common blue and peacock butterflies.
In a patch of heath, bog cotton and yellow bog asphodel grow amongst ling heather. The Irish hare leaves conspicuous trails through the heath by nibbling off the heather shoots. Stoats can be observed darting along dry stone walls.
Facilities:Car park and toilets are open 11.00am-6.00 pm between Easter and September (closed September-Easter).
McGrath's cottage holds a small interpretive display on local history (open daily July + August and weekends in May, June + Sept).
Accessible terrain:Grassy off road paths, uneven in places
Getting to the start by public transport:Follow signs for Marlbank Scenic loop and Marble Arch Caves/Cuilcagh Geopark. The carpark is situated ca 1 mile from the Marble Arch Show Caves entrance.