Highwayman Shane Crossagh O’Mullan roamed the highways of Derry and Tyrone during the 17th century. Northern Ireland’s equivalent to Robin Hood, tales tell of a handsome rogue who stuck his hands in the pockets of the rich, gave to the poor and charmed many a lady along the way. It was in Ness Wood that, according to myth, the law almost caught up with Shane and forced him to take a leap across the tumbling waterfalls – evading capture once again.
This walk begins at the newly opened visitor centre, located between two woodlands, Ness Wood and Ervey Wood. Opened in July of 2009, the cottage-style centre tells the story of the park, its history and wildlife.
Head east from the visitor centre (to the right when facing the river) through newly planted woods and wildflower rich meadows. Cross over the green metal Hone’s Bridge and turn right following the Burntollet River. Continue along this riverside path. You will come to a picnic area close to the river.
Follow the river in a north-easterly direction for 10 minutes, ignoring a bridge to the right (this leads to a path that is closed due to a section of unsafe board walk).
Continue along this small unsurfaced path then join a surfaced path. Track right, crossing over a large 2-tier wooden footbridge over the river, a great spot for a photo.
The path continues steeply up 107 wooden steps through mature woodland. The path to the right (at time of writing) is closed for repairs. Turn left and go a short way uphill towards a large fallen
tree and a mossy bank. The path meanders through woodland of birch, rowan, oak and holly close to the river.
Cross Shaun’s Bridge over a narrow gorge where the river rushes through and turn left. A small track on the right leads uphill to a meadow. Follow the path through a picnic area.
Follow the sign ‘Riverside Walk’, keeping to the right. This path leads downhill through mixed deciduous woodland. Listen for the noise of the river below. Pause and view Ness waterfall tumbling over black rocks through a series of pools. Note the brown water, evidence of its passage through peatlands. This is said to be the largest waterfall in Northern Ireland and is known as Shane’s Leap. Shane O’Mullan was known as an honourable man who usually robbed the rich and gave to the poor. The story goes that after clashing with soldiers he went on the run and to avoid capture jumped across this waterfall, breaking a leg in the process but still managing to escape. Eventually he was caught, arrested and taken to Derry Gaol. After being sentenced he was finally hanged in the Diamond in Derry along with his sons in 1722. More recently, Ness wood waterfall has been listed in the Mills & Boon book of the most romantic places in Britain!
Continue along the winding path, rising uphill and meandering through the trees. This path leads above a mature woodland and then reaches a turning point, taking a sharp left down a
series of wooden steps towards the river. Look out for dippers on the water. From here retrace your steps back to the visitor centre.
For a longer walk, follow the path from the visitor centre towards Ervey wood. This offers a circular walk through the woodland and along the river (2 miles extra).
Paths are unsurfaced, steep and uneven in places with numerous steep steps.
How to get
By car: The trail starts 4.5 km north-west
of the village of Claudy and 13 km south-east of Derry. The park is signposted from the A6, via Oughtagh Rd.
By public transport: There is a regular bus service between Derry and Dungiven on the A6. From the main road it is a 2.5-mile walk to the start of the walk. For info on bus times contact Ulsterbus Ltd, www.translink.co.uk or 028 7126 2261
Claudy Street Café, 87 Main St, Londonderry BT47 4BH
028 7774 0222
Ordnance Survey NI Discoverer Map Sheet 7
Grid ref: C 517 106
The visitor centre is open daily from June–Sept 10am-6pm, Oct-Easter 12am–4pm (Sundays only)
Roe Valley Country Park
41 Dogleap Road,
Limavady BT49 9NN
028 7772 2074
Londonderry Tourist Information Centre,
44 Foyle St, Londonderry
028 7126 7992