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Walking The Cuilcagh Boardwalk (AKA The Stairway to Heaven Ireland)

Walking The Cuilcagh Boardwalk (AKA The Stairway to Heaven Ireland)

The Cuilcagh Boardwalk trail (AKA the ‘Stairway to Heaven Ireland’) causes a lot of confusion, mainly due to the parking.

There are two car parks here – the first is privately owned, you can reserve a spot online and it sits at the start of the trail (costs £6).

The second is free but it’s 1km/0.6 miles from the start of the trail! The Stairway to Heaven walk is moderately difficult and takes 2 – 3.5 hours. Find all you need-to-know below!

Quick need-to-knows about walking the Stairway to Heaven Ireland

Although a visit to Ireland’s Stairway to Heaven is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

You’ll find the Cuilcagh Boardwalk in County Fermanagh, a stone’s throw from Enniskillen Town and the Marble Arch Caves. A warning – many people just stick ‘Cuilcagh Mountain’ into Google Maps, head off on their merry way and then end up miles from the start point. Make sure to aim for one of the Cuilcagh Boardwalk car parks below!

2. Car parks

There are two Stairway to Heaven car parks. One is free and one is paid. Here’s what you need-to-know:

  • Option 1: The Cuilcagh Boardwalk car park (£6 for 3 hours and it’s located at the start of the trail – here on maps – you have to pay in cash)
  • Option 2: Killykeegan Nature Reserve car park (free but it’s 1km/0.6 miles from the start of the trail – here on maps)

3. The walk time/difficulty

The Stairway to Heaven/Cuilcagh Boardwalk trail is a steep, moderate hike that’s made tough at times due to how exposed the trail is. Even on good days the wind adds a chill factor here. There is also 450 steps at the end of the flat section of the Cuilcagh Boardwalk. The length of the trail varies depending on which car park you use:

  • If you use the paid car park: 11km/6.8 miles and allow 2 – 3 hours
  • If you use the free car park: 12km/7.5 miles 2.5 – 3.5 hours

4. Toilets

There is, at the time of typing, only one toilet for those doing the Stairway to Heaven hike. It’s located just down the road from the free car park (here on maps). Apparently new toilet facilities will be added to the paid car park at the start of the Cuilcagh trail at some point.

5. The weather, phone signal + adequate clothing

Weather conditions at Cuilcagh can change quickly, so it’s important to bring clothing that’ll keep you warm/dry. There’s also little-to-no mobile phone reception around Cuilcagh, so always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.

The Cuilcagh Boardwalk trail

The Cuilcagh Boardwalk trail is one of several walks that you can take on the long-distance Cuilcagh Waymarked Way – a 33km/20.5 mile walking route that encapsulates Cuilcagh Mountain and the surrounding area.

In this section, you’ll find an overview of the Cuilcagh Boardwalk trail and what to expect along the way. Just keep in mind that, as this is one of the more popular things to do in Fermanagh, it gets busy at times.

The start of the trail

the first part of the cuilcagh boardwalk trail

Photo left licensed via Shutterstock

So, if you park at the free car park, you’ll need to carefully walk down along the road, past the toilets and then turn into the paid car park. It’s from here the trail starts.

If you’ve parking in the paid car park, you’ll start the Stairway to Heaven walk from there. This is, in my opinion, the toughest part of the walk.

You’ll saunter along a stoney path that has regular incline and declines. You’ll need to pass through around 4km/2.5 miles of relatively uneventful landscape before you hit the Cuilcagh boardwalk.

Reaching the boardwalk

the second part of the stairway to heaven walk

Photos by The Irish Road Trip

The Cuilcagh hike/Stairway to Heaven Ireland trail gets slightly easier from this point, in my opinion. You follow the boardwalk and, despite the fact that there’s a slight incline, it doesn’t feel as taxing.

The boardwalk takes you through a large section of blanket bog (it’s protecting the bog). Keep following it and eventually you’ll see the steps off in the distance.

Make sure to turn around and look back towards the start of the Cuilcagh Legnabrocky trail – you’ll see the path you followed snaking its way through the bog.

The start of the climb

the climb section of ireland's stairway to heaven

Photos via Shutterstock

Now the fun begins. It’s this section that Cuilcagh Mountain earned the nickname ‘The Stairway to Heaven Ireland’. You have 450 steps to conquer, but don’t be afraid to stop and rest if needed.

This is a steep ascent that’s made slightly easier thanks to the wiring on the steps that provides grip. There are several places to stop and let others pass if needed.

The viewing area

cuilcagh viewing platform

Photos via Shutterstock

When you reach the top of Cuilcagh, you’ll have a mighty view of the surrounding countryside. Unless you arrive on a misty day, that is!

The top of Cuilcagh Mountain can be a bit of an anti-climax. People tend to sit down for a bit and soak up the views before descending via the stairs.

Food and things to do near the Stairway to Heaven walk

Marble Arch Caves

Photos via Shutterstock

If you fancy a feed (and/or a bit of exploring) after the Stairway to Heaven walk, there’s a fair few options:

Food near Cuilcagh

You’ve several options food-wise, some of which are in nearby Enniskillen:

Nearby attractions

The most popular thing to do after the Stairway to Heaven hike is to visit the Marble Arch Caves (couple of minutes drive).

There’s also the Cavan Burren Park (20-minute drive), Florence Court (10-minute drive) and Tullydermot Falls (25-minute drive).

FAQs about the Cuilcagh Legnabrocky trail

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Where’s free to park?’ to ‘Can you park closer to the boardwalk?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

How many steps are there?

In order to reach the top of the Stairway to Heaven in Fermanagh, you’ll need to conquer 450 steps. This may sound like a massive feat, but it isn’t too bad. In fact, I’ve always found the walk up to the Cuilcagh boardwalk (it starts a while after the second car park) to be tougher than the steps.

Where is the Stairway to Heaven Ireland?

You’ll find the Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail, nicknamed the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in Fermanagh. The trail takes you through one of Ireland’s largest blanket bogs via a convenient boardwalk.

What distance is the Stairway to Heaven in Fermanagh?

The walk from the paid Cuilcagh car park is 11km/6.8 miles and 2 – 3 hours long. The walk from the free car park is 12km/7.5 miles and 2.5 – 3.5 hours long.

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Wednesday 30th of March 2022

Can you do this last walk at sunrise. 4/5 in morning . Thanks

Keith O'Hara

Wednesday 6th of April 2022

Hey Louise! I've tried to find this out but I haven't had much luck. The car park takes booking from 7, but I can't tell if you can walk through it when it's closed. Sorry - I know that's not much help!


Friday 11th of March 2022

This article literally told me everything I wanted to know for this trip! Thanks for this!

kate campbell

Wednesday 15th of September 2021

Hi we were hoping to book for this Sat 18/9/21 for 2 motorhomes just for the walk would this be ok we are not overnighting

Keith O'Hara

Thursday 16th of September 2021

Hey Kate, you'd need to get in touch with the company running the car park. I'd love to help you out, but I'm not familiar with the rules around campers.

Enjoy the Cuilcagh hike!


Monday 6th of September 2021

any recommendations for a place to stay overnight around here.


Friday 2nd of October 2020

Update 1st October 2020 - car parks have had a huge upgrade over the summer so you will most likely be able to drive up to 2nd carpark with no trouble as it now takes at least 40 cars and the road between them has improved. Entrance fee for car park now €6 or £5. No toilets but Marble Arch caves interpretative centre is only a 2 minute drive with bathrooms and lots of parking.

Keith O'Hara

Saturday 3rd of October 2020

You're a star! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'll get this updated on Monday! Cheers Ash!

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